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BC Romanians night and day on question of Romania’s economic revival

Romanian news says to look on the bright side, but can it be trusted? 

By Malcolm Morgan
Published October 2005 

             BC Romanian opinions fall on either side of a description in Romanian news detailing Romania’s current economic upturn. 

             “What I hear you saying is what I am praying to happen, but I don’t think that is happening,” said family counsellor and owner of Vancouver’s Able Professionals agency Rodica Balaj, a native of Jimbolia, Timis, when given the description of what Romanian news sources like Rompres and Invest Romania had recently said about upcoming Romanian economic prosperity. 

               A September 14 “Romanian Press Review” in Rompres reported from Romanian news source Cotidianul that Romanian president Traian Basescu was monitoring oil price fluctuations, specifically in association with the Romanian oil company Petrom Cotidianul said Basescu had made statements about the company’s prices, which twice directly preceded their decrease – leading to a greater public confidence in Basescu (more votes), as the oil prices were an issue of public concern. 

               Invest Romania, from the previous week, September 6, reported the combined optimistic forecasts of Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu and Finance Minister Sebastian Vladescu, who stated that greater macroeconomic stability was in the wings and that “unsustainable expenses” would be cut (Vladescu specifically), also saying the value-added tax would not be increased in 2006, and payroll taxes would be reduced (Tariceanu specifically).  Invest Romania concluded that Romania’s economy would undergo growth of more than 5 percent, with intent to cut inflation from 9.3 percent last year to 7.5 percent this year. 

               These are some very optimistic outlooks and strong commitments for a country the 2005 CIA Factbook appraises negatively on the question of economy, saying “recent  macroeconomic gains have done little to address Romania's widespread poverty….”   

               But perhaps it’s the case that 2007 EU Accession, virtually just around the corner, is having an effect on Romanian economic reforms, both as EU dictates and requirements, and as a more progressive spirit in a country typically burdened by poverty. 

              Balaj, for one, doesn’t buy into this notion.  “What I see happening after the (1989) revolution, is that the price of joining the EU was very high,” she said, going on to detail a post-revolution skyrocketing of the prices of goods, while Romanian incomes remained meagre, the hoarding of privileged social positions and resources by those who were, as Balaj said, “plugged into the system” before the revolution, and the EU’s restructuring of Romanian holdings, to favor some other countries over Romania.

               She mentioned specifically the shutting down of Timis’ employment-boon ComTim Timisoara pig meat processing factory, with a very similar factory opening suspiciously soon afterward on the Hungarian side of the border.  The American company Smithfield Foods Inc. took over the majority of the stock of the ComTim factory from the Italian company Agrotolvis in June 2004, according to Press Review Online’s June 14, 2004 report.  This certainly is a sign of Western (EU and beyond) appropriation of Romania’s wealth, but Press Review Online quoted the Romanian Meat Association President Sorin Minea as saying this takeover would have the beneficial effect of reducing Romanian meat prices overall – as Smithfield’s meat prices were more competitive than those of the Romanian producers, forcing Romanian adjustment.    

              It’s difficult to know how exactly to read the Romanian financial situation, because several of the details, like this, can be read two ways, and some details, expects Balaj, may even harken of Communist-era government propaganda permeating the Romanian press. 

             An example of the two-way reading is the very same Rompres article that commends President Basescu’s stabilizing of oil prices also quotes Finance Minister Vladescu as saying cigarette prices will likely double in the next year.  And the Invest Romania reports about the hopeful macroeconomic situation do specify that the GDP growth of 4.9 percent in the first half of 2005 is slower than the 6.6 percent growth in the same period last year, detailing how, while services, construction and industry have grown, by 6.9 percent, 3.9 percent and 3.6 percent respectively agriculture, silviculture and fisheries have fallen by 7.1 percent generally.      

              Much of Balaj’s basic doubt comes from her recent time spent in Romania, where the continued poverty and corruption she saw (points resources like the CIA Factbook continue to mention) convinced her that the positive transition to a Western-style government and economy just wasn’t happening. 

               Not every Romanian in BC feels the same.  Adrian Neagu, Vice President of Vancouver’s Romanian Community Centre, thinks such Romanian news reports reflect real Romanian potential for economic revival.  He also visited Romania recently, and says, “the trends are very positive right now, and the transition from a Centralized Economy to an Open Market Economy is happening.”  He believes there may only be difficulties in the country’s development because “the transition [from one economic style to another] takes time.”  

                Neagu remains confident that EU accession will bring further along toward development, party owing to the participation in the EU of Romania’s notable technology-trained population.    

               Whichever perspective is more accurate, there is an undeniably overriding perspective identifying Romania’s instability, in news and academic resources, and among Romanian citizens.  Balaj expressed this concern, saying, “during Communism, it was hard but there was structure, a predictable structure – but after the revolution, it was hard to tell what structure could be trusted and which could not.”  As an almost black-humour summary of the Romanian infrastructure’s tendency toward a chaotic nature, and whether or not Romanians can interact with their system reliably, Balaj said, “everything is gambling.”

 © 2007 All content property of European Weekly unless where otherwise accredited


© 2006 All content property of European Weekly unless where otherwise accredited