It takes a village: Pensioners demand justice in Moldova
22 November 2016. Valentina Chernenchi is approaching retirement age but is worried about her pension. According to official records, she has another seven years of service, whereas in reality, she has been working for much longer.
Tudor Vilcu has worked his entire life in Sarata Noua village. Hard physical labor in hazardous environments has left him with a disability, but his pension is so low he must keep working. Although he worked at a farm for 25 years, he has nothing to show for it, as the entire archive of the farm’s administration has vanished.
Neither of their cases are unique.
After the break-up of the Soviet Union, the archives of enterprises, or even of entire villages, perished. Thousands of people have paid social contributions, but as pension reform in Moldova drags on, their pensions remain minimal. Others can’t officially prove they worked their entire lives; they await retirement with despair.
For 13 years, the people of Sarata Noua and other Moldovan districts have sought justice, writing and visiting the National Social Insurance Agency to no avail.
Tatiana Gorgos, the mayor of Sarata Noua, has repeatedly petitioned the parliament and government: “This is one of the biggest problems our community is facing. 90 percent are affected by this.”
After the Moldovan Parliament opened a Territorial and Information Office in Leova, with UNDP support, Gorgos decided to submit a new petition.
Territorial offices help people to communicate directly with members of parliament, receive information on approved legislation, and submit petitions. The goal is to shrink the gap between government and the people it serves, as well as increasing accountability and transparency.
While the matters that get resolved are often on a smaller scale, in this case, the impact reached far beyond Sarata Noua village.
The Head of Office discussed the problem of Sarata Noua with several MPs, and then helped submit the petition to the Parliament Standing Committee for Social Protection, Health and Family.
The petition brought the sufferings of the Sarata Noua village to the attention of the Deputy Chairperson Valentina Stratan and motivated her to focus efforts on expediting the process. Several amendments were made to and the bill was pushed forward.
Legislative amendments were passed in April. The government adopted a decree in August which puts in place a fair calculation mechanism for those who have no official record of their pension payments.
This bill unfortunately won’t be able to help Tudor Vilcu, who is already officially retired. However, it will help Valentina Chernenchii and thousands of others.
“This bill became a reality thanks to the people who got involved and signed the petition. Most of our initiatives come to life due to people’s involvement and communication between the Government and the Parliament. People should be more vocal in voicing their problems,“ noted Valentina Stratan.
Four Territorial Information Offices of the Parliament were established within the UNDP Moldova Democracy Programme, implemented with the support of the Government of Sweden. The main goal of the offices is to improve interaction between MPs and citizens. The Parliament has established 4 offices in Edineţ, Orhei, Leova and Comrat (Autonomous region of Gagauzia). For about a year, now these offices served as a platform for field visits of the standing committees, for women’s fora and for meetings of deputies with voters.