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October 2010, Week 5

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Sat, 30 Oct 2010 16:45:55 -0400
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Romania's Austerity Plan Upheaval

(1) Romania Government Survives Austerity Confidence Vote

(2) Protesting Romania's Austerity Cuts

Reuters
October 27, 2010

By Radu Marinas and Luiza Ilie

BUCHAREST,

Romania's centrist coalition government survived a no-
confidence vote in parliament on Wednesday over its
deep spending cuts and tax increase, needed to maintain
international aid for its recession-hit economy.

The vote will help the European Union's second-poorest
country keep its 20 billion euro International Monetary
Fund-led economic bailout on track, though Prime
Minister Emil Boc will struggle to push through fresh
reforms with his thin majority.

The final count showed 218 parliamentarians voted for
the opposition motion, short of the majority of 236
needed to topple Boc, who has slashed public wages by a
quarter and raised value added tax by 5 percentage
points.

"The news is a relief in terms of political stability,
as this is a key issue," said Georgiana Constantinescu,
analyst at Credit Europe.

"It's a positive signal for foreign investors
especially considering the ongoing IMF mission review
and the absolute need for predictability, stability and
coherence in economic policy."

Full story: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSLDE69Q08A20101027

(2)

Protesting Romania's Austerity Cuts

By Alan Fisher
Al Jazeera
October 28th, 2010

http://blogs.aljazeera.net/europe/2010/10/28/protesting-romanias-austerity-cuts

Photo from AFP: http://tinyurl.com/2cjmapb

For many the journey started well before dawn as they
piled into buses and trains to carry them to Bucharest.

Outside the huge, impressive Parliament building in the
Romanian capital, they gathered in small numbers: twos
and threes to begin with - their anti-government chants
carried away on the chill wind blowing down the wide
sweeping boulevards.

Across the city, they were more. Numerous. In Victory
Square, outside the official government offices, the
unions marshalled their efforts more effectively.

As they set off on their march across the city, there
was perhaps 10,000 but they grew in strength as people
stepped off the pavement to join the protest.

At its peak, the wide open spaces of Constitution
Square were packed and the crowd stretched back some
distance. The protest organisers promised 80,000. The
police say there was 30,000 and that seems about right.

This was not a militant mob. These were teachers and
students and medical workers and police officers
voicing their anger. Faced with a massive budget
deficit, the Romanian government led by Emil Bocn took
drastic action. All public sector workers had a 25 per
cent wage cut imposed. That affects 1.3 million people,
a third of the workforce. A move to do the same to
state pensions was ruled unconstitutional. And there
was a rise in the sales tax to 24 per cent - hitting
the cost of almost everything.

The moves are backed by the International Monetary Fund
(IMF), but not by the majority of the people, according
to opinion polls.

Seizing on the mood, the opposition tabled a motion of
no confidence in Boc's fragile coalition government.
And as MPs debated, the people protested.

Howls and jeers

Big screen TVs carried pictures from inside Parliament.
Every time the prime minister's face popped up, the
howls and the jeers began. And they were loud.

One man wearing a military uniform told me: "I have
come to get my money back. I took a loan on my old
salary. I now have lost my job and my home. My children
have moved abroad to find work. That cannot be right."

One well dressed elderly woman asked if I spoke
English: "This is the first time I have been to
Bucharest. I had to come to get rid of these idiots".

The unions - speaking from the platform - made bold
claims: of linking hands to stop the politicians
leaving if the vote failed; of staying until the
government quit.

But as the vote began, the crowds began to wander away.
The protest had been given permission to stay until 7pm
- but then extended until 10pm. But coaches had been
booked, trains had to be caught.

There was disappointment and disillusion on the faces
of many.

This had been Bucharest's biggest protest since the
last Communist dictator was chased from office in 1989.

One man who had been there in the days of bloody chaos
was angry: "I was shot in 1989 when we got rid of the
Communists - and for what. This?"

Another who looked tired and cold and weary was still
defiant: "When you have thousands of people gathered,
you should have told the people to storm the building
to force those idiots to resign. Instead we were told
to behave."

As the last few groups huddled together in the dark,
the news came through. As expected, Boc and his
coalition government survived. The opposition claimed a
moral victory and promised another vote in the spring.
After a tough winter, it believes it may have a better
chance of success.

