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May 24, 2022

What kind of country are we living in?

By all accounts, we’re living in a country in which the common man is overburdened with taxes, pays the bill for all kinds of incompetents in the most varied fields and is granted, on top of it all, the “right” to be sent to all kinds of institutions to pay taxes to the state. On the other side of the track stand the leaders, the politicians whose mounds of wealth are growing from one year to the next (one needs only remember the recent statements of wealth made public) and whose only target is coming up with new, apparently legal, ways to tax the many.

The list of aberrations the authorities come up with is a long one, which could not be summed up in just a few lines. Two matters stand out, as usually, at the expense of the common man.

The case of the fire at the Giulesti maternity hospital has been on the first page of newspapers for almost two weeks now. The public opinion is still in shock about the death of the five babies in the intensive care ward and the suffering of the six others still struggling to survive. The first to be charged and arrested – the nurse Florentina Carstea, the one who left the infants unsupervised for more than 15 minutes, during which time the fire started. The Prosecutor’s Office is aware of how strongly the public opinion feels about this case. As a consequence, they’re holding press conferences almost on a daily basis, advising us of how the investigation progresses.

What did prosecutor Marius Iacob, chief of the Criminal Prosecution and Investigation Department within the Prosecutor’s Office at the High Court of Cassation and Justice, tell us, on Wednesday? They initiated prosecution procedures against the Giulesti Maternity –“Panait Sarbu” Hospital and sanctions may go as far as dissolving the healthcare unit. We’ll overlook the ridiculous notion of closing down a state “healthcare unit”. This isn’t a private hospital, which may be made accountable legally or financially. We’ll also overlook the fact that closing down the maternity would affect, again, the common man, as it would amount to fewer hospitals to meet the Capital’s needs. We’ll ponder, however, on the action as such. The Prosecutor’s Office does not target the management, led by the hospital manager, Bogdan Marinescu. They’re targeting the maternity as a whole. Suppose the “unit” is declared guilty, what will happen after it is closed down? Material and moral damages have to be paid by the state or by the City Hall. Damages are estimated at about EUR 1 M, and various specialists point to the fact that the parents’ suing for damages could boost the total amount to EUR 5 M. An amount to be paid, as I said, by the state or by the City Hall, that is, by the taxpayer. Of course, the public opinion will be satisfied with the work of the prosecutors, who did their job and “punished” the culprits. However, the selfsame public opinion will end up paying for the incompetence of managers and employees.

The second matter is related to political management. To those currently in power, ever more annoyed with the media’s “intervention” in the chaotic activity of the Executive and of the ruling parties. Ordinance 50/2010 on the taxation of individuals who collect an income from independent activities was going, first and foremost, for the journalists. The collateral victims were artists, creators, sculptors, painters, etc. They weren’t the main target, however. This had been known for some time among those in the business. The journalist Cornel Nistorescu spells it clear: “The present Government and the ruling party, the Democratic Liberal Party (PDL), along with other great statesmen of our day and age, decided to form a press group and to introduce some rules and methods which will paralyse the press. All this havoc was wreaked not for the actors, the performers, the singers, the painters or the sculptors, it was wreaked to stall the journalists, to paralyze this medium which confronts the ruling party with real problems”.

The taxation of royalties was promoted under the Government’s slogan stating that everyone should pay taxes and obey the law. Justified in principle, the taxation is aimed at the press owners, who, according to the estimates of PM Emil Boc, the Finance Minister Sebastian Vladescu and the Labour Minister Mihai Seitan, would be under financial strain, if forced to pay additional taxes to the state. Wrong. The owners resort either to making people redundant, to reduce expenses, or to passing the fiscal responsibility onto the employee. In fact, the Government itself, in the ordinance 50 and, then, in the norms regulating its application, refers to the “beneficiary’s” obligation to pay a 16.5 per cent tax on 80 per cent of one’s independent incomes.

Beneficiaries have to pay contributions at the healthcare office, unemployment agency and the pensions home, forms and money in hand. Simple maths indicates that this amounts to 36 visits a year, complete with the queues and the time wasted there. This was exactly what they had in mind: humiliating those who “benefit” from royalties.

The queues on August 25 – the deadline for the payments – (which Prime Minister Boc and Minister Seitan were not aware of or, if admitting them, denied had anything to do with the new law) were abundant proof that the new law was playing it “by the ear”. It will send 500,000 people on a fool’s errand every month. On the other hand, the ordinance and the norms to apply it contain contradictory stipulations, which make them all but impossible to apply. Is there, really, no one to be made accountable at the Ministry of Finance for a poorly-made law?

The height of the absurd is reached, on the taxpayers’ money, in the provision that payments have to be made exclusively by the beneficiary. That is to say, every month, journalists, artists, singers, painters should go on pilgrimage in the interest and for the glory of the Romanian government. How can you expect, for instance, retired actors, like masters Radu Beligan Ion Lucian, Marin Moraru and others, to come, in person, to three different places, every month, to pay the state that which it is unable to collect for itself?

Given the absurd nature of it all, we cannot but wonder what kind of country we are living in. And, if those in power are incompetent or incapable, we wonder who can make them accountable. The matter of the “voters’ right to sanction them” every four years … does not count for much in this case.

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