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December 1, 2021

The contradictions of decentralisation

With electoral campaigns drawing by, politicians became restless and started making various promises, with the due nuances of the discrimination that belongs to the day-to-day behaviour of Romanian politicians, regardless their so-called doctrine orientation. These opinions explain the fact that the objective of administrative decentralisation, used by all Romanian politicians to glorify their vocation, receives a new controversial and damaging demonstration by facts. It is not the electorate, but local mayors and deputy mayors that are the main co-authors of electoral success or failure. This is why, based on a proposal made by the acting government, the salaries of mayors and deputy-mayors increased, while the other employees of local administrations remained with their wages unchanged. This is clear discrimination, but the negative content of the term does not matter anymore, as long as this secures the much-wanted continuity of the governance.

The very notion of regionalisation, as propagated by Romanian politicians, is a source of zonal discrimination. Precisely with the help of various regionalisations and decentralisations local mayors are increasingly tempted to act arbitrarily and become some sort of local moguls. It is good that the government recently bought 600 minibuses that will transport to school the pupils from rural areas, who were forced to walk long distances every day to schools in neighbour villages, after those of their own localities were closed these years. During the previous years, since the moment when such school minibuses were made operational, they often were diverted from their original purpose and used by the politicians of local administrations for their own needs. This led to a point when these overused vehicles had to be scrapped and the government was forced to purchase at least 600 new ones, plus others that are still being contracted. This kind of “very personal” decentralisation resulted in the fact that, today, more than 220,000 children – the equivalent of a year’s graduates at country scale – are deprived of education and increase the number of illiterates.
And the negative effects of the abusive decentralisation affect the condition of not only pupils, but also teachers. Once schools are transferred, through decentralisation, under the control of local administrations, many teachers must commute many km each day, because local administrations – at least in rural areas – cannot provide accommodation to teachers. Many construction projects inaugurated with this purpose were rapidly abandoned and the buildings due for overhaul in order to accommodate teachers became real social perils. Recently, a school from the Buzau County, whose overhaul was stopped years ago, had its roof completely collapsed. Fortunately, the incident occurred at night, in the absence of children. In these conditions, with insufficient or unsafe educational spaces, many teachers have to commute and the cost of these trips must be covered by local administrations. Many of these administrations however often “forget” or are plainly incapable to pay these sums, for years. In Dolj County alone, 500 teachers sued mayor’s offices in court, in order to receive the due costs of commuting for a 4-year interval.
An acting deputy premier and other local moguls claim that the decentralisation and regionalisation of the Romanian territory deals away with the last consequences of communism. Completely wrong! The present division of the territory into counties dates back centuries ago, while the regionalisation conducted in the ‘50s of last century was enforced during the years of Stalinism. Counties were restored after 1964, when the Romanian leaders of those years proclaimed the national independence and re-established multiple relations with Western countries. The state visits paid to Romania by the leaders of big powers, starting with General Charles de Gaulle (France), Nixon (USA) and Chu-En-Lai (China) occurred precisely in this climate of Romania returning to its historic traditions.
I recollect these historic events as I am convinced that each fundamental decision made by the government must take into consideration the experience of the past, in order to produce the necessary positive effects. If made outside the historic perspective, a government decision – no matter how well-intended it may be – risks turning into its opposite. This is why any ruling authority, no matter how specialised in any field of activity – if deprived of this historic perspective risks a painful failure. Unfortunately, the reflection of a recent Romanian ex-dignitary that “history does not feed the masses” deeply infiltrated in the conscience of our politicians, who are unimpressed by the past, hence their paradoxical behaviour.
One of these paradoxes is represented by the very “argumentation” of the regionalisation policy. In order to give a heroic dimension to their action of decentralising the Romanian territory, our ruling politicians invoke the “inveterate resistance” of the employees from the centralised structure of the state. Most of them oppose the regionalisation – we are told – because it would cut many of their jobs. But there also are other reasons for the opposition of central administration employees. It is known that a future regional school inspectorate, for instance, will employ fewer specialists than those existing today in the 3-4-5 counties that will merge into the future region. This slashing of personnel will cut much of the support presently granted to the schools of that region, so each school risks providing a different level of education. At national scale, we risk having as many levels of education quality as regions there will be in Romania. Which would be a disaster. It is known that the pillar of resistance for any national state is, above all, the spiritual unity of its members, as basis of any national strategy.
Plus, any ruling factor of a region, able to exert its influence upon a larger territory without a frequent control by the state, risks evolving toward the condition of a satrap. These are the conditions for the appearance of local mafias who infringe the laws by adopting discretionary, abusive and discriminatory practices, which are present even in some of today’s counties.

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