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January 26, 2022

Some mistakes just can’t be forgiven

Last weekend made Romanians forget about the crisis, for a brief moment. The country’s quasi-success at Eurovision (where Romania ranked third) and the completely unexpected (!) success in China, where a young Romanian became Miss Bikini… these are the moments of joy that made out fellow nationals put the grim tomorrow away for a few hours. But this did not last long, as Monday came, with protests and the immediate reality of imminent salary and pension cuts, ruled by the government.

With so many “optimistic” news coming from everywhere, only few were patient and interested enough to listen to the words of a politician who, though unpopular, still has a long expertise in the transport sector: Radu Berceanu a Democrat-Liberal leader and Transport minister in many cabinets. In an unexpected mood for honesty, he said a few revealing things about last year’s presidential elections. Radu Berceanu admitted, on Realitatea TV, that politicians hid the difficult economic situation of the country during the electoral campaign According to Berceanu, during the campaign no party warned the population that “we were heading towards collapse” and everybody preferred to “lie by omission.”

“It was not necessarily a lie, but politicians did not want to present all the aspects of the situation, as it had developed. Actually, the lie you mentioned was rather a lie by omission. No party is so suicidal – and I believe in other countries too parties are not that suicidal – to come forward during electoral campaign – or at any other time, if they can avoid it – and tell that things are very bad and we are heading to disaster, just to show how suicidal they are,” Berceanu said.

A second statement was that Romania would have gone through a crisis anyway, even if the rest of the world weren’t hit by financial tremors. “Probably (…) all these things would have still happened to us at a later moment, maybe with less intensity and spread upon a longer time interval. But they would have happened, even if the other countries were alright and there were no crisis,” Berceanu concluded.

In complete honesty, Transport Minister Radu Berceanu admitted that, if the electoral campaign continued, politicians would have further concealed the bad situation from the population.

As they say, a sin confessed is a sin half pardoned. In this case however, even this form of moral “pardon” cannot be applied, because this was no mistake at all. Politicians did not lie during the campaign, as they still hid the truth by omission. The idea about suicidal parties is clearly disputable. Opposition parties do not avail of all statistic and real-time data they would need to come forward and speak the “truth.” On the other hand, PDL – the party of Mr. Berceanu – is in power since the end of 2008, even though it shared its first months of ruling with the enemy PSD. It availed of all data and was able to provide voters with a realistic image. It did not act so, out of electoral reasons, as confessed by Mr. Berceanu. This is no excuse (rather an accusation) for the nonchalance and empty promises made by the leaders of PDL and President Traian Basescu himself. Well, we won’t tell the people how bad things really are, that the country is heading towards economic disaster, but at least we should not make too many promises, while knowing everything is a lie. Should we recollect the bold statements about Romania being past the peak of the crisis? Should we call an encouragement this idea voiced by the president in his 2010 New Year address? Or is it just sheer thoughtlessness? Especially as he had already won the presidential elections.

It is not unusual to make fantasy promises. Yet, omitting the truth is equivalent to a lie in this case. Thousands of kilometers of motorway, salary increases (which now turned into cuts), and many others. By hiding the truth, PDL inherently also delayed the antidote measures that would have yielded economic results. By its failure to enforce any measure, the government compromised the national economy and the long-term welfare of the population. And everything had the purpose of allowing President Traian Basescu win a new term in office. By his statements, Radu Berceanu confirms the opposition’s accusations that Romanians now must pay the price of re-electing the head of state.

Last, but not least, the most cynical aspect is the PDL leader’s admission that authorities would still hide the situation to the population, if this were an electoral year.

On the other hand, Mr. Berceanu negates the arguments brought by his party and by the president. PDL casts all the blame for today’s hardships upon the PNL governance of 2008 and of previous years, which it accuses of pushing the economy into disaster. Though they blame the Liberals, the Democrat-Liberals and the Social-Democrats did nothing to right the wrong in 2009. By hiding the truth, they had their own contribution to the worsening situation and even resorted to the EUR 20 bln loan from the IMF, WB and the European Commission to stay in power during an electoral year. Last year, they paid the salaries and pensions they are cutting now. The excuse about each party in power preferring to postpone painful decisions, hoping that things will get better, is not only hilarious, but plainly cynical. Coming to the president, we should remember that, early in May, when he announced the harsh austerity measures, Traian Basescu said he learned about the situation of the budget just weeks ago. In 2008, he was supporting the 50 pc salary hike in the Education system. Should we understand that the head of the state is a victim of party manipulation and is not informed about the real situation of the country?

The first consequence of PDL’s “omissions” is Traian Basescu getting re-elected as president. The second is the austerity plan that includes cutting salaries, pensions and child-rearing benefits, the strike that threatens to paralyse the economic activity etc. Recently, Labour Minister Mihai Seitan said salaries in the public system might have been cut by 30-50 pc, even more, if the present austerity plan weren’t enforced. These are just a few effects of hiding the truth during elections. Some analysts claim that even the VAT and flat tax will be increased next year, as a last-resort solution.

Some mistakes just can’t be forgiven. Thanks to Mr. Berceanu, we have been confirmed that PDL willingly concealed the dramatic situation and sacrificed the economy for the sake of re-electing the president. This is such a mistake. Now, the government is the position of a firefighter who tries to put off blazes along a whole street. But it does not take real anti-crisis measures. Just by cutting pensions and salaries, it will not defeat the economic crisis. These are just desperate measures aimed at keeping the budget afloat. And they are impossible to avoid. There are no elections this year.

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