POLITICS

Ciolos Government, one year in office. Ciolos: I won’t sell my conscience for anything in the world, least of all to be PM

Premier Dacian Ciolos stated on Thursday, in an interview for Europa FM, that he did not get involved in the elections campaign and that he was very careful not to take part in any campaign rally during this period, adding that he will not sell his conscience just to remain Prime Minister after the December 11th parliamentary elections.

“I did not engage in electioneering and I was very careful not to be present at any campaign rally during the elections campaign period. I am present (on campaign posters – editor’s note) because PNL proposed backing me for a possible mandate as Prime Minister later on, just like USR did. I accepted this in principle, but I said very clearly that I won’t get involved in the elections campaign,” Premier Dacian Ciolos stated, according to news.ro.

When the interviewer pointed out he is electioneering indirectly, the Premier said: “I don’t know what indirectly means. I won’t go out and tell people, one way or another, whom to vote for. I told them and I’m telling them what the principles are, what my vision is on how the governance should be, on which principles it should be centred. As long as some parties support these principles and promote them, it’s their responsibility to assume it.”

Asked how badly he wants to remain in office after the elections too, Ciolos answered: “I don’t know if I can say I want to. I said I’m ready to take this commitment. I was not prepared to do so when the proposal was made. Now I can say I’m better prepared than I was back then, but even now there are several things that should occur. The governance platform is very important too, there are several things that various political parties floated into the public space, things that should be structured in a coherent governance platform. The people who are presented are also very important. (…) It will be much more complex to govern with political parties, but this is democracy. I won’t sell my conscience for anything in the world, least of all in order to be Prime Minister.”

The Prime Minister attended PNL’s rally on November 6 and a debate organised by USR on November 9, prior to the start of the elections campaign.

 

November 17, 2015- November 17, 2016. How many ministers did the technocrat PM replace, what measures he took

 

Thursday marked one year in office for the Ciolos Government. Premier Dacian Ciolos has replaced no fewer than 10 ministers during this period, and has taken a series of measures while enjoying the support of the President and of PNL, but with constant opposition from PSD and its allies.

“At this moment I don’t feel comfortable to take on a political role within a political party. If this mandate is a success, it will be a team’s success. I don’t intend to run in the 2016 elections, that’s not why I accepted the Premier’s office. If I were to try to use in the elections the sympathy gained, I would fail to meet peoples’ expectations, and I feel that honesty is the only chance this technocratic Government has,” Premier Dacian Ciolos stated at the end of last year, according to News.ro.

Back then, he stated that the Government’s task would be to create the necessary framework, a politically neutral framework, that would lay the groundwork for structural transformations.

“I am aware that this Government cannot firmly commit on all reform fronts in Romanian society, however we are assuming a set of concrete measures, limited in number but impactful and of systemic importance,” Ciolos said when he took over as Premier.

 

Ten ministers replaced in one year

 

Labour Minister Ana Costea was first to leave the Government. She resigned in April because of the public-sector salary bill. Costea was reproached with her manner of work and with the attitude she had toward the Government’s draft during Government meetings, the Government’s social dialogue partners expressing their discontent with her too. Dragos Pislaru replaced Ana Costea.

Only a week later, European Funds Minister Aura Raducu resigned. She filed her resignation at Premier Dacian Ciolos’s request, because of his dissatisfaction with the ministry’s projects. Cristian Ghinea replaced her on April 27.

Culture Minister Vlad Alexandrescu was the third minister to leave, Premier Dacian Ciolos sacking him because of the Romanian Opera House scandals that he allegedly mismanaged. Corina Suteu replaced him.

All three reshuffles took place in April.

Health Minister Patriciu Achimas-Cadariu was next to leave, in May, doing so against the backdrop of the hospital disinfectants crisis and of the crisis concerning the toddlers diagnosed with haemolytic uremic syndrome. Achimas-Cadariu was reproached with poorly managing the situation and deficient communication. Vlad Voiculescu replaced him.

The first wide-scale Government reshuffle took place in July, when Dacian Ciolos sacked four ministers: Education Minister Adrian Curaj, Transport Minister Dan Costescu, Communications Minister Marius Bostan and Diaspora Minister Dan Stoenescu. They were replaced by Mircea Dumitru, Sorin Buse, Delia Popescu and Maria Ligor respectively.

Dacian Ciolos said the reshuffle was meant to render Government activity more dynamic.

