Press review (Jan 22)

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Romania's national dailies of Thursday give main coverage to energy investment, the latest developments in the local currency, the leu (RON), a Romanian-German partnership for green foods, and the 2009 projections for the local market for mandatory pension funds.
 
The papers also give front-page coverage to a speech delivered by Romanian President Traian Basescu to a meeting of foreign diplomatic corps accredited in Bucharest. Ziua quotes Basescu as explaining Romania's foreign policy priorities for 2009 have been established in the context of the ongoing world crisis.
 
In his speech, the President said that in order to secure a sure and durable system Romania should join other states in prioritising four main desiderata: managing the economic crisis in a way that will secure sustainable development; keeping focused on stringent global issues such as poverty, migration, terror, the consolidation of the international law system and strengthening international organisations and making them more efficient.
 
The paper also quotes Basescu as arguing Romania should continue to capitalise on its prospects for its relations with the Russian Federation that opened in 2008, but attention should also be attached to Moldova, which is set to receive support for its democratisation and for resolving the Transdniester conflict.
 
Cotidianul remarks that at this traditional reception held early every year of the foreign diplomatic corps accredited in Bucharest, the Romanian head of state said the Romanian Administration would like to continue its excellent relations with the US in order to deepen and reconfirm the solidity of the trans-Atlantic relationship and to preserve the relevance of NATO as the foundation stone for Romania's security.
 
Romania libera carries a commentary by political science professor Alexandru Radu, who says the Romanian Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Emil Boc turns one month today since installation, arguing that the Cabinet had the worst debut since 1990, despite being strongly supported by the President and Parliament, anticipating a messy governance.
 
The paper also quotes sociologist Mircea Kivu as arguing that the measures taken so far by the Cabinet are insignificant in terms of magnitude, saying observers are rather counting the errors and blunders, including the ban on concomitantly drawing a pension and Government-paid wage.
Gandul remarks that German producers are among Europe's first to have concluded ecological partnerships with Romanian farmers.
 
The paper says these partnerships stand to benefit both parties: the Romanians are sure about selling their produce without risking being left with unsold stock or being forced to sell their produce at below market prices.
Foreigners, the paper says, buy the produce for reasonable prices and use it as raw material for products that they afterwards send back to all the European markets, Romania included, where intermediaries mark up their prices. This is one of the reasons why organic products sold in Romania are sometimes even three times more expensive than on foreign markets, the paper explains.
 
Romania libera quotes Coface Romania manager Cristian Ionescu as saying banks are closing funding lines for property developments underway, and in some instances property developers have to pay back in advance the funds they owe, which, coupled with the developers' debts to suppliers of construction materials, could push many developers to bankruptcy.
More than half of the construction companies in the Coface consulting portfolio are facing difficulties in being paid for contracts carried out for the Romanian Government, says Ionescu.
 
Ziarul financiar cites form the conclusions of a recent analysis by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) indicating that Romania's dependence on a large number of Western credit institutions can trigger an extension of banking insecurity.
 
Austrian French, Italian Greek and Dutch banks are controlling nearly 80% of the Romanian banking system, according to IMF economists, who argue that the supervisory authorities in the home countries of these banks, as well as those in emerging countries should carefully follow the macroeconomic environment and get a regional perspective in order to avoid problems.
 
Financiarul quotes Romanian Economy Minister Adriean Videanu as informing Romania has been importing 3 million cubic metres of gas from the Russian Federation since January 21 and that the emergency mode was lifted. Videanu also said that the gas crisis has not triggered losses, because gas was replaced with alternative fuels for the time of the crisis.
 
Cotidianul remarks that the gas crisis is over and imports have halved, saying that before the gas supplies were halted because of the Russian-Ukrainian gas conflict, 4.7 million cubic metres of gas would enter Romanian via the Isaccea point in northern Dobrogea, and an additional 2.5 million cubic metres of gas would enter the country via a station at Mediesul Aurit, Satu Mare County.
 
Jurnalul national remarks that the exchange rate of the leu against the single European currency, the euro, hit a maximum high on Wednesday, when 1 euro was pegged at 4.3098 RON. The paper carries a statement by Deputy Governor of the National Bank of Romania (BNR) Cristian Popa that the decline of the leu is temporary.
 
Popa argues in his statement that despite the depreciation of the leu fueling inflation, BNR will not resort to its forex reserve to affirm a certain exchange rate.
Popa is also quoted as saying Romania is not facing a slowdown in foreign financing either.
Although estimating a gradual fall in the weight of bad loans in the context of slowing down crediting, Popa says he does not expect huge potholes in banks' balance sheets, and BNR is counting on strict provisioning rules.
 
Romania libera remarks that Romania's energy industry could see this year total investment of 7.8 billion euros earmarked for it, which could help Romania become a net energy exporter in the years ahead.
Petrom and Enel are planning to start off this year projects worth 1.2 billion euros in all, while Czech business group CEZ is expected to start off works on its 1.1-billion euro investment in a mega wind park.
 
The paper quotes business analyst Aurelian Dochia as saying the largest energy investment, worth 4 billion euros, will be carried out in units 3 and 4 of the Cernavoda nuclear power plant, but the project is also the largest uncertainty because of arcane procedures that have generated delays.
 
Ziarul financiar quotes Chairman of Romania's Association of Privately-Managed Pension Funds and Allianz-Tiriac Pensii Private CEO Crinu Andanut as estimating the Romanian market for mandatory private pension funds will grow at a smaller pace than in 2008 and the contributions to be paid into the funds should be standing at 430 million euros. The paper informs that these funds are trustees for more than 220 million euros.
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