Romanian Liberals seek to reduce budget deficit, strengthen courts

Foto: Inquam Photos / Octav Ganea

Prime Minister-designate Ludovic Orban says he wants to quickly get Romania’s economy back on track by reining in a fiscal shortfall below the European Union’s 3% threshold while strengthening courts to lure investors back to the East European country.

Liberal Party leader Orban called for swift parliamentary backing for a new Cabinet  as “there is a risk we won’t be able to pay salaries.”

The outgoing Social Democrat government promoted expansionary fiscal and wage policies which increased Romania’s deficits, while tax hikes, energy price caps approved without public debate, and moves to weaken the judiciary, made investors cautious.  

The Liberals have published a draft governing program where they say they it wants to review and correct “toxic” tax and judicial measures that have reduced courts and prosecutors’ independence, enforced by the outgoing Social Democrats.

Other priorities include naming a European Union commissioner and scrapping a contentious early parole law that has allowed the release hundreds of violent prisoners, some of whom have re-offended upon release.

The Social Democrat government of Viorica Dancila collapsed on Oct. 10 after losing a no-confidence vote in parliament.

The Liberal minority government hopes to win a parliamentary vote of confidence next Wednesday, although that is uncertain. The Cabinet will have only 16 ministries down from the current 26.  

The party’s economic adviser Florin Citu has been proposed as finance minister. Eucated in the U.S, Citu worked for the European Investment Bank and New Zealand’s central bank and has advocated measures aimed at cutting cut red tape and improving transparency in the public sector.  

Even if Parliament approves the government, Orban, a 56-year-old former transport minister will struggle to negotiate majorities for any legal initiative because of a divided opposition. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for late 2020.

However, Orban could win enough political backing to reverse parts of a judicial overhaul that has criticized by the European Union and U.S. officials as a threat to the rule of law.

On health, the government aims to get European financing for three regional hospitals, and to pass a vaccination law and invest in 367 public hospitals. It plans to build highways and upgrade the dilapidated rail network.

On energy, it wants develop energy sources with low greenhouse gas emissions and become less energy dependent. It supports Black Sea offshore gas exploration which could help Romania become a regional energy supplier.

Foreign policy priorities include boosting Romania’s influence abroad by strengthening the rule of law, being a security provider and consolidating relations with neighbors. The party wants to ensure presidential elections are well organized.

Other goals are working to join Schengen, the Euro zone and getting a European Union monitoring mechanism lifted, by making progress in building an independent and efficient justice system.

It says the outgoing Social Democrats promoted “an economic model based on the artificial consumer stimulation…. Which led to a fall in production, a lack of investment and the abrupt moderation of economic growth in 2018 and 2019.”


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