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Gov’t releases Integrated Package to Combat Poverty, National Strategy for Social Inclusion and Poverty Alleviation

The Romanian Government has marked the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty in specialist debates comprising local and central specialists that focus on releasing integrated services as well as a follow-up report on the implementation of measures in the anti-poverty package. Attending the  conference on social inclusion and anti-poverty legislative package hosted by Government’s House on Tuesday were Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos, ministers of the Cabinet (Labor Minister Dragos Paslaru, Education Minister Mircea Dumitru, Minister of Health Vlad Voiculescu, Minister of European Funds Cristian Ghinea, Finances Minister Anca Dragu), as well as officials of the European Commission and the World Bank.

As many as 180 deprived communities at higher risk or severely at poverty risk will be provided integrated community services, which will be impended for a start in communities of six counties, according to the Labour Ministry. The services provide an integrating approach of issues facing vulnerable individuals/families, and they are part of the Integrated Package to Combat Poverty and a National Strategy for Social Inclusion and Poverty Alleviation released on October 17 Monday, the UN International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

The package of services is based on case management allowing social workers to work together with schools counsellors or mediators, community social workers or medical mediators as well as public and private providers of social, occupational educational and medical services for the identification of the needs of vulnerable people and to set up intervention plans.

In support of the communities facing above average or severe risks of poverty, the relevant ministries have started working on a funding project with the European Union and the World Bank for social work public services in such communities. In February 2016, the Romanian Government released an integrated package for poverty alleviation with 47 measures aimed at all age brackets, with children and young people getting most of them. The package provides an integrated approach of poverty in that interventions are designed to operate simultaneously at various levels – social, educational, medical, occupational, housing and children rights’ protection – instead of just one level, because first-hand realities prove that only an integrated approach can generate positive effects for the society.

 

PM Ciolos: Corruption, main culprit for endemic poverty

 

Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos said Tuesday that endemic poverty is the result of corruption and the way the public resources are allocated.

“As far as I am concerned, endemic poverty is first of all the result of corruption, of our way of using and steering public or private resources when they are steered by public administrations to generate sustainable development. When I say sustainable development, I do not mean necessarily the environment, but the consistency of the measures we take,” Ciolos told a debate on an anti-poverty legislative package at the Government House.

He said that in order to alleviate poverty, citizens’ behaviour will have to change.

“When we say we want to alleviate poverty we must first of all think about our behaviour as well, the fact that as long as we cannot overcome a behaviour that nourishes corruption we cannot alleviate poverty in a structured manner. As long as we contemplate social policies only that allow the chronically poor to barely meet both ends meet from social security benefits that are almost bidden during the election campaign – as who gives more – as long as we live with the impression that only by social security benefits can we solve problems, we cannot talk about viable solutions. (…) Unfortunately, changing mentalities cannot be achieved by issuing an emergency ordinance of a law, as it takes a lot of hardworking, but I believe our attitude, the attitude of those committed to changing the attitude of the entire society, is important,” said Ciolos.

 

“ Pension system must be rethought, after pay situation is clarified”

 

It is mandatory to rethink the pension system, said Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos on Tuesday, but not before pay matters are clarified.

“This year we have addressed matters we knew we could accomplish. It wasn’t the place to lie to the people, to say it only to look good . (…) We didn’t tackle pensions this year because we knew we lacked the budget source right now. (…) Priority was to not cut pensions since we are not capable to finance them and this was what both I and Mrs. Minister of Public Finances have repeated several times despite what you were seeing in yellow on the bottom of many television broadcasts, that the pensions won’t decrease and that we did whatever we could to assure the state’s obligations toward the pensions’ financing. Yes, a rethinking of the pension system is obviously mandatory, but I believe that such a rethinking is well-balanced after we clarify the pay situation, after we know how we pay the people who actually contribute to the pension system. (…) We’ve started this and hopefully we could push as much as we can this salary approach by end-tenure,” said Ciolos at the Government House at the debate on anti-poverty solutions.

The premier added that measures were considered by which ‘pensioners to never be seen as socially assisted only’, the term being replaced with ‘elderly in community service’ concept.

 

Labor Ministry official: Next Gov’t should contemplate scrapping special pensions system

The next Government, if they want to show some common sense, should consider scrapping the special pensions system, Secretary of State with the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Protection and the Elderly Valentin Ionescu told a specialist event on Tuesday.

“One cannot work out a law on the public pension system overnight. From my point of view this is more important than the wage law we currently spend much of our time and energy with. So the public pension system requires a balanced approach, calculations, it requires us to spend at least one year and a half pondering on it alone and only afterwards make a decision. You can imagine our horror when a new bill on special pensions emerges every month or a month and a half. It is incredible, and a to-do for the next Government, if they want to show some common sense – I don’t discuss here morality or anything else – is to contemplate scrapping this system of special pensions. We can no longer carry on like that. We have a law for military staff, all right, leave it like that, they have a different profession, this is something else, but otherwise let everyone switch to the public pension system,” said Valentin Ionescu.

