Romania’s former finance minister has challenged his successor Florin Citu to a public debate after he claimed that the outgoing Social Democrats handled the country’s finances like the notorious gangster Al Capone.
Florin Citu, of the ruling Liberal Party, claimed Thursday that the Social Democrats had hidden Romania’s economic situation since they came to power in 2017 and kept two sets of books.
Citu claimed Romania’s real budget deficit will reach more than 4% at the end of the year, a full percentage point than demanded by the European Union, which is designed to rein in public spending. “Romania’s economy has been managed with two budgets in the last three years,” he said.
He said one budget was presented to the Parliament, while the real budget was concealed and used to finance “party barons,” powerful local Social Democrats in the provinces.
“This was exactly the method used by Al Capone, who had a registry for the tax agency and a registry for him,” Citu said.
Fomer Minister Eugen Teodorivici denied there was “a hole” in the budget and insisted there was no problem with the budget deficit. He claimed Citu was making statements based on estimates and not facts, which was weakening the national currency, the leu.
“I’m Al Capone, like Citu is head of the FBI,” Teodorovici said.
He invited Citu to a debate on Friday at the Academy for Economic Sciences, which Citu declined. Party sources called the invite “an image promoting strategy.”
Citu said he had examined the true data and sent it to members of the European Commission and other international financial institutions, claiming “the fundamentals of the Romanian economy have been affected.”
The minister was educated in the U.S. and worked for the European Investment Bank and New Zealand’s central bank. He has pledged to reduce bureaucracy and increase transparency in the public sector
Citu also asserted that former Social Democrat boss Liviu Dragnea, now serving a 3 ½ year sentence for corruption, and his predecessor Teodorovici, knew there weren’t funds for investments.
At the end of October, the budget deficit was 2.84% of GDP and budget revenues were about 21 billion lei (4.4 billion euros) short, with significant unpaid bills, he said.