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“Moldova does have an economic prosperous future”
The Secretariat for Economy of the Switzerland Foreign Department pursuing the goal of activating the cooperation in the field of economy, technique, education and culture initiated the KABA Assistance Program in the countries of Eastern Europe. For this purpose some volunteers have been selected. One of them, Mr. Alain Benech, chose wholeheartedly to be sent to the Republic of Moldova. What follows is our interview with him held recently before a group of students of the Academy of Economic Studies. In the interview he shares his thoughts and ideas about Moldova, which is not less beautiful than Switzerland.
Question: How do you appraise the present situation of the Republic of Moldova in the European framework or in the framework of the European development trends?
Answer: The situation of Moldova is characterized by the fact that it has never been left in peace. Let me explain. Moldova has always been a country possessing a fertile land, a very diverse and rich agriculture. Even Moldova's neighboring states have noticed it. Moldova produces various agricultural products that don't grow anywhere else in the neighboring region. This is one of the reasons why other people have always tried to conquer Moldova and govern it. And, of course, when you are attacked, you defend yourself courageously. This is why Moldova is known as a “country of warriors”. However, parallel to this belief, Moldova was confronting a true drama, because usually wars resulted in broken families, suffering women and children.
Nowadays, the Moldovan people can enjoy their long-expected freedom. Still, it doesn't serve as a driving force; it doesn't lift up their spirit. The Moldovan people only wish to protect their country, given that throughout the years it has fought for this purpose. I'd like to tell you several paradoxes: I suffer along with the Moldovans, it is sad that young people have to leave their native land, their roots. And it is the fact that Moldovan women leave the country, while I am right here in Chisinau speaking to you that is paradoxical. That is why I decided to do everything in my power and help this country and, especially, help the young people stay where they belong, because they love their land and families, as well as to assist it in finding its normal path of development and prevent it from developing a sense of guilt or an inferiority complex. The inferiority complex comes as a result of making comparisons, i.e. when Moldovans realize that their standard of living is lower than that of their neighbors. Thus, when an inferiority complex is developed, it has an opposite result, as shown by psychological studies, meaning an attitude of pride in excess. And I should add that Moldovans are a very proud people. In my opinion, one should be proud of his or her country, but he/she should also be happy of living in this country. When we, the people of Western Europe, see photos of Moldova, we see a common country similar to many others. That is why our surprise is even bigger when, coming to Moldova, we learn just how low the average salary here is. This is one of the most astonishing aspects. And I would like to add that very few people know what the living standard and average salary in Moldova are. Moldovans surprise me over and over with the things they do in order to resemble other European people with such a small salary. Many young Moldovans were left no choice but to quit their roots, looking for the job in one of Western European country.
You – Moldovans – are similar to other countries, but you wish to have European salaries. I don't mean that I can change it all by myself. But it pleased me to have found collaborators in the person of well-informed people and valuable personalities capable and willing to continue what has already been started.
The Moldovan inferiority complex results from the fact that the people wish to be like other Europeans. They are very, very proud. They express their pride by not showing their weaknesses, by not complaining. This is not about vanity; it is a matter of pride. It all comes from the strong character Moldovans have. This is a good thing, I am sure. But, in some cases, a strong character can convert into an obstacle in the way of a relationship. This side of the Moldovan specificity has more of a negative aspect, because when two strong characters meet, there is a possibility that a conflict will arise.
The contrast that we see in Moldova is associated to European Asia. This is a blend that appeared specifically in this place and led to the formation of a rather composite Moldovan character. The various sides of the character determine the mentioned complexity in a personality.
What do you mean by this Moldovan complexity?
I have already told you that there are many oriental trends that have been registered in such a society as Moldova. Because of the Turkish influence, you, Moldovans, have character traits, psychological aspects that come from the Arabian Orient. In addition to that, you have been exposed to the influence of Asian peoples as well. Many of you are of Slavic origin, which determines their way of thinking. Some of you are from Central Europe. Thus, the thinking is different. People living in wide fields don't have the mentality of people used to the mountains. And we mustn't forget that Western Europe is mostly a mountainous region. This is why we don't have the same mentality or thinking. Then, you do have Europeans, Western Europeans. Thus, in Moldova there are four categories. These are: Arabian Turkish, Asian Slavic, Central European and Western European – a full bouquet. Every Moldovan represents a blend of the four types. Moldovans are thus subject to various influences. Sometimes, though, these influences confront each other and may even provoke interior conflicts. They may sometimes make people become non-governable and uncertain as to where should their country head to. And, certainly, we can sense the presence of anarchic elements as well. This is why Moldovans will hardly give up their own ideas and accept those of others.
