Press review (Jan 29)

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Romania's national dailies of Thursday give main coverage to talks between Prime Minister Emil Boc, President Traian Basescu, trade unions and employers' associations on the 2009 Budget; the redundancies to be made by Petrom and other local companies; the possibility of Bucharest City hosting the 2012 UEFA Cup final.
 
Ziua remarks that talks on the 2009 Budget continued on Wednesday as well and did not finish as the paper went to press, informing that President Traian Basescu, Prime Minister Emil Boc and Finance Minister Gheorghe Pogea met officials of trade unions and employers' associations at the Finance Ministry headquarters for further budgetary discussions. The paper writes that the officials announced the Government will pass the Budget on Thursday, which, it adds, is quite unlikely.
 
More likely, it says, is for the Boc Cabinet to approve on Thursday the macroeconomic indicators, which he has already unveiled many times so far : a 2% economic growth, a Government deficit of 2% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), an average exchange rate of RON 4 to the euro, and an average inflation of 5%.
 
Business standard remarks that the issue that led to the Budget getting stuck was not how much but where the funds should come from. The paper says that the figures put forth by the Boc Cabinet and included in the draft 2009 Budget, are very close to the forecasts of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which assessing team is now in Bucharest through next week.
 
While the Romanian Finance Ministry bets on an economic growth of 2.5%, the IMF put the GDP advance at 2.3%, but the most serious question mark here regards the political support for achieving the targets and the real capability of implementing the measures that will lead to the Government achieving its targets, the paper quotes sources close to the IMF assessing task as saying.
 
Romania libera remarks that Romania is one step away from economic collapse, unless wages are frozen, quoting analysts as arguing that if the Government gives in to union pressure, the consequences might be catastrophic. The paper says the measure to freeze wages under a six-month moratorium, which President Basescu would himself support, was rejected on Wednesday by union officials at a meeting with the President.
 
The paper reports that upon leaving the meeting, trade union officials bragged about having convinced the President to give up on the moratorium, despite the fact that the President himself warned them about the consequences that pay increases might trigger. Freezing wages is an indispensable measure without which the Romanian economy would collapse, specialists argue, the paper reports.
 
Business standard informs that the Vulcan factory is seeking business partners for expansion in South America. Businessman Ovidiu Tender, the owner of Vulcan, a traditional supplier of heavy machinery to South America, is contemplating building a factory in Venezuela, Brazil or Argentina that will manufacture part of the heavy equipment supplied.
 
The paper quotes Tender as saying Vulcan is contemplating opening a branch in South America first of all to cut transportation costs, and will be seeking local partners that will hold minority stakes in the venture. Tender also says that this could be the only business expansion decision to be taken this year, with the other investment plans unveiled in 2008 to be frozen because of the lack of funding.
 
Romania libera remarks that Romanians working at Microsoft are worried about lay-offs, saying that the statement of a US senator that Microsoft should protect the US employees when laying off staff was received with irony by the Romanians working at the IT giant. The paper says it has discussed the prospects of job losses with some of nearly 300 Romanians working at the main headquarters of Microsoft in Seattle.
 
The paper quotes US Republican Senator of Iowa Charles Grassleya as having said last week that Microsoft has a moral duty to protect the US workers by putting them first in the current difficult economic times.
Business standard also informs that Romania's largest oil company Petrom will lay off 3,000 workers in stages as from February 1, according to the Prahova County Employment Agency.
 
Jurnalul national and Romania libera point to what they call a dramatic situation in the local labour market, as 614 companies from around the country announced plans to lay off 57,760 workers by late March, citing data with the National Employment Agency (ANOFM). Most of the companies are from Brasov, central Romania; Galati, southeast; Cluj, central Romania; Satu-Mare, north; and Arges, south. The highest unemployment figures – 7,374 workers – are expected to be recorded in Bucharest City, followed by Cluj and Galati. The hardest hit fields will be construction, clothing, agriculture, the light industry, chemicals preparation, crude oil and natural gas extraction, and aluminium processing.
 
Cotidianul remarks that Bucharest City is standing big chances of hosting the 2012 UEFA Cup final, although Romania does not have yet a stadium that meets the requirements for hosting a competition of such calibre. The information was provided by Director General of the Romanian Football Federation (FRF) Ionut Lupescu, and a final decision is expected on Friday at a meeting of the UEFA Executive Committee.
 
The paper quotes Lupescu as saying an agreement was reached for Bucharest to host a final in 2012. He says an agreement was reached with Dublin and UEFA that in 2012, a year when the European Championship might be hosted by Ukraine and Poland, the Europe League final should be played in Bucharest, and there are very many chances for this to happen.
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