Press review (Jan 23)

The Romanian daily papers on Friday focus on the inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama, the telephone tapping row, remarks made by the IMF representative in Romania and Bulgaria, the depreciation seen by the national currency and a possible intervention by the National Bank of Romania, redundancies made in the state sector, the drug crisis, companies looking for alternate funding and the failure suffered by the Romanian national men's handball team at the World Championship.
"Obama living the Osana moment", says the headline to an article by author Mircea Cartarescu in the Evenimentul zilei. "New world celebrity Barack Obama seems like a motherless child, astonished by what is happening to him; he seems to embody the new Messiah for billions of people. His message of global brotherhood is received enthusiastically in palaces and shanties, in mosques and synagogues.
His inaugural ceremonies and processions look nothing less than Jesus" entry in Jerusalem, on donkey, with people crying "Osana". They expect from the new prophet to heal all the wrongs that have afflicted our apparently so prosperous planet, as they expect the answer to all the questions".
"About intelligence and education in America", says the headline to an item by analyst Rodica Culcer carried by the Evenimentul zilei. She says that "this week's main event did not take place in Bucharest, but in Washington and it was about Barack Obama's inauguration as the United States' President". According to Culcer, "Barack Obama's victory was – last but not least – the result of a revolt of the Americans against sufficiency, political half-wit and gross anti-intellectualism of the Bush Administration."
She asks herself: "Do all these events bear any relationship with our country? Of course they do. There is in Romania hunger for intellectual substance too; there are enough Romanians who feel their country is adrift because it is blocked in mediocrity. They are sick of the political class because they are tired with its lack of culture and of a vision of the national welfare".
The phone tapping row stirred by the remarks made by former chief of the Foreign Intelligence Service Claudiu Saftoiu continues to be the focus of Friday's print media. "The Saftoiu row develops from phone interception to the national security laws", headlines the Romania libera.
"Gyorgy Frunda, a senator of the Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania (UDMR) took advantage of the context set by the controversy stirred by Saftoiu's statements and he too accused that various talks he had on political issues had been tapped. A range of political figures have placed the issue of the entire legal package on national security to the forefront of debates", the daily writes.
"Farming is on the brink of disaster", says the Business Standard in a headline. It quotes Agriculture Minister Ilie Sarbu as saying on Thursday that "the Romanian farming is on the brink of disaster, due to the failure to attract European money" and he cautioned his ministry's staff that "they didn't fulfil their tasks despite the high salaries".
"The national currency seems unable to stop falling", the Adevarul says. "The leu's weakening is explained by the regional trend seen amid the investors" strong dislike of risk as well as by the imbalances of the Romanian economy. "The main causes for the depreciation are the regional tendency and also the local macroeconomic vulnerabilities – the current account deficit, to which the budget deficit has added", chief economist of the Romanian Commercial Bank BCR Lucian Anghel told the daily.
The ING analysts believe the euro will trade at 4.70 lei in the next quarters of the year, and that it might even exceed this level, the daily adds.
"Is the National Bank of Romania (BNR) getting ready for a massive intervention to temper the exchange rate?" the Business Standard asks. "The exchange rate announced by the BNR for a third consecutive session marked record levels since the introduction of the euro, at 4.3127 lei. The financial market analysts say we are already witnessing an over-depreciated exchange rate that is dangerous to the economy".
"The Government's priority should be the budget, rather than a foreign loan", the Business Standard quotes Juan Fernandez-Ansola, the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) representative in Romania and Bulgaria, as saying.
"Luxury public sector staff begin being axed", the Adevarul announces. "Ministry clerks and trade unions have no peace after having learnt that 20 percent of the state employees will be sacked. The public sector staff from the central structures are some of the best paid employees in Romania", it adds. "In the last eight years, the labour costs in the public administration have risen seven-fold", the Adevarul reports.
"The drug stores run out of drugs", the Adevarul says. "The negotiations between distributors and the Health Ministry officials protract the agony of the diseased, who are forced to walk from one drug store to another for the medicines they need", it writes.
"Companies start looking for alternate funding", the Ziarul financiar says. "Companies will have to look for funding from alternate sources, like the private investment funds, if the banks stay unwilling to give loans, the financial consultants say".
The Gazeta Sporturilor sport daily reports that the Romanian national men's handball team failed to qualify for the World Championship finals, which was to be their first participation in 14 years. "Romania broke down in the decisive game for qualifying in the main groups. This is a scenario that has begun repeating in the important games obsessively", the daily writes.
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