Interior Minister Petre Toba, one of the best-known members of the Ciolos Government, left in September. His resignation came as a result of the DNA’s request to start criminally prosecuting him for aiding and abetting the offender in the DIPI case. Dragos Tudorache replaced him.

The last member of the Ciolos Government that left was European Grants Minister Cristian Ghinea, who resigned to take part in the parliamentary elections on USR’s lists. He was replaced by European Grants Ministry Secretary of State Cristian Dinu.

 

Controversies over Government decisions

 

At the end of last year, the technocratic Government agreed with the unions to hike the minimum salary in 2016, in two stages, however in May the talks on the topic of hiking public administration salaries generated heated discussions. The only hike eventually implemented was the RON 200 hike that came into force on May 1. The Government has so far made two attempts to establish a new system for the calculus of the minimum salary. After the failed attempt in March, the Labour Ministry’s commission restarted work in September, ordering a report and receiving it at the end of October. So far the Government has taken no clear decision on next year’s minimum salary.

Another scandal that marred the technocratic Government had to do with the standard salary scale in the public sector. From the moment it took office, the Government took the commitment to accomplish this project. However, disagreements with union members and the lack of data on all public sector employees in Romania resulted in a compromise solution, namely emergency ordinance no.20, which came into force on August 1. The controversial ordinance has ended up at the Constitutional Court. PNL and the Government challenged the amendments that the parliamentary majority brought to the ordinance, after the Government claimed that all salary raises voted by parliamentarians cannot be covered by next year’s budget. However, the adoption of the ample standard salary scale bill has been left for the future Government, which will have political affiliations.

In February, the technocratic Government was marred by a scandal after children in Arges became infected with e-coli. The very severe situation, which left three children dead in a matter of days and dozens more hospitalised, came under Parliament’s scrutiny and generated a massive series of audits in hospitals.

The reverberations of this scandal had barely ended when the Hexipharma scandal erupted, shaking the Romanian healthcare system to its core. It was revealed that the disinfectants used in Romanian hospitals were diluted. The Government issued several legislative acts establishing harsh norms in what concerns the procurement of disinfectants in the healthcare system.

Brancusi’s ‘La Sagesse de la Terre’ sculpture stirred dissatisfaction among the public opinion and political parties alike. Ciolos announced a public subscription to buy the sculpture for 6 million Euros, the Romanian state set to make up for the difference up to the 11 million Euros price agreed with the sculpture’s owners. The subscription lasted until the end of October. Over 1 million Euros was collected. At that moment, the Premier decided that the sculpture should be bought with state funds. At first, the Government had announced that it would reimburse the donors if the 6 million Euros target is not reached. The Government was repeatedly attacked by political leaders who criticised the high price that the Romanian state and the owners of the work of art had agreed on. PRU President Bogdan Diaconu even filed a complaint with the DNA on this issue.

 

Ciolos Government measures

 

When it comes to accomplished projects, the technocrats can list the launch of an anti-poverty package and of a programme to provide hot meals to pupils. The anti-poverty package is meant to support vulnerable persons, the measures seeking to encourage employment, access to education and medical services. The package also includes three separate programmes, namely “No child without identity,” “Quality education in nurseries” and “Every child in kindergarten.” 70,000 pre-school children benefit from the last measure listed.

Successful were also the intense negotiations carried out alongside the Presidential Administration with the Trudeau Government in order to gradually lift visas for Canada. As well as the support offered to the Bodanriu family to recover their children.

The setting up of the Red Tape Cutting Commission resulted in the simplification of the citizen’s interaction with the administration, through the elimination of paperwork required by various institutions and the possibility to pay taxes by bank card.

The GovITHub programme accelerated the digitalisation process in central administration and created a centre that employs, on the basis of scholarships, IT specialists working on new digitalisation solutions.

Likewise, the VAT on raw materials and services needed for farming was lowered to 9 percent.

During the year spent in office, the Ciolos Government also approved a series of legislative acts contested by political leaders but also by a part of the public opinion. The ordinances reducing the sentences of convicts-cum-writers, placing a ceiling on RCA tariffs for half a year and fundamentally changing the system through which hospital managers are appointed being among them.

The Government’s arrears include the public administration reform, for which only the Strategy for Public Office and Strategy for Professional Training in Administration were drafted. The future Government will have to implement them. The Code for National Heritage is another arrear, public consultations on its preliminary theses being currently launched.

 

Read also: Ciolos Gov’t releases “One year in office” activity report: Education, healthcare, major concerns

 

 

 

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