The finance minister says that money Romania has saved from scrapping special pensions for former lawmakers will be diverted to a special fund for the Covid pandemic.
Finance Minister Alexandru Nazare said Friday there was almost 40 million lei freed up after the pensions were canceled following a parliament vote earlier this year.
The money has been transferred to the Budgetary Reserve Fund for 2021, he said.
„These funds will be used where we have an urgent need, namely in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic and helping the most vulnerable,” he said on a post on Facebook.
The Covid-19 pandemic has put added pressure on Romania’s ageing and inefficient healthcare system. Romania spends a bit more than 5% of its national output on health which is about half of the EU average.
The money can be put to better use in the health system, lawmakers say.
In a rare show of cross-party unity, Parliament voted in February to stop paying special pensions to former Senators and Deputies. President Klaus Iohannis signed the bill into law in March.
Senate speaker Anca Dragu said Friday that 256 former Senators had been receiving special pensions before the bill, at a cost of 1.5 million lei a month.
Romania was spending some 37 million lei, or about 7.6 million euros a year for special pensions for 870 former lawmakers. After the president signed the bill into law, the government immediately halted the payments.
The topic has stirred debate in recent years, about who gets the pensions and why. Lawmakers were generally not deemed worthy of the privilege
In a related development, Simona Spataru, a Senator for theruling Save Romania Union-PLUS submitted a bill on April 14 proposing to scrap special pensions for former local officials.
She said the bill covered special pensions for former mayors, deputy mayors, the chairs and deputy chairs of County Councils.
Romania’s ageing population meant that in the future it would be hard to find funds for the special pensions.