He said that more than 500 million lei are being paid this year as special pension benefits to 7,600 people.

“This is a huge redistribution discrepancy and this squandering continues. As 2016 is an election year, we had many proposals filed in Parliament regarding special pensions. Technically speaking these are occupational pensions. An opinion trend was generated, because everyone wants a high income, and then everyone would want to be part of a system that is separate from the public pensions scheme. From our point of view, such a situation cannot continue. One can admit that there are professions with a special status, such as the military staff, which built themselves a separate law, we’ll leave it like that. But for the other trades this cannot go on like this, we cannot create profession-dedicated regimes. Every profession is important in its own way,” said Valentin Ionescu.

According to the Labor Ministry’s official, the public pension system could be redesigned and replaced with one based on capitalization, but the transition might take 20 years and would require a reserve fund.

 

FinMin Dragu: Fighting poverty – a desideratum of public policies, economic growth should benefit all

 

Economic growth should benefit everybody and plans for the combat of poverty are a desideratum of the public policies, Minister of Public Finances Anca Dragu told a specialist debate on the subject of social inclusion organized at the Government’s offices this Tuesday.

“Fighting poverty is a desideratum of public policies. Economic growth should benefit everybody. The fact that today we have an integrated package with 47 measures is an important step in fighting poverty. We have inter-ministerial groups that seamlessly work together. We will measure the results. We succeeded in ensuring financing for new programs such as ‘Each child in the kindergarten’, then ‘Apples in the kindergarten’. A program dear to me is ‘A hot meal in schools’ I personally got involved in and which has an allocation of 2.5 billion lei. It is not a cheap program, but it is absolutely important in the fight against poverty and in ensuring young people an education, and a future for Romania,” Dragu said.

According to the Finances Minister, additional revenues have been identified for the development of important programs in health care and education, which are priorities for the Government.

“Education and health care are two priority areas for the Government. Early this year we allocated 1.2 billion lei for the revamping of schools. We will come up with a package of tax incentives for entrepreneurs who want to support professional development. At the latest budget adjustment this August we managed to identify additional revenues and we allocated 570 million lei for health care, over one billion lei for education, and 2.8 billion lei for social assistance. We also identified additional resources for staff expenditures for pre-university education, retirement homes and the ‘Fruit in schools program’,” said Anca Dragu.

 

LabMin Pislaru: Social security doesn’t mean giving money to lazy people

 

Social security does not mean giving money to lazy people in the countryside who do not want to get a job, but helping out the people on the edge of the society who stand no chance in the society, Labour Minister Dragos Pislaru told a conference on social inclusion and an anti-poverty legislative package hosted by the Government House on Tuesday.

‘Social inclusion means the future for us as a nation. The existence of vulnerable groups amidst us cannot leave us unconcerned. Indifference is toxic to a society that wants to develop. Never has a government been able to achieve social inclusion on its own. If we look at the national budget, we can see that social spending is making up a significant share of it. The idea is such money has so far been spent poorly along crony lines (…) We still do not fully understand the problems of this nation’s people. We have to really know their problems,’ said Pislaru.

“I have found at the ministry a set of 25 pieces of legislation that were not interesting. We could barely extract an action plan for active ageing, children and services that would prioritise prevention. There are 60,000 children facing major issues in Romania,” said Pislaru.

 

Health Minister: Some NGOs work better than public administration overall

 

Health Minister Vlad Voiculescu said on Tuesday that in some NGOs in the health care system things are faring better than in public administration, because these organizations are staffed with competent people who know exactly their job.

“My colleagues commented earlier on the way public administration functions overall, and maybe a probing question for all of us is why things fare better in NGOs. Maybe some NGOs complement much of what the state should do, because they work much better. And they do so because they have competent people, perhaps a few dab hands who get together knowing exactly why they gathered. And maybe because as a general rule, good, competent professionals follow other skilled professionals. They generally don’t follow politicians, crony capitalists and definitely not indicted individuals,” Voiculescu told a debate on the anti-poverty package at the Victoria Palace of Government.

In a different thread, the Health Minister said that the vaccination bill is in the works, as well as the law on community medical care, which will be promoted next week.

“We are working on the vaccination bill. Together with the Ministry of Education we have a program for health education underway and beyond that, when it comes to access to health services, there are a few chapters we always refer to. In the first place we speak about doctors and nurses. For them we have the law on community medical assistance we will most likely promote next week. It’s ready. Then there’s the national strategy, the first national strategy for healthcare human resources, which we’ll promote this November and where we will come up with very concrete measures that mainly refer to deficient medical specialties and especially to family doctors who will go to those communities that are most in need,” said Vlad Voiculescu.

 

 

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