EDITORIAL

Poverty vs. birth rate

Four years ago, the president of Romania warned that, “if we don’t do now what we should do to stop the demographic decline, we will sacrifice our children and grandchildren.” Since that warning, the demographic involution only gained momentum. According to a recent communiqué, today we have the lowest birth rate in the last 80 years, since the systematic collection of demographic data has been instated in Romania. And there is more to it: we have the highest child mortality in the European Union, the number of abortions nears one million each year, while emigration is little below three million. Behind most of these dramas is poverty – a special kind of poverty, in a country whose agriculture can feed 80 million people, but hunger still saps national dignity. In such conditions, some 5 pc of Romania’s inhabitants double their wealth every 2-3 years. These contradictions are a source of disorientation for the public and masked indifference for our rulers.

The capacity to feel the drama, with its known capacity of mobilising and intensifying the power of resistance, has been diminished to such a degree that it sinks little by little into a depersonalising tragicomedy. It is very the reaction of the Romanian politician that “shrugs off” his responsibility with an absent-minded indifference. “Let’s wait and see,” is the attitude frequently adopted by Romanian politicians when it comes to the consequences generated by the demographic collapse, although this is an increasingly threatening issue. A report of the European Parliament warned that the aging of population in EU countries might cause, before long, a crisis 10 times more severe than the current economic downturn. The correctness of this warning is already visible in Romania, which already loses one million inhabitants every 8 years approximately, while the share of retirees in the total population is on the increase. Nobody dares to answer a simple question: who will pay the money for pensions, 30 years from now, as it is known fact that Romania already mortgaged its future for many years, by borrowing tens of billions of euros.

Romanian politicians, however, are more interested by the strong clashes of today, which leave no time to anticipate solutions for the future. The prospective thinking that is a fundamental characteristic of any modern society is not an attribute of the Romanian politician, who only cares for the material gains he can make today. This unnatural state of mind explains why our rulers – regardless of their political affiliation – see themselves first as Democrats, Liberals, Socialists, independents etc, and only then as Romanians – an identity some of them even despise. But, when things turn for the worse, like today, they plead for “national solidarity” in support of decisions that disqualify them as politicians, or they yield to the demands of xenophobic ethnics in order to gain their support that would allow them to stay in power forever.

The serious crisis that caught Romania in its grip was foreseeable long ago, but rulers did nothing to prevent it. What we saw were only reactions that minimised its importance and appeased the worries of the population, blaming the warnings issued by experts as electoral messages. Other politicians said that Romania’s demographic involution is something natural, in line with what is going on throughout the whole Western world. As if this “European alienation” could excuse Romania’s serious setback in making the best use of its labour resources, especially in the industrial sector.

Some political reactions “explained” the urgency of warnings through the influence of debates held during international meetings. When in opposition, every political party of Romania sees all the warnings – concerning demography, economy or society – as a sign of the poor governance of ruling parties, but when they get the power, the same politicians keep in place the discriminations in favour of their clientele.

With this state of mind, when authorities disregard the warnings about a future that has already come, nobody cares about the present economic and demographic crisis of Europe. A report of the European Parliament anticipates that, when today’s youth will retire, the dependency rate of the population aged over 65 (retirees) vs. the population between 16 and 64 (employees) will double, so the pressure put upon the public pension system will become unbearable. Romania reached this point and has all conditions to experience a tripling of this dependency rate in the public pension system.

In order to stop the demographic collapse, ideas are evoked like banning abortions – that have reached 1 million each year – and divorces, which are also on the increase. But the effects of these interdictions would actually decrease the human quality. Such a demographic revival would have no substantial contribution to the multilateral progress of Romania. The multilateral education, for instance, would suffer because its success depends on a healthy family climate. The deficit of multilateral education generates the poor productivity and quality of labour. Hence, the main way to combat the demographic involution and the deficit of human quality is to fight poverty, mainly the chronic poverty that affects most Romanians. This poverty advances each year, although the potential of the Romanian agriculture could feed 80 million people, as we mentioned earlier. Should we thus return to the status of agricultural country, as we were more than a century ago? Certainly not, because – as we were warned by B.P. Hasdeu, our grand encyclopaedist with European vocation – an agricultural country is ready to be invaded. This truth was obviously demonstrated these years.

The best solution is to develop a complex, modern and efficient economic and social system, based on the national effort of creation. As we can see, birth rate is closely related also to education. The prewar slogan “On our own!” that refers precisely to this synthesis returns to actuality as most urgent. But our rulers are unwilling to listen to the warnings coming from both past and present.

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