Press review (May 12)

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The Romanian daily papers on Tuesday focus on a warning issued by Social Democrat leader Mircea Geoana of the risk for Romania to see the European funds cut over the lack of reform on justice; tensions in the ruling coalition; layoffs planned by the private sector; disagreements over the introduction of the lump sum tax; lending norms set by the National Bank of Romania; and the rescheduling of the credit instalments.

Leader of the Social Democrat Party (P SD, a ruling coalition partner) Mircea Geoana warned that Romania risks losing the European money due to the lack of the reform on justice and he said the one who should take responsibility is President Traian Basescu, since he named former Justice Minister Monica Macovei and incumbent Minister Catalin Predoiu, the Jurnalul National reports.

The PSD president said there is ‘coherent solid information’ pointing to the danger of the European funds to Romania being cut after the European Commission’s Report on justice due in summer because of the country’s failure to reform its justice sector.

Although Commission spokesman Mark Gray later said it was too early to speculate on what will be after the report, Geoana – who wants to run for the Romanian top job under the Social Democrat banner in this autumn’s presidential polls – has taken precautionary measures and has involved Traian Basescu too.

Thus, he announced that the Social Democrats decided to send the Penal and Civil Codes to the head of state, asking him to take all the required moves in order to prevent ‘such massive risk’.

‘Mr. Mircea Geoana’s remarks are regrettable’, the President’s Office said in a press release.

The document adds: ‘Making up for the delays on the approval of the Codes and unblocking the corruption files are the direct responsibility of the parliamentary groups of the ruling coalition, i.e. they implicitly are Mr. Geoana’s political responsibility too’, the Ziua reports.

The leaders of the ruling coalition made up of the Democrat Liberal Party (PD-L) and the Social Democrats say they have nothing to argue about and insist there is harmony in the ruling coalition.

After having launched verbal attacks on one another, from a distance, over the weekend, the ruling coalition leaders gathered in their routine meeting on Monday. At the end of the meeting, they explained that ‘the verbal abuse’ and the ‘low blows’ are mere jokes and that the tensions are caused by the electoral campaign.

This is, in fact, the big problem of the PSD and PD-L: the elections and it is not the ones for the European Parliament but the presidential balloting mostly, the Evenimentul zilei writes.

The campaign for the presidential polls makes the coexistence of the PSD and PD-L ever more difficult. The attacks launched by both sides are completed by strategies meant to make the adversary vulnerable.

The Democrat Liberals, in the unmistaken style launched by President Basescu, throw challenges into the market to stress-test the Social Democrats, who respond by stepping up the attack, the Gardianul says in an item headlined ‘The Emil Boc Cabinet caught in the electoral war between Basescu and Geoana’.

The national economy is showing signs of revival, the Bucharest-based dailies report. After the Romanian economy fully felt the effects of the global crisis in the first two months of this year, March brought the first ‘weak’ signs of the economy starting to breathe again.

Thus, the Romanian exports in March grew by 22.8 percent in leu terms (23.0 percent in euro terms) from February, while the imports were up by 8.2 percent in leu terms and 8.4 percent in euro terms.

The trade gap in March amounted to 2.42 billion lei (566 million euros), by 5.27 billion lei (1.5 billion euros) lower than in last March, the Ziua says in an item headlined ‘The economy is waking up from the coma’.

‘Massive layoffs’ (Ziua), ‘A third of the companies will make redundancies’ (Evenimentul zilei) – these are the headlines to articles that carry the results of a survey conducted by research company Hewitt Associates.

More than 30 percent of the Romanian-based private companies will shed jobs this year in cost-cutting moves, while another 41 percent have scheduled a lower salary budget this year, as a result of the negative development of the economy, the survey says.

As for the anticipated financial results, 14.8 percent of the respondent firms predict a rise in their economic performance this year, in spite of the developments in the economy, while 19.7 percent anticipate their business will stagnate and 21.3 percent answered they have ‘no idea’ how the economic indicators will develop.

‘McJob, the best job in Romania’, says the Gandul in a headline. It quotes the Best Employers 2008/2009 survey conducted by research company Hewitt Associates as saying the best working conditions in Romania, where the employees are highly satisfied with the environment they work in are offered by companies McDonalďs, Adobe and Syngenta.

McDonalďs hires more than 4,000 staff in 60 restaurants opened in 20 Romanian cities; 40 percent of the staff works part time.

The working hours are flexible, with many of the staff being college students, who thus have the possibility to continue their studies.

Tens of thousands of Romanians are negotiating with the banks in order to re-schedule the loan instalments amid the crisis, with such a solution being approved of both by the big and smaller banks, Tuesday’s papers report.

The clients are asking for a restructuring of the loans as many persons are late in paying the monthly instalments and even see a drop in their income. The biggest Romanian bank BCR is going to restructure 20,000 retail loans, of which 5,000 are mortgage loans or consumer mortgage loans and 15,000 is consumer lending, the Gandul quotes bank executive vice-president Martin Skopek as saying.

The lending norms set by the National Bank of Romania (BNR) last autumn have cut the volume of non-guaranteed crediting. Nevertheless, the move is deemed positive, since it has improved the portfolio structure, the Ziua says in an article entitled ‘The BCR restructures the loans’.
The lump sum tax is the bone of contention in the ruling coalition, the Romanian print media remarks.

The minimal tax on the companies pushes the tensions high in the ruling coalition. With the election campaign for the European Parliament in full swing, the Social Democrats seem to forget that the idea of setting up the lump sum tax comes from their ruling programme and they place the full responsibility for the move on their ruling partners, the Democrat Liberals.

The opposition parties take advantage of the row and punish the Executive by a no-confidence motion. The only ones really suffering from the incoherent fiscal and political climate are the businessmen, who slam the lack of coherence showed by the Government, that operates fiscal changes by urgent acts.

The Romanian Businessmen’s Association criticise the PD-L and PSD Government for contradictory statements on the fiscal measures to be taken in 2009 and 2010 and they accuse it of the confusion created in the business climate, the Gardianul writes.

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