Small communities struggle to cope with precarious economic conditions, low birth rate and pollution.
A report released yesterday by the Romanian Academic Society (SAR) warns that there is a 50 pc possibility for small towns to face a survival crisis during the next 30 years. “Our forecast goes beyond official estimations, which exclusively refer to underprivileged areas and zones under restructuring that were formally declared as such after 1989. The sad reality is that many Romanian towns are in this situation and, additionally, we are witnessing the exaggerate development of new communities, which – in a longer run – will have various problems pertaining to environment, and economic and social perspectives. Today, one in 10 Romanians lives in such problem-ridden areas,” said Sorin Ionita, the SAR expert that coordinated the report.
According to the paper, various categories of urban communities are under high threat: most of them are single-industry towns built around mining operations, which were stimulated to artificially grow during the era of forced industrialisation (such as Moldova Noua and Balan), but there also are communities depending on energy-intensive industries subsidised by the state, like Victoria, in Brasov County, or Zimnicea in Teleorman County. The SAR paper shows that, in the present economic context, many of these communities are confronted by a decline of birth rate and living standards, which form a vicious circle. They also must deal with serious environmental problems resulting from obsolete industrial technologies, which make them unfit for tourism and significantly increases the cost of cleaning operations. “Some towns perhaps have the chance to survive if we enforce intelligent policies that will make them self-sustainable; others will disappear. Anyway, with few available resources, the state must find a solution to bring at a self-sustainable level these people that earn 20-30 pc less than the average income at country level,” Sorin Ionita believes.
Number of socially assisted, on the rise
An aspect that boosts the effects of poverty in Romania is the high number of people who receive social benefits. Although the government promised to curb the effects of crisis by lowering the number of social benefits recipients, official figures show the contrary. According to the National Agency for Social Benefits, quoted by Realitatea.net, over 7,300,000 Romanians received a form of social benefit in March this year – one million more than in December 2010. In its turn, the sum allotted from the state budget as welfare benefits has increased to RON 785 M in March, from RON 671 M last December. Statistics also show that child benefits top the list of social expenses, followed by the benefits paid to disabled people, the minimum guaranteed income and the heating aid. Most beneficiaries are in Bucharest and the counties of Iasi, Prahova, Suceava, Bacau, Arges, Dolj and Constanta.