PM reports to Parliament
Prime Minister Mugur Isârescu made history this week. He is the first Prime Minister since 1989 to report to Parliament on the Government's performance before the end of its term of office. Isârescu faced an unfriendly Parliament and responded to criticism from all parties, including members of the ruling coalition.
The Prime Minister began by describing the situation when he came to power ten months ago and went on to show the progress that had been made since that time. He explained, "The governmental efforts focussed on three main elements: fiscal reform, inflation reduction and the elaboration of the National Strategy of Economic Development." (Monitorul, 20 October 2000)
Isârescu went on to say that there was still much to do to improve life in Romania and that this would require a continuing reform programme. He warned against hasty political decisions that would take Romania backwards, away from the goals of positive economic development and acceptance by world institutions.
"Without resorting to populist measures, the Government has done everything possible to maintain economic balance in this electoral year since it was appointed ten months ago," remarked the Prime Minister. (Nine o'clock, 19 October 2000)
40 per cent below the poverty threshold
A survey carried out by the National Statistics Board (CNS) has revealed almost 40 per cent of Romanians have less than USD 30 to live on per month. Most people below the poverty threshold live in rural areas or are families with a large number of children. The survey reports that the number of people living in poverty is still rising.
CNS also revealed that ten per cent of the working population is unemployed,and those who do work have an average wage level of USD 90 per month. Director of CNS Doina Gheorghe said, "The highest poverty is faced by families in rural areas, where the head of a family is often an unemployed person, peasant or pensioner." (Mediafax, 18 October 2000)
The Ministry of Labour and Social Protection (MMPS) announced on Tuesday that loans, bearing no interest and repayable after three years, would be made available to those in extreme poverty who wanted to set up a small business. Free training and help with planning and advice would also be available. Loans to the unemployed and low-income families of up to USD 8500 will be available.
The loans will be granted by the MMPS from the National Solidarity Fund under an agreement signed with the United Nations Development Program (PNUD) and the Foundation for the Romanian Entrepreneurs Assistance (FAIR). Secretary of State at the MMPS Simona Marinescu said, "The programme targets unemployed people, regardless of their age, skills or place of residence." (Reuters, 17 October 2000)
Romania and the international community: Concern...
On Monday Prime Minister Mugur Isârescu said that he thought it was possible that the third part of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) stand-by loan could be withheld. It is believed that the fulfilment of the agreement is being prevented by the Government's lack of progress in dealing with state sector wages, the 2000 budget, the rate of privatisation and the debt arrears of the state utilities.
Isârescu said: "If they (the IMF) think my failure to bring wages and arrears towards agreed targets is a factor blocking the release of the tranche, then that's it. I told them what I could do and what I could not." (Reuters, 16 October 2000) A less than supportive IMF said that they expected steps to be taken which will settle the issues.
The Foreign Ministers of the Black Sea Economic Co-operation Organization (BSEC) met in Bucharest on Friday. The organisation is comprised of countries located in the Black Sea basin. Members include Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, the Republic of Moldavia, Romania, the Russian Federation, Turkey and Ukraine while a further nine countries (Austria, Italy, France, Germany, Israel, Egypt, Poland, Slovakia and Tunisia) hold observer status. The presidency of BSEC is currently held by Romania. Discussions covered international issues and the development of both economic and bilateral co-operation between members.
The Danube Commission met in Budapest on Monday to discuss the unblocking of the River Danube at Novi Sad. The Danube remains blocked following the NATO bombing during the Kosovo conflict. Romanian trade remains severely affected by the blockage, which has severed one of the country's traditional trade routes. The Commission, composed of the ten river-side states together with the Russian Federation, heard from the Yugoslavian representative, who said that his country no longer had any objection to the work proceeding. Petru Cordos, the Romanian Ambassador to Budapest, remarked, "The Danube Commission approved the project for unblocking the Danube in the Novi Sad sector and assigned the technical project manager." (Nine o'clock, 17 October 2000)
Although European Union funding for the project has been in place for some time, the former Yugoslavian president, Slobodan Milošević, refused to allow the work to take place.
Bucharest's poster poll!
Election fever has hit the capital. As pollsters report a changing electoral picture, Bucharest itself seems to be joining in.
The city has been filled with posters from contending parties—much to the disgust of Mayor Traian Basescu. He has let it be known that posters displayed in unauthorised places will lead to fines. In District 5 alone, nearly 2000 posters have been identified as being illegally displayed by council investigators.
EvZ reports that the three leading contenders in the contest to see who can display the most posters on unauthorised sites are Alianta pentru România (Alliance for Romania Party), Partidul Democrat (Democratic Party) and Partidul Naţional Liberal (National Liberal Party). The three parties received a warning to remove their posters and when they failed to do so were fined in excess of USD 40,000. They have all been told that further fines will follow if action to remove the posters is not forthcoming.
The Bucharest District Mayors report that no posters have been displayed at unauthorised sites by the leading contender in either the parliamentary and presidential campaigns: Partidul Democraţiei Sociale din România (Party for Social Democracy in Romania) have not yet printed them!
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