N. Macedonia’s rulers are neither social nor democratic

The Covid-19 pandemic had a devastating impact on the whole world. As people and doctors struggled to fully understand the new disease and the consequences of catching it, governments tried to respond to the threat as efficiently and effectively as possible. Every government tried to keep their citizens safe and healthy, and provide as good healthcare as possible, while keeping in mind the negative effects the virus had on their economies and everyday life.

The Macedonian government, led by the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia and Democratic Union for Integration, also experienced its fair share of mistakes during this global pandemic. Simultaneously, the country was dealing with a severe health, constitutional, political and institutional calamity. While the government did have a grip on the situation at the beginning, as soon as we hit 30 new cases per day, the system started to crumble. Knowing that more stable governments with developed economies and functional state institutions were being brought to their knees, maybe we could forgive the Macedonian government for the mess it created – if we could see that it was actually trying its best and working for the benefit of its citizens. That was (and still is) not the case.

The healthcare system had collapsed. Instead of looking at a comprehensive solution and asking for answers from how the other countries were coping with the Covid-19 crisis, the Minister of Health bought a brand new Mercedes GLA (circa 50.000 Euros) for his wife, started building a huge hacienda-style house on a very attractive location (later to be redesigned as a private hospital) and put up a public bid for constructing the largest state-owned hospital without even publishing the legal documents.

The scandals associated with medical equipment tenders are too many to list here. During the daily press briefings by the Minister of Health, the public kept hearing that the situation is under control, the hospitals and medical personnel are properly equipped and staffed, there is no room for panic, the national budget is holding strong. The public kept believing until statements, videos, and pictures about tragic news and scandals rushed like a torrent into our daily lives.

Doctors and nurses were told to bring their masks and gloves from home (there were none to purchase in pharmacies and stores to begin with), videos of devastating conditions of hospitals traumatised the people, patients begging for a glass of water were left unattended for hours, proper medicine was not available in pharmacies. At the same time the Minister of Defense, with the rest of the government officials, was taking pictures lauding the success of putting up a military field hospital to be treated as a Covid-19 centre. The field hospital was a donation from the Norwegian government and was to be used in peacekeeping missions.

Going against the advice of experts that the hospital was not the right place to treat viral diseases because it was constructed of  tents, the Minister of Defense still ordered it to be put up. It was an expensive PR stunt since while they were using the tents to take pictures, it unexpectedly snowed and damaged the hospital. Nonetheless, it did not house a single patient, but that did not stop the government using it as a PR distraction from other scandals.   

And that was just at the beginning of the pandemic. Recently the public realised that the government did not add our country to the list of countries that needed to purchase or receive vaccines and did not even bother reaching out to the vaccine producers as it slept on the idea that the EU would save the day for them.

Just before the new year, the Prime Minister came out saying that we have refused a donation of vaccines because they were manufactured by dictatorial countries (such as Russia and China) and that as a NATO member we were waiting for the vaccines manufactured by France, GB, and USA. Needless to mention the fact that as we were apparently one of the few countries that did not have a proper plan in place, our Minister of Health went to Sofia to ask for a donation of vaccines and victoriously came out saying that “our friends from Bulgaria will help us out”.

“Beware of the Greeks/Bulgarians bearing gifts” was what was on the mind of the people in our country as this happened in the midst of our problematic and heightened relations with Bulgaria. However, even this “gift” went to the “wrong address”, Albania. Of course, we never received this promised help from our eastern neighbour.

Under such circumstances, thankfully our northern neighbour Serbia came to the rescue, despite the fact that our Prime Minister called their President a dictator and populist not long ago. As we were waiting for the first donation from Serbia to arrive, we were stunned by the statement of the Serbian Prime Minister saying that the Macedonian government failed to secure the proper technical documentation, which also entailed legislative amendments in Parliament to take place prior to receiving and applying the vaccines.

The disappointment was that this government once again proved it was not transparent and had it not been for this statement we would have never learned about our government’s failure. We received around 8,000 vaccines on two occasions. The first occasion was a pompous PR stunt with nearly hundred people at the border crossing to receive one small package of 4,000 vaccines carried in a small van. We should be grateful to Serbia for its generous and selfless help as this first shipment is intended for the health personnel on the frontlines.

There is a significant portion of Macedonian citizens that see their hope in Serbia. We should not neglect the number of people from our country that registered to get vaccinated in the southern part of Serbia, by using just a Serbian cell phone number. Just a couple of hours drive from our capital Skopje lies the Serbian town of Vranje where Macedonians go to get vaccinated using the benefits of the Serbian health facilities, and boosting the local economy by doing some shopping and dining.

The majority of the people are less fortunate and do not have the means to travel to Serbia They are left waiting for a larger shipment of vaccines. At the end of January, thedPrime Minister said that we have purchased vaccines from China and they will arrive after the Lunar New Year; apparently the Chinese are still celebrating because we have not received a single vaccine from them. This Sunday we were informed that the Chinese government returned the deposit for purchasing the vaccines.

Keeping track of scandals and shady deals is too tasking a job for just one person. Among the first known cases in Macedonia was a doctor and director of a state hospital who not only defied the Health Minister’s recommendations not to travel to Italy, she lied about where she went on a skiing trip, skipped quarantine, went back to work with obvious symptoms and then threatened the hospital staff if they reported her illness.

She was also in contact with a patient, a teacher, who works with hundreds of children on daily basis. Because of her criminal behaviour all kindergartens and schools were closed. If you think she was held responsible, you are dead wrong. She was placed on administrative leave and since she was beyond the retirement age, she received a full pension and still holds a full medical licence.

Do not be fooled by the “Social” and ”Democratic” words in the names of the political parties currently in power; those words are just a front that allows them to seduce the masses. There is nothing social nor democratic in the way they rule the country.

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