The government though is determinded it must push on
with it's controversial budget measures - hoping this
was the public's anger at its peak.

(2)

Tens Of Thousands Protest Romanian Government's
Austerity Measures

Earth Times October 27, 2010

http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/news/350647,romanian-governments-austerity-measures.html#

Bucharest

Tens of thousands of Romanians rallied Wednesday in
central Bucharest to protest against the government's
austerity measures, including lay-offs, tax hikes and
wage cuts.

The protest occurred as the Romanian parliament debated
a no-confidence motion the opposition launched against
Prime Minister Emil Boc's centre-right government.

Boc defended the unpopular austerity measures his
cabinet has been implementing to keep Romania afloat
and secure financial support from international
lenders.

"I understand that people are unhappy and I cannot
blame them," he said ahead of the debate, insisting
that his cabinet did "exactly what it had to do" to
limit the damage of the economic recession.

The measures that the opposition proposed he described
as populist and "a wrong cure."

The opposition filed the motion saying that Boc's
centre-right government has "waged war" against its own
people with harsh austerity measures it to keep the
country afloat amid the recession.

The no-confidence motion is expected to fail, as the
opposition only controls 214 seats out of the 471 in
the two legislative chambers - 22 less than it needs to
topple Boc.

Romania agreed to implement a package of measures in
order to gain access to a 20-billion-euro (27.6-
billion-dollar) bailout from the International Monetary
Fund and European institutions in 2009.

Hit hard by the economic crisis, Romania promised to
make redundant 70,000 civil servants by 2011. This year
it hiked the value added tax from 19 to 24 per cent
while cutting public-sector wages by 25 per cent.

(3)

Romania's Government Faces No-Confidence Vote

By Alina Wolfe Murray
AP
October 27, 2010

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101027/ap_on_bi_ge/eu_romania_no_confidence_vote

BUCHAREST

Romania's Parliament began debating a motion of no-
confidence against the government on Wednesday, as
about 30,000 people demonstrated in Bucharest against
the nation's wage cuts and austerity measures.

A group of angry protesters briefly scuffled with anti-
riot police outside the Parliament building during the
debate, but no injuries were immediately reported.

The protesters marched through Bucharest in chilly
weather, blocking traffic and shouting: "Down with the
government!"

They included public workers whose salaries have been
cut by the government such as teachers, medical staff
and policemen, and some private sector employees.

The no-confidence vote and the public uproar came as
International Monetary Fund employees were visiting
Romania to review the country's ailing economy.

Romania took a euro20 billion ($27.8 billion) loan from
the IMF, the European Union and the World Bank last
year when its economy shrank by 7.1 percent. In return,
Romania pledged to cut spending and the government took
harsh measures, slashing public sector wages by one-
fourth and increasing sales tax from 19 percent to 24
percent.

Carpenter George Vieru, 22, said he traveled to
Bucharest from the eastern city of Iasi on Wednesday
"to stand by the others who have been affected."

Vasilica Cristea, 43, who works for an energy company,
said was protesting in support of teachers, policemen
and other public workers suffering what she called
"abusive measures."

Policeman Catalin Marinescu, 35, said he came from
southern Romania to protest the salary cuts, planned
layoffs and a proposal to increase the retirement age
of Romanians.

The opposition Social Democrats and Liberals said they
filed the no-confidence motion to oppose the centrist
government's harsh measures designed to combat
Romania's economic crisis.

They will need 236 votes to topple the government. The
opposition parties have 212 votes but hope some
lawmakers from the governing coalition will switch
sides in the secret ballot.

Victor Ponta, the leader of the Social Democrats, has
claimed they need to persuade only a few more lawmakers
to oust the government.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Emil Boc asked the
legislators to reject the no-confidence motion, saying
opposition proposals would further weaken the economy.
Boc said that he understands people's discontent, but
he added they "must understand that the government did
what it had to limit the effects of the crisis and to
pull the country out of recession."

The opposition said it would scrap the reduction in
public wages and renegotiate Romania's commitments to
the IMF, the EU and the World Bank.

This is the second no-confidence vote Boc has faced in
the last 10 months. In October 2009, Romania's
government at the time - also led by Boc - was
dismissed by such a vote.

_____________________________________________

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