Politics without economy

The Parliament is a continuous battlefield. The Liberals and the Social-democrats leave the plenary sitting hall whenever Speaker Roberta Anastase chairs a session. Two months have now passed since the scandal over the vote on the pension bill that was adopted with just 80 Deputies attending, while 170 were counted. Hence this seemingly interminable crisis where neither party is capable of making any concessions.

PNL leader Crin Antonescu and PSD President Victor Ponta are getting increasingly virulent against one another. On the other hand, any offer of dialogue between the parties making up the ruling coalition and the opposition is doomed to fail, in spite of a certain degree of openness exhibited in public statements.
The Parliament and Government are divided by a separate dispute, this time over the wish of the Executive to push the education draft law by requesting a vote of confidence in Parliament.

A third party steps in this respect – the Constitutional Court. This latter actor has not only ruled the procedure unconstitutional, but came back with further explanations that only made things even more complicated, allowing each of the parties (power and opposition) to defend their respective opinions. Some say adopting the education law by requesting a vote of confidence is unconstitutional, while the other party maintains that the procedure may be pursued further. And least, pressed by the time, Prime-Minister Emil Boc is requesting clarifications from the Constitutional Court on the steps to take from this point on. Everyone will be in stand-by mode until those clarifications arrive.

The Constitutional Court is becoming more and more present in the Romanian political and social affairs. In the recent years, the Court has generally ruled in favour of the presidential positions, irrespective of the ‘filiations’ of its members. But, this time, the Court found ‘against’ President Traian Basescu’s opinion, for which reason, when the first opportunity arose, the head of state slammed it over its performance, accusing of substituting itself for the Government in making decisions with a political influence and blaming it for the VAT hike from 19 to 24 per cent, giving the Government no choice when ruling the pension cut unconstitutional.

But where were those statements made? Nowhere but at a meeting with the Foreign Investors Council (FIC), seemingly wishing to confirm once more his renowned belligerent nature, as well as the inclination to conflict of the entire Romanian politics in general. Moreover, the president also started a few attacks on businessmen, mainly bankers, accusing them of willingly lending money to the population only asking to see an ID card whereas now, during the crisis, they refuse to lend to the SMEs. The head of state had no answer for FIC, the leaders of which, in October, had launched a set of proposals designed to help the economy recover. It wouldn’t have been the president’s competence to offer feed-back on that anyway, but we cannot help wondering of criticising bankers was.

This is what Romanian political life looks like – full of vigour and antagonisms. A closer look, however, will certainly tell us that the economic component is almost completely missing, although we are going through the most severe economic crisis after WWII, as even some of the current ministers say. Debates are sterilely revolving around areas that are probably necessary from a political (parliamentary democracy) or social (such as the education law) point of view. But are they really as urgent now, at the end of 2010, that they should consume all of the parties, PM and president’s energy, outshining the entire economic recovery effort? PM Emil Boc carries most of the responsibility for ignoring the economic factor. The other day he was announcing that his cabinet was going to request a vote of confidence over the unified wage law on November 22. The same old story unfolding again… What if the procedure is unconstitutional? It obviously is a both necessary and important component of the economic and financial dimension. But where are the economic recovery packages? Apart from the speech held in Parliament a few months ago and listing the economic relief measures – actually a set of measures designed to prevent crisis effects from sharpening, by public expenditure and personnel cuts – the analysts do not have a ‘valid’ guidebook at hand.
A World Bank report leaked into the mass-media a few days ago and meant solely for the attention of the Romanian officials highlights institutional shortcomings, issues with the draft budgets which are built up on unrealistic expectations, always including overestimated revenue, as well as other elements that offer the most accurate possible characterisation of a governments having ruled ‘by the ear’ in the last twenty years. Well, confronted with the issues raised by the Washington-based financial institution on the television, PM Boc came up with the ideal answer: it all refers to the work of the previous governments… the report encompasses the governance of the last twenty years, right? As for developments in the near future, he stresses in his staccato and falsely convincing manner of speech that, in 2011, Romania will focus on European funds (chapter where Romania is obviously last in the new member states’ ranking). A question comes unavoidably: That’s all very good, but why hasn’t it been a priority for the Romanian Government until now? We should not forget that, after the 2008 election, the president was very virulent against the former liberal regime (PM Calin Popescu Tariceanu) over the feeble preoccupation about spending EU funds. Emil Boc, who followed in the PM’s position, at the end of 2010, is making a priority out of spending European money in 2011!

All this is subsequent to FIC’s repeated warnings about ‘European funds’ being the biggest opportunity for Romania in stepping up economic growth. We have made proposals to the Ministry of Finance, we have not let go of our suggestion of outsourcing the management of the process of accessing EU funding’, FIC Board member Dominic Bruynseels and BCR President was saying.

Anyway, this is a country where politics seems to be done for the sake of politics. He economic ‘fibre’, capable of re-launching the already frail Romanian economy is missing or is put into the second place. Unless wage and bonus cuts and layoffs in the public sector and the ten kilometres of motorway length formally opened by PM Emil Boc last week count for economic stimuli…As for the 2011 draft budget law going over a month overdue in Parliament – who cares?

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