Journal № 1 (15) 2022
– Mr. Tarlev, How would you characterize the current state of the economy of the Republic of Moldova? What challenges does modernity pose to entrepreneurs and how do they have to – or should – respond to these challenges?

– As an entrepreneur and president of the National Congress of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs of Moldova, and as a citizen and patriot of my country, I would very much like to be an optimist, although, unfortunately, there are few reasons for optimism. After a series of economic downturns in 2012, 2015 and 2020, it would seem that the time has come for positive changes in the economy. But the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, unstable, if not unfavorable results in the agro-industrial complex, a reduction in the volume of direct monetary investments, a decrease in demand or lack of sales markets for goods and services exported by Moldova just fit into the growing general economic crisis that everyone is talking about, especially in the business environment. Add to this the most powerful energy crisis, the widespread increase in energy prices and we get a not very encouraging picture.

How can entrepreneurs act in this situation? What should they do? Of course, there is no definite answer. However, I think the business community should actively interact with the government and its structures, and the latter, in turn, should carefully listen to the signals and proposals coming from the business world.

What should be done specifically is hard to say. Nevertheless, I know for sure that you cannot sit still, you can't expect miracles – neither from the government, nor from anyone at all. We need to interact more actively with the rest of the world, we need to look further and wider, we need to attract investments, etc. Moreover, we do not rely on the notorious "abroad will help us." "Will help" is the key word here. It will help if we act ourselves. It is necessary to analyze carefully the legislation, especially in the economic field. Is it attractive to investors? Does it contribute to the development of business initiative? Does it become an obstacle to the development of the economy as a whole? It is necessary to conduct a dialogue and make effective proposals to the Government and legislators. To prove, convince, make arguments and achieve positive changes. I am not saying that other points of view have no right to exist. They have. Fortunately, we have a democratic country with a free economy. However, at the same time, it is necessary to look more broadly, comprehensively, at the state of the economy and the ways of its recovery from the crisis. Otherwise, we will patch it up here and there, without hope for a speedy overcoming of the crisis and the normal development of the country.

–Unfortunately, the pandemic still rules the world. How can businesses and the state as a whole deal with the pandemic itself and its consequences?

– Yes, unfortunately, it is. The COVID-19 pandemic is still a formidable phenomenon for most of the world's economies, and it has not spared us. Moreover, I am not sure that the authorities – both the previous and the current government – have taken sufficiently effective measures.

The business community is not an abstract concept, it consists of living people who have their families, their personal problems, responsibilities, but, as a rule, at the same time, these are people who are endowed with responsibility to their work collectives, who have obligations to the state and partners. Restrictive measures, closure of enterprises, restrictions of various kinds, not always coordinated actions of the authorities, which are imposed on the energy crisis, do not contribute to the normal development of business in particular and the national economy as a whole. I am afraid that in the conditions of a pandemic, entrepreneurs were most likely left without effective assistance from the state, which also turned out to be not quite ready to counter this threat.

– What level is the interaction of Moldovan entrepreneurs with partners from the EU and CIS countries, as well as from Russia, now, in rather difficult conditions for everyone? How is international cooperation developing in general, and why is the Republic of Moldova attractive to other countries?

– The Moldovan market is open in principle, but in a certain sense it is limited, therefore, for the effective development of most enterprises in our country, it is absolutely necessary to develop cooperation with foreign markets. In this regard, cooperation with partners from the CIS and EU countries is very important, especially given the free trade regime that Moldova has with both associations. It is especially important to develop cooperation and create joint projects with partners from Russia – due to the large volume of the Russian market, its access to huge resources (energy, raw materials), and logistical access to other CIS markets.

Moldova is a convenient springboard for our potential partners from the CIS countries to enter successfully the EU markets, taking into account both the free trade regime and the already established ties of many Moldovan enterprises with EU partners. Similarly, many entrepreneurs from the EU are interested in the possibility of cooperation with partners from Moldova in order to create a kind of bridge for a successful and with minimal risks entry into the CIS markets. It also takes into account the common mentality, traditional cultural ties, the common recent Soviet past of the CIS peoples, which gives Moldovan entrepreneurs a great advantage for successful work in the economic, social and cultural space of the CIS countries.

