By Sinisa Jakov Marusic
After filling the capital with dozens of new monuments, most Macedonians want the government to stop spending money on statues and suchlike, an opinion poll shows.
According to the poll by the local Rating agency, an overwhelming 81 per cent of the respondents say the government should stop splashing out on new monuments as part of its grand revamp of the capital known as Skopje 2014.
Only 18 per cent opted for more statues while the rest, less than 1 per cent, said they were not sure.
The issue has sparked a lively debate this week in parliament after the opposition Social Democrats used these numbers to attack the ruling centre-right VMRO DPMNE party for its spending habits at a time of crisis.
“This project will have vast negative effects on Macedonia, which will be felt later on,” Jani Makraduli, a Social Democrat legislator said, referring to the high cost of the project.
VMRO DPMNE has defended the spending as necessary for the makeover of the shabby-looking city.
It says that increased income from tourism in the future will more than justify the sums being spent now on new monuments.
Drawing inspiration from the architectural styles of Classical Antiquity, the Skopje 2014 project has seen the erection of some 30 bronze and marble statues, with more on the way.
Erected mostly in the central area, some of the most notable ones include two nearly 30-metre-high statues set in fountains of Alexander the Great and his father Philip, a 30-metre-high triumphal arch, a massive colonnade with lions and another colonnade with an obelisk in the middle.
The project also envisages the construction of some 20 other buildings, including, museums, theatres, concert halls, hotels and administrative offices whose construction in most cases is either finished or is well under way.
“I expect most of the monuments to be finished by the end of the year and that will be it, as far as monuments go,” Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski said last month.
But in May the authorities announced another giant monument for the city centre, a 30-metre-high statue of Nobel Prize-winning Catholic nun, Mother Teresa, who was born in Skopje.