What's happening in Moldova? A Q&A with Victoria Novac
Please tell us about your work.
I am a playful learning expert and a social entrepreneur. I founded EduJoc (EduPlay) Company in 2012 where we promote education through playing and creativity. We have the biggest collection of educational toys and games for kids of all ages from 1 to 99 years old. We create stories and deliver education all around the world.
What is the current social, economic and political situation in Moldova?
Moldovan citizens feel the consequences of the inaction of decision makers in major problems, including corruption-related cases or embezzlement. After a relative increase of citizens' welfare in early 2010, the economy has stagnated and there has been a decrease in the purchasing power of citizens along with a decrease in optimism and a split of citizens based on policy options. There is no total cohesion in geopolitics - the number of supporters of EU integration equals the number of citizens who opt for the eastern vector of development, involving alliances with the Russian Federation. Political instability in recent years and high-level corruption scandals have resulted in the freezing of foreign assistance grants, which are vital in covering for the state budget deficit.
Back in 2014, $1 billion was stolen from three banks. Three years later, corruption is still endemic. Why is this the case?
Corruption is a social scourge that has no immediate solution; this requires sustained actions of the entire society. Certainly, stealing $1bn had a major impact on the socio-economic situation of citizens, with direct implications on personal and public welfare, but this case is not singular. Endemic corruption, attested in Moldova, is specific to societies in transition, and Moldova is in transition towards a state of law with a market economy. Given that Moldova declared its independence only 26 years ago (27 August 1991), there is an apparent absence of effective regulatory mechanisms and independent institutions. Often, relevant regulatory frameworks are implemented with deficiencies, giving way for actions of corruption or bias/favors.
As a young businessperson, has this corruption impacted your work?
Corruption affects the business environment, and because of it, poor quality products are available and negative players are allowed to gain influence in the market. I have chosen to obtain all my successes correctly; even it took much more time than I thought. I built my business with small and confident steps. In most cases, getting authorization for our stockists took too long, but when you are informed, know your rights and are insistent, you can achieve your desired outcome.
What actions are young people taking to hold the government accountable?
We are building powerful associations of young leaders and social entrepreneurs. Young people are getting involved in state companies and trying to affect changes in the system. Youth and civil society are active participants in anti-corruption initiatives, and are monitoring rules and standards. Together we are working to change attitudes from those of ordinary citizens to the state officials themselves.
Do young people think recently-elected President Igor Dodon can steer Moldova in the right direction?
Attitudes towards the President are very mixed, especially given the polarization during the elections and the tight results. Many citizens who gave Dodon their vote did it by impulse as a means of protesting against major theft in the banking system. He received support from a broad range of voters, primarily those of rural and ethnic communities, who were attracted to his message of changing the direction of Moldova's development. His orientation towards a Eurasia is characterized by better relations with the Russian Federation and possible access to the Russian market, and obtaining cheap energy resource. This desired political development is very much accepted by a large portion of citizens who have been disappointed with the sluggish reforms to 'Europeanise' Moldova.
Victoria Novac is the founder of EduJoc, a social enterprise which promotes learning through playing and inventiveness.