Press review (May 18)

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Romania’s national dailies of Monday give main coverage to media comments on President Traian Basescu seeking re-election in this autumn’s presidential election; the International Monetary Fund (IMF) possibly easing up fiscal strings on its funding programmes for Romania because of the economic situation triggered by crisis; the prospects for economic growth resuming in early 3rd quarter; investment projects for Romania’s energy sector.

Jurnalul national remarks that President Traian Basescu will not seek re-election in case of economic slippages. Gardianul quotes Basescu as saying his final decision about seeking re-election depends on the effects of the ongoing economic crisis.

The papers carry a document signed by Austrian ambassador in Bucharest Martin Echtinger that says President Basescu told the same to EU ambassadors, whom he met early last week.

The document also reads that Traian Basescu is expected this September to say whether or not he will run again for president, and that Prime Minister Emil Boc is the stand-by candidate of the Democratic-Liberal Party (PD-L) in this autumn’s presidential election.

The papers quote Prime Minister Boc as saying the main preoccupations of the PD-L now is with the economic crisis, which it tries to solve, and has no time for intimations.

Ziua remarks that Boc is the spare candidate for the presidential election. Ziarul financiar quotes Basescu as saying his candidature hangs on the outcome of the crisis, while Gandul remarks that the Austrian Embassy launches Boc for president.

Gandul comments on the news of Boc being a likely replacement for Basescu saying Boc’s candidature is something in between stupidity and bluff.

Evenimentul zilei remarks that Boc is promoted to replacement. Curentul quotes Basescu as wishing Romanians: may God grant it that you live well, while Cotidianul remarks that an Austrian report says Basescu told EU ambassadors that Boc is being groomed as a replacement.

Gardianul carries the findings of an AB Research Grup Romania poll commissioned by the Civil Society Foundation, an organisation close to the opposition National Liberal Party (PNL), indicating that the Bucharest voters are still heavily right leaning.

The poll indicates that 18.3 percent of the Bucharesters are leaning right; 8.2 percent right of centre; 15.8 percent centre; 4.9 percent left of centre and 13.4 percent left. According to the same poll, corruption is the most serious issue facing Romania, with 28 percent of the respondents having said so.

Evenimentul zilei carries an interview with Romania’s chief diplomat Cristian Diaconescu, who says that Romania is finding itself in a complicated economic situation, not that complicated as of other members states of the EU and NATO, with money borrowed from abroad and from home that have to be paid back.

Given these vulnerabilities, says Diaconescu, the West is very much interested in Romania’s political stability; it expects the parliamentary and governmental mechanisms to be solid.

‘I do not believe it serves anyone to generate an artificial political game, whether because of the election or particularly after the election.

I believe the current formula is the most solid, at least in terms of parliamentary support,’ Diaconescu tells the paper in an interview called ‘The West is interested in Romania’s political stability.’

The International Monetary Fund is prepared to ease the fiscal conditions attached to its programmes with European Union members Latvia, Hungary and Romania due to worsening economic downturns.

On Romania, which saw its economy drop by a much worse than expected 6.4 percent from January to March, the process of review is the same, the papers quote senior advisor in the IMF’s European Department Anne-Marie Gulde-Wolf as telling a meeting in London on Friday and Saturday of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

‘If the global environment changed rather than policy changed, then we really need to look at reassigning the programmes,’ Curentul further quotes Gulde-Wolf as saying.

The statements are carried by Jurnalul national under the headline ‘IMF wants to ease off the lash on Romania’; Curierul national remarks that the IMF could ease the fiscal conditions attached to its programmes with European Union members Latvia, Hungary and Romania, while Cotidianul notes that IMF is sweetening up the fiscal conditions in its programme with Romania because of the recession.

Romania plans to tap international markets in the second half, between the first two tranches of a loan from a group of lenders led by the International Monetary Fund, Romania’s Deputy Finance Minister Bogdan Dragoi is quoted by the papers as telling Bloomberg.

The government plans to make the decision to borrow from foreign investors and prepare the legal framework this month for a bond sale as early as September, Dragoi said in an interview with Bloomberg in London on Saturday, as part of his attendance of a meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

‘Taking into account the insurance package we have, the reasons for confidence, we have a good story to tell to investors,’ Dragoi said.

The aggregate business turnover of the main companies traded on the Bucharest Stock Exchange (BVB) declined 20 percent in the first quarter of 2009, to RON 8.84 billion (2.07 billion euros), the first contraction in the past years.

The aggregate profits of the same companies plummeted 80 percent from the same period of the year before, Ziarul financiar reports, saying that the decline in the profits are in line with the 2008 losses recorded on the BVB, which also stood at 80 percent.

The Government is contemplating putting a halt to economic downturn and resume economic growth in late 2nd quarter, early 3rd quarter, Romania libera quotes Finance Minister Gheorghe Pogea as saying on Sunday.

Pogea also said that halting the effects of the crisis will be visible in three, four, maybe five months from now on at a macroeconomic level, but the first positive signs to this end are already out.

The number of Romanian exporting companies declined 61.2 percent in the past two years, from 15,800 to 9,800, and export supplies plummeted 61 percent in the first ten days of May, the papers report quoting to the point data with the National Association of Romanian Exporters and Importers (ANEIR).

The lack of the Government’s wish to regulate the Value-Added Tax on exportations in accordance with the European rules brought about a decline in the number of Romanian exporting companies, from 15,800 to just 9,800, and nobody can predict how many of the remaining ones are going to go bankrupt this year, Curierul national quotes ANEIR Secretary General Mihai Ionescu as saying in a press release.

Evenimentul Zilei notes that before 1989, Romania’s irrigation system would cover 3 million hectares, but now the same system is waiting for millions of euros from the European Union to get reconstructed.

The Southern Dobrogea, one of Romania’s most arid areas, a realm full of plateaus, used to have one of the most advanced irrigation systems under the Ceausescu regime, of which only a shadow of its past glory remains, the paper says in an article headlined ‘Irrigations might gulp down 12 billion euros.’

Financiarul reports that the worth of investment projects for the Romanian energy sector, electricity, oil, natural gas and minerals combined, is standing at 7.6 billion euros, with 4.2 billion slated for electricity.

Ziarul financiar remarks that Dacia German sales were triple the Romanian sales.

The paper also reports that UK GlaxoSmithKline will start manufacturing a medicine used in treating HIV/AIDS late this year that will be exported as from 2011.

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