Romania’s government caved in, IMF reforms remain (?)

Romania’s government stepped down, unable to manage the pressure from the persisting mobilizations of Romanian people. While Romania became a member of EU, Romanians are facing massive cuts in social services and salaries. A lot of the widespread dissatisfaction targeted Boc administration and President Traian Basescu [1]. Are the Romanians after this ready to challenge the wider economic policies of EU and the IMF, which their government was just following? Jeffrey Franks, head of the IMF mission in Romania appears to have expressed his hopes that whatever new government will be appointed will follow the reforms that IMF demanded in the first place in exchange of a €20 billion loan [2].

In 2009, Romania received this €20 billion loan from a similar troika (IMF, EU and World Bank) not to ‘freeze’ pensions and salaries due to financial stalement. People started feeling the budget cuts in every public domain in order to ‘curate’ the economy and repay the loan. The top of the iceberg were the new health reforms and the 25% salary cuts (accompanied by a new labour code, as proposed by multinational corporations and business lobbies such as the Romanian-American business lobby [4]). Moreover, there was a 5% increase of the sales tax enforced from 19 to 24% [2]. Boc, the ex-prime minister, confessed that he had to take these painful decisions. In other words, he had no choice, no matter if he wanted or not.

Romanian Protesers hang their shoes resentfully

The health reform had the aim to privatize health care by letting private firms enter the state health sector [1], and that became extremely unpopular. At the same time, a controversial gold mining project has been proposed at the Carpathian region of  Rosia Montana [3]. The project has been designed by ‘Rosia Montana Gold Corporation’, which is mostly owned by the Canadian company ‘Canada’s Gabriel Resources Ltd’ with only 19% owned by the Romanian state. The company made claims that from the $7,5 billion worth of the gold mine, $4 billion are going to stay in Romania. From a socio-ecological point of view the price will be high, since 4 mountaintops, 3 villages (out of 16 of the region) are going to be destroyed [3].

These developments obviously became extremely unpopular and triggered generalized discontent in the country. Romanians see their European dream collapsing as they get actually worse off. For instance, cheap Romanian land has become prey of European capital, forcing local small-scale farmers out of business. Despite the crisis, Romania has announced its plans to join the Eurozone by 2015 [2].

Occupy Romania

What we can learn from this story is that it is actually not so much different from what is going on in Greece and all the other PIGS. IMF, World Bank and the EU commission are imposing dogmatic economic policies to all these countries, thereby obliterating national democracies. Governments subside in the face of a higher economic rule, stating that they cannot do anything else than taxing people while cutting their benefits. There is the justification of the ‘impossibility’ of doing anything else, it is either a ‘austerity rescue’ or a disaster.

What we can observe is that governments have become mere ‘negotiators’ between global institutions and the voters; a ‘buffer’ placed between the people and the ‘stripped down’ global economic regimes. Governments acting as mouthpieces of these regimes receive the major waves of resentfulness in different countries. However, we need to look behind governments and beyond borders.

It becomes clear that it is the global institutions that we need to confront, not only our (corrupt) governments. Therefore, transnational struggle is necessary, the indignados, the Greek indignants, the occupy movement in US, UK and elsewhere, the Romanian, Portuguese and Irish protesters, the Arabs on the streets of Cairo, Syria, Nigeria and all countless activist groups and the billions of poor and hungry worldwide have much more to share.  Global solidarity must come to life in order to face the grim reality with hope.

Opportunities to act:

There are uncountable people working on resistance and solutions. The struggles progressively becomes European-wide:

European Revolution facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/european1revolution?ref=pb

Europeans against the political system:

http://www.facebook.com/eagainst?ref=pb

Sources:

[1] Ilie and Cristel (2012). Romania protests spread despite health bill withdrawal. Retrieved on 7th February 2012 from: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/International/2012/Jan-15/159949-romania-protests-spread-despite-health-bill-withdrawal.ashx

[2] The Associated Press (2012). Romania’s government collapses after protests. Retrieved on 7th February 2012 from: http://digg.com/newsbar/Worldnews/romania_s_government_collapses_after_protests

[3] Ilie L (2012). Romanians protest against gold mine plan. Retrieved on 7th February 2012 from: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/28/us-romania-protests-rosiamontana-idUSTRE80R0QJ20120128

[4] Bechir M (2012). Dezbaterile ”Adevarul”: Codul Muncii, un pas urias spre capitalism. Retrieved on 7th February 2012 from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_Romanian_protests

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