Local self-government and balanced regional development
Macedonia is one of the most fiscally centralized countries in Europe in which most of the municipalities do not have sufficient financial means for successful completion of their legal competences and provision of quality services to citizens. In addition, the Republic of Macedonia is extremely unevenly developed country. The differences in the development of urban and rural municipalities are enormous, as well as those between the City of Skopje and the rest of the country. Many municipalities cannot cover running costs, such as student transport and school heating. Life in villages and smaller municipalities is very tough, so many people, especially young ones, choose to live in the urban centers or move abroad.
The Government will implement policies in view of increasing the municipalities’ capacities, as well as their transparency and accountability. The goal will be to give more power to citizens, but also improve the services and life quality across the territory of the Republic of Macedonia.
Decentralization of power remains our top priority. All citizens, whether living in a city or village, have the right to quality education and health care, clean water, a healthy environment, safe and peaceful life. We are guided by the fact that local government potentials in the development of the country have not been used to the fullest. There is no democracy without developed local self-government. The Government will pursue a policy of transferring new powers and more funding to municipalities for the successful execution of entrusted responsibilities and provision of better services to citizens.
The Government will financially stimulate the opening of service centers where citizens can get all the services in a reliable, fast and cheap way.
The Government will implement policies, which will eliminate biased and partisan influence in the allocation of public finances in the country. We will provide for transparent, fair and objective means for allocation of capital and block-dotations. Due to the catastrophic situation in this area, we will integrate capital dotations in one system with several subsystems. We will increase the means and we will provide for a transparent and fair allocation according to objective criteria.
The Government will introduce European best practices and increase the annual transfers for balanced regional development from around 4 to 80 million EUR in view of stimulating local economic development and decrease regional differences. The Ministry of Local Self Government will be in charge to follow-up governmental investment decisions and give opinions with balanced economic development in mind. Moreover, greater independence of regional councils in decision-making and in financing of priority regional projects will be promoted. Adoption of urban plans and strengthening of administrative and financial capacities of Regional Development Centers (securing status of civil servants of the employees in the centers and full coverage of the operational costs by the central budget) will also be done with less pressure from the central government.
In order to provide quality services to all citizens, regardless of their place of residence, we will build an objective, fair, transparent and sustainable system of financial equalization of municipalities in close cooperation with the Association of Local Self-Government Units (ZELS). The aim is to provide more funding to small and poor municipalities, which, based on real indicators, have continuously shown little tax capacity and great financial needs.
The Government will set up a fund to support municipal projects, financed from IPA and other EU programs. The fund will provide permanent and reliable funding for capital infrastructure projects such as water supply systems, construction and reconstruction of local roads and streets, regional plants for treatment of municipal solid waste, wastewater collection systems, treatment plants for fecal wastewater, gasification of municipalities, public street lighting, parks, regulation of riverbeds, etc.
The Government will launch a process that will encourage and oblige municipalities to prepare urban plans for all residential areas. The conversion will take place in two phases - the first will cover residential areas of over 1,000 inhabitants, while the second, settlements with less than 1,000 inhabitants. Municipalities will be required to develop economic development plans as a basis for sustainable community development for all residential areas. According to the best European practices, urban plans will have a longer period of validity, while municipal development plans will be valid for 4 to 6 years.
The Government will simplify and lower the costs of all procedures for obtaining building permits. In smaller and rural areas, we will directly stimulate the construction of buildings for housing and business. In these areas we will significantly reduce the cost of building land and fully subsidize the urbanization of the construction land. For young couples and families who do not have their own home we will introduce additional stimulation measures for housing construction. This will stop the outflow of young people and create realistic conditions for return of life in these areas.
The Government will provide budgetary support for replacement of all asbestos-cement pipes and all asbestos-cement roofs of public institutions under the jurisdiction of local government by the end of the mandate. All public local government buildings will receive insulating facades, which will save a lot of money for fuel, reduce the cutting of firewood and improve conditions for residence and work.
The Government will initiate reforms in the utilities sector to improve service quality and increase productivity. By way of transformations and other forms of organization, we will reconstruct the existing and build new communal facilities. We will establish balance between business-for-profit operations, on the one hand and the provision of cheap, reliable, high quality and widely accessible services for the citizens, on the other.
The Government will propose appointment of municipal ombudsmen to improve the protection of the rights of citizens violated by the local government.