– In October 2021, the XIV Assembly of the International Congress of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (ICIE) was held, of which you are the Chairman of the Council. One of the important decisions taken at the Assembly is the possible establishment of an International Business Center for Economic Cooperation in Moscow, under the auspices of the Congress. This decision was also considered at the National Congress of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs of Moldova (NCIEM) and recognized as appropriate within the framework of cooperation between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Moldova. What is the essence of this project? What tasks will it solve? What are the most urgent tasks today in the Moldovan-Russian direction within the framework of the activities of the NCIEM headed by you?

– Yes, indeed. The issues of intensifying the interaction of ICIE members and partners with the business circles of Moscow were considered in detail; prospects for economic development in the post-pandemic period in the states represented in the ICIE; interaction with business associations of Asian countries at the Assembly of our Congress, in October 2021. A successful implementation of the project to create an International Business Center for Economic Cooperation will serve to develop mutually beneficial ties between the Moldovan business community and the business circles of the Russian Federation and its capital.

The geostrategic location of Moldova allows Moldovan entrepreneurs to cooperate successfully with enterprises from both EU and CIS countries, as well as with partners from the Russian Federation. Therefore, the proposal to create a business center aroused interest and great enthusiasm among representatives of the business circles of our country.

Now the NCIE of Moldova is preparing concrete proposals for the development of joint business projects between Moldovan entrepreneurs and potential partners from Russia. The creation of an International Business Center for Economic Cooperation under the auspices of the ICIE will improve cooperation between business partners of our countries and accelerate the implementation of many mutually beneficial projects.

NCIEM actively cooperates with the associative structures of entrepreneurs of advanced EU countries, in particular with business associations from France, Germany, Italy. Entrepreneurs of these countries view the CIS countries as promising markets with great interest. In this regard, Moldovan partners are interesting for them both for the development of joint projects in Moldova and for joint entry into the CIS markets. Many of our EU partners consider participation, with the assistance of their Moldovan partners, in the International Business Center for Economic Cooperation in Moscow as a concrete opportunity to get closer to the markets of Russia and other CIS countries.

– Back in 2017, a Memorandum of Cooperation was signed between the Eurasian Economic Commission and the Republic of Moldova; a year later, the republic received the status of the first observer state in the Eurasian Economic Union. How is Moldova's cooperation with the EAEU developing? Can we talk about any significant progress in the framework of this cooperation?

– Yes, this topic was heard quite actively at one time in the media environment, sometimes at the level of the political leadership of the country. However, as it turned out later, and this is already a well-known fact, apart from the signing of the political declaration that Moldova becomes an observer state in the EAEU, no formal legal procedures for the legal registration of this status were carried out by the departments of our country.

From my point of view, if the orientation of Moldova's economy towards the structures of the European Union will bring an economic effect for the country, then we can say that this is a priority. But at the same time, I think we can and should use – also to the benefit of entrepreneurs, for business and ultimately for the country – and all other platforms or structures where we would have a certain status, opportunities to diversify business activity, be it the CIS, the EAEU or other similar multilateral formations. I think this also corresponds to the thoughts of many businessmen. Moreover, in a crisis, when it is already very difficult for everyone, a demonstrative rejection of time-tested practices, and most likely for purely political reasons, is not entirely justified. I am not sure that the economic analytical institutions, the business community, and the people of Moldova as a whole have fully said their say here.

Anyway, it seems that the EAEU will go its own way. With or without us. The question is rather different: are we definitely better off without him?

– What, in your opinion, awa its t he Moldova n economy in the near future? Which sectors have the greatest potential in terms of economic development, attracting investment, maintaining traditional and conquering new markets?

– To put it bluntly, given the current conditions of the Moldovan economy, many enterprises have prospects – and especially those that develop innovative products. We can talk about innovations in the agro-industrial sector, in the production of food products from biologica l raw materia ls, goods for children, raw materials for the pharmaceutical industry and in many other areas. It is necessary to develop production with high added value, with a high degree of processing. It is also important to attract technology partners from advanced countries.

There are also prospects for enterprises operating in free economic zones, producing innovative products such as products made of composite materials, fiberglass, polyester fibers, etc. The demand for such products is constantly growing on the world market. The final products are used in construction, agriculture, mechanical engineering, they can be widely used both in the domestic market and produced for export.

It is also important to develop high-quality winemaking. The role of the state, economic structures and relevant ministries is very important here to promote these products on world markets, at exhibitions, with the active assistance of Moldovan embassies and economic representations.