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Paul Tompsen: When the Overseer offered Rakia

October 28, 2012
The Skopjans remember the negotiations with the Danish inspector 20 years ago.

Special envoy to Skopje: Kostas Koukoumakas

Source : Ta Nea, 20.10.2012

In 1994, in the restaurant Uranija in Skopje: The envoy of the IMF, Paul Tompsen (third from left), with the then vice-president of the government, Liube Trpeski (second from left), and other government officials during a celebratory dinner for the end of the negotiations with the IMF for a loan.

In the conference hall of the economic council of the government of Skopje, sometime in mid 1994, a tall and thin technocrat of the IMF was insistently asking that three last minute additions be made, just before the final agreement for support from the Fund to the newly created state. The then vice-president of the government of Skopje, Liube Trpeski, got up and instead of answering him, recounted a parable to the blond technocrat.

He told him about an alcoholic who had caught a goldfish while fishing from a bridge over the Vardar in Skopje. The goldfish begged the fisherman to throw it back into the water, and in exchange it would give him three wishes. The alcoholic accepted. First, he said, I want the water of the Vardar to be turned into rakia; second I want the water of lake Ohrid to be turned to rakia; and third I would like…one more bottle of rakia.

“Your additional demands, mr Tompsen, remind me of the exaggeration of the fisherman”, said Trpeski. Those present laughed, but the head of the representation of the IMF to Skopje did not find the story funny; however the fiscal program was approved without the three last minute measures

“A few days later, government officials and members of the IMF were having dinner in the restaurant Uranja. Suddenly mr Tompsen got up, asked for the music to be turned down and brought out from under the table a bottle of rakia. This is for you, he said, and gave it to me”, describes Liube Trpeski, now professor of economics in the University of Skopje, during his interview with Ta Nea.

The economic editor of Utrinski Vesnik, Mirke Jovanovski, had taken the first interview from Paul Tompsen in Skopje.

Trpeski was the main negotiator of the government of fYROM with the IMF in the period 1992-1996. After the vice-presidency of the government, he took over the direction of the Central Bank of Skopje and knows Paul Tompsen better than most, who, before having the position of the head of the IMF in Greece had worked many years in the Balkans.

The first years after its independence from former Yugoslavia, the economic situation of fYROM was nightmarish. “We were isolated from the international markets, the inflation was close to 100%, we had currency instability. Our priority was humanitarian aid and not the fiscal programme”, describes Trpeski.

The government of the new state turned to the IMF, of which it was not yet a member. And the then 37-year-old Tompsen arrived in Skopje in 1992. He had previously worked in Belgrade, where he met his Serbian wife. He knew details about the economy of the region, as for two years he had been an advisor of the last prime minister of united Yugoslavia, Ante Markovic.

The first period the “distant” Paul Tompsen rented a room in the old-fashioned hotel Jadran (Adriatic) behind the central square of Skopje. During their first meeting, Trpeski surprised him: “We propose the abolishing of the “selective credit”, meaning the loans that the banks give to enterprises and must be collected by the central bank”. “I was prepared for a battle today, but the negotiation has just ended”, answered Tompsen.

The conditions of the agreement of the IMF with fYROM were very different than those we are living through today in Greece. In reality, say the analysts in Skopje, the IMF adopted the economy of fYROM. It did not negotiate even typically, it did not demand reductions of salaries and pensions, but imposed them and set up from zero the economy of the small country with specific terms (express privatisations, the creation of worker law etc). Today economic editor of Utrinski Vesnik Mirke Jovanovski, had at the time taken the first interview of Paul Tompsen in Skopje. “He was at easy with publicity, open-minded, but very strict”.

Now professor of Economics in the University of Skopje, Liube Trpeski, was the main negotiator with the IMF, in the period 1992-96.

BEHIND THE SCENES. During the long-hours of negotiations with government officials the “organiser” Tompsen only asked for a bottle of water. The “colourless socialist” in his youth, as he is described, was very expressive only during a football match in Skopje, between fYROM and his country Denmark, around 1994. He shouted, celebrated in the stands, had fun. In Skopje he walked around unaccompanied.

It was on an initiative of Tompsen, describes the journalist Jovanovski, that the IMF approved loans “structural reform” to fYROM worth hundreds of millions of dollars in the decade 1992-2002.

The economic editor of Utrinski Vesnik, Mirke Jovanovski, had taken the first interview from Paul Tompsen in Skopje.
Now professor of Economics in the University of Skopje, Liube Trpeski, was the main negotiator with the IMF, in the period 1992-96.

 

 

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