Do you believe in a democratic Moldova?
Moldova has already adhered to the principles and ideals of democracy. Yet, Moldovans have to realize that democracy is also about accepting some limits. Democracy does not imply that one has to always express his/her own ideas.
In building a relationship one has to face the phenomenon of difference of characters. The fact is that all characters are different.
Sometimes, the attitude is the following: if you don't like me and your vision of life differs from mine, then you are my enemy, and I won't tolerate your presence on earth. That is how wars arise. Human beings must learn to accept their differences, because if you see him as different, he will also see you as different.
To answer your question from the economic point of view, the consolidation of the unity between people and states leads only to development, creation, and improvisation.
What have you mostly come to appreciate here, in Moldova?
Let me narrow down my question to one activity. For instance, what do you think of our folk music? What is so special about it?
In the first place, I would like to say that it is a wonderful music. The people in Moldova never seem to be angry or nervous. Even though their music expresses a lot of vitality, life, renewal, being a very lively music, the people are generally calm, mostly listening than talking. Western Europeans are far more anxious. Here people are quiet, mostly common listeners. Yet, their music is very diversified and can attain very fast rhythms. Thus, what we have here is the people expressing themselves through music. Moldova is a country of big contrasts and, consequently, wide varieties. As you incorporate so many types of characters, you have a wide range of personalities and your music is a vivid expression of your personality, it speaks for your people.
Maybe this is due to the fact that in contrast to Western Europe we are in a monetary crisis, and music is the only way in which we can reflect our spiritual wealth making abstraction of our material poverty?
You are right. Money isn't the only value in life. It can sometimes ruin one's thinking, one's soul.
Our people have a very distinct spirit and talent. We have extraordinary painters, opera singers, ballet dancers, musicians, etc. Regrettably, our artists aren't treated according to their merits.
Right. I am happy to have discovered the inner side of the Moldovan nation, and not the superficial aspect. Living here helped me get to know people in their day-to-day life. It is like you said: there is a huge lack of financial resources. Yet, money can sometimes represent a threat. It is necessary to find the middle way. You must not live only for the sake of money like they do in the USA, or in Western Europe. Thus, you will be able to preserve your folklore, your traditions, your strong family relationships that have long been lost in Western Europe. We don't have the same domestic life as that you have here.
What is your opinion of the Moldovan economy?
Moldovan economy was built in favor of a small circle of people. This is what we call “l'arrosage” system – “l'arrosage” meaning favoring certain persons. Yet, these people don't play an active role in developing the economy. Let me exemplify. Were this Italy, there would always be a small number of persons who would take advantage of the Moldovan system. But the state won't develop. Thus, “l'arrosage” system doesn't work. And at the present moment Moldova is in the “l'arrosage” system.
Are you going to participate in some economic programs that are going to be implemented in Moldova? Will you have resources and will you get involved in some programs and render your financial services?
My answer is yes. When one notices certain internal movements in a country, one tends to think that it cannot be a profound movement based on practice, if it is not based on education. At first, we need to help people acquire knowledge and experience. Then, when the first stage is over, the next stages will include financing specific projects. However, at first we must teach people certain things, so that it is a matter of education, of instruction. For example, what we have already managed to implement in Moldova is to improve the relationship between Moldova and Switzerland that requested individual education-instruction. In the future, though, we need to find financial resources, including financial assistance from the government. By saying that we need to support the state I mean that we need to form funds with the help of other countries for the purpose of instructing, educating people. Probably we must give ourselves some time between announcing the existence of such a fund and the issue of financial resources in order to clarify issues like who are the sponsors, how will the instruction process unfold. However, the European Union wishes to assist the implementation of some projects. “Bizpro” that activates in Moldova in the instruction sphere is a specific example. And I believe we will further develop our cooperation with “Bizpro”. “Bizpro” is an American company specialized in the first place in instructing people.
You have done a good job here in Moldova, representing very well the KABA Program and, consequently the Swiss Secretariat for Economy. I am telling this because of your many radio and TV interviews, in which you looked very professional providing the philosophy of the KABA program. What next?
I would like to stay here more. But obviously my duty is to come back to Geneva, to think things over and in a while visit again Moldova participating in some concrete projects, but in new capacity of representing myself as international financial consultant and interests of my company. I will tell that there are many opportunities in Moldova for business. Moldova does have an economic prosperous future. Now it's time of taking initiative, it's time of taking actions and it's time of taking responsibility for the future of this wonderful and very special to me country.
Interviewed by Pavel Dec