Press review (Aug 13)

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Romania’s national dailies of Thursday give main coverage to the reorganisation of public agencies operating under the authority of the Government; the unveiling of a blueprint for reforming the education system; the latest developments in the banking and financial markets and the remarkable achievement of a 12-year-old Romanian girl who became Italy’s chess champion in her age group.

Ziarul financiar remarks that the ministers are competing for who discards the most posts from the public administration. It says that the Government on Wednesday decided to reorganise ministries by cutting out some posts and amalgamating public agencies and institutes. Although at first sight tens of thousands of jobs would seem to disappear, what is happening is posts that have been already vacant are now being pruned.

Ziua points out that in the draft 2009 Budget penned by the former Government of the National Liberal Party (PNL) 1,5 million posts in the public sector had been budgeted, but the actual number did not exceed 1.4 million, and the remaining earmarked funds were used to pay bonuses, long hours and other incentives.

Cotidianul notes that the trade unions reply to the forced unpaid leave to save money by saying they want to work four hours a day.
Adevarul quotes Labour Minister Marian Sarbu as saying the minimum wage in Romania will ‘increase substantially’ as from January 1, 2010.

The minister told Realitatea TV commercial channel as saying that substantial means some 25 percent.
Sarbu also said that the number of employees will be smaller also because of another principle established in a letter of intent to the Intentional Monetary Fund (IMF) that for seven lay-offs there will be just one hiring.

Consequently, only 15 percent of the vacancies will be filled with new staff. The minister declined to offer a hard figure of the employees to be laid off this year.

Evenimentul zilei remarks that Tourism Minister Elena Udrea is a champion in fishy contracts, reporting that the Tourism Ministry under Urea’s management has set a new record in the area of dubious contracts concluded on public money.

It says that the launching event in Paris of a promotional camping called ‘Romania – Land of Choice’ was organised on June 5 under a contract that was signed less then 24 hours previous to the actual event.

Gardianul reports that after initiating an investigation into possible incompatibility in Udrea’s duties, the National Integrity Agency (ANI) extended verifications to include the personal assets of his husband, Dorin Cocos.

Romania libera remarks that the Democratic-Liberal Party (PD-L) and the Social Democratic Party (PSD), both making up the ruling coalition, are sacrificing education, writing that Education Minister Ecaterina Andronescu on Wednesday introduced to a meeting of the Government a blueprint for reforming the Romanian education system.

The Education Code suggested by the PSD differs a great deal from the Miclea blueprint endorsed by the PD-L, although the deadline for a final version is August 14.

Although Prime Minister Emil Boc announced that the government will assume political responsibility on September 2 for legislative reform, including the laws reforming education, it is yet unclear, just three weeks ahead of the date, what laws will be finally included.

Gandul quotes head of a recent IMF reviewing mission to Bucharest Jeffrey Franks as saying lending will resume in Romania in the next half year, thanks to a great extent to the effects of a 13-billion-euro stand by financial arrangement.

Franks also said that the liquidity issues that plagued Romania at the end of 2008 have been solved to a great extent and that is why lending should resume in the next six months.

Ziarul financiar remarks that mid-year data reveal the consequence of sudden and unjustified rise in interest rates charged on RON-denominated loans early this year: six of the ten largest banks reported H1 2009 profits of nearly 350 million euros, much as in the good old years 2005-2006, while their corporate clients are struggling to withstand collapsing sales and expensive loans.

Mid-year financial results also indicate that business people were not wrong in their blaming the behaviour of bankers: credit institutions have won substantially as a result of increased interest rate, as non-financial companies are struggling to keep afloat.

Gardianul reports that more than 15,000 Romanian companies suspended business in July, raising to 95,279 the number of business suspensions, up more than 11 times from the similar period of the year before, according to data with the National Companies Registry Office (ONRC).

Jurnalul national notes that foreign investment in Romania dropped 42.9 percent in the first half of 2009, to 2.894 billion euros, from 5.076 billion euros, according to data with the National Bank of Romania.

Foreign direct investment stood at 9.02 billion euros in 2008, up 24.5 percent from 2007, covering 53.5 percent the current-account deficit, which stood at 16.87 billion euros.

Romania libera remarks that tax evasion on Romania’s market for fruit and vegetables, what Prime minister Boc termed ‘a favorite pastime,’ has gripped 70 percent of the market, according to officials of employers’ organizations.

Libertatea reports that 12-year-old Daniela Movileanu of Focsani, who has been living with her parents in Frascati, a small town near Rome in Italy, for four years, one month ago won the under-14 age category in Italy’s chess championships and will represent Italy at the world championships to be held in Turkey.

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