Controversies hit economy and social plans of PSD-led government of Romania as parliamentary session ends
The governing coalition in Romania concludes an extended parliamentary session this week with a wave of controversies related to legislation passed by their MPs and government. After marathon efforts to change the laws of justice, the coalition now has to cope with question marks about its competence and predictibility, with feelings of incredulity among observers about economy- and social-related plans and decisions of the Social Democratic Party (PSD)-led government.
1. The government was due to meet in its last session this parliamentary season on Thursday. One of the key issues expected to be discussed was a planned cap to gas prices, included in a government decision drafted hastily and formed of only two articles. Capping gas prices to 55 RON/MWh, as compared to the current stock average of 77.7 RON, is seen as a measure specific to countries suich as Venezuela, in total disregard to market-based economy and free competitition. After the draft decision came to light late on Wednesday, Finance minister Eugen Teodorovici said on Thursday that the government session would only see a first reading of the measure. Also on Thursday, an association of energy companies, ROPEPCA, warned that capping gas prices would make Romania increasingly dependent on Russian imports.
2. This energy-related issue comes only days after another attempt to push legislation in the sector, with difficult to predict consequences. Last week, the House of Deputies, led by PSD head Liviu Dragnea, passed a law on Black Sea offshore gas, which sparked enough controversies already. But just after the bill was adopted, with Dragnea himself defending it on television, HotNews.ro revealed that Dragnea started talks with stakeholders in order to "correct" the piece of legislation. And this week, Finance Ministry sources have told HotNews.ro that the ministry considers issueing an emergency ordinance to change the just-adopted offshore law this fall, should it be accepted as is by the President.
3. The Constitutional Court on Wednesday admitted an appeal by President Iohannis which sees a recent law to establish a Sovereign Development and Investment Fund as unconstitutional. Why was it unconstitutional? Because the fund shouldn't have been established by means of law, but by government decision. The Fund, which was due to be formed of 33 companies fully or partially owned by the state, with 9 billion RON in cash, would have established a tool to lower the level of control over how the authorities spend public money.
4. The same Constitutional Court on Wednesday also declared a law on school manuals, which was adopted by a previous PSD-led government, as unconstitutional. Why? Because the PSD missed the chambers of the parliament when it pushed through the bill, letting it be adopted by the wrong chamber.
5. Early this week, Darius Valcov, an aide to PM Viorica Dancila, made a show on TV by heralding a period of "extremely fast development". Valcov, who has a sentence for traffic of influence, which he appealed, is seen as one of the brains of the government economic planning. After a long period, he came out on Antena 3, a TV channel friendly with the governing coalition, to announce a series of moves that would see Romania bloom under the PSD government: the building of 3 highways (Romania has been struggling to build a proper highway for decades), doubling pensions, a major ski resort, a channel to link Danube river to Bucharest.
He also defended plans to introduce a fiscal amnesty - which according to HotNews.ro sources, would apply to people in debt by December 31, 2017. According to Valcov said that the debts involved amounted to some 98 billion RON, with the state incapable to recover most of the money.