INFLATION - The National Bank of Romania has revised upwards to 3.5% the inflation forecast for the end of this year, the Governor of the Central Bank Mugur Isarescu announced on Friday. The previous forecast had indicated a 3.2% inflation rate for 2018. For the year 2019, the Central Bank estimated a 3.1% rate. Isarescu explained that the main driver of economic growth was consumption, which had a negative effect on the trade deficit, which grew by 30% in 2017. As regards the structural issues affecting the economy, Mugur Isarescu highlighted the tensions in the labour market, the growing gap between imports and exports, to the detriment of the latter, but also problems relating to the fiscal and incomes policy, whose effects are expected to fade away no sooner than next year.
DIPLOMACY - Several Russian companies are interested in the Romanian gas reserves in the Black Sea, said on Friday the Russian Ambassador to Bucharest, Valery Kuzmin, at an event celebrating 140 years of Romanian - Russian diplomatic ties. The ambassador said that last year, trade exchanges went up by 20% and could reach 4 billion dollars in 2018, but as regards political and diplomatic ties, things had been rather modest. Valery Kuzmin also said he hoped relations between Romania and Russia would improve, especially considering Romania's taking over the presidency of the EU Council in 2019 and its running for a seat as non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2020-2021.
PRISONS - The legal status of prison staff in Romania will be promoted in Government by the Justice Minister Tudorel Toader within two weeks, and then it will be submitted to Parliament for debates, according to the President of the Trade Union Federation of the National Administration of Penitentiaries, Sorin Dumistrascu. He talked with minister Toader about the problems in the system: improper working conditions, shortage of staff and unpaid overtime. Tudorel Toader has posted on a social network the measures that have already been taken to improve the penitentiary system. Among them, a 10% salary increase as of October 1st, an additional 1000 jobs in the organizational chart and some 1700 new employees. Also, this year's budget includes money for expanding prison space for another 5000 inmates in the 2019-2023 time-frame.
MODERN SLAVERY - On Wednesday, the British police arrested three men on suspicion of modern slavery offences, as some 200 immigrants from Romania, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Poland were found working at a flower farm in Cornwall, in south-western England. According to Reuters and the BBC, humanitarian organizations will provide counseling, shelter, legal and immigration advice. The British Government estimates that at least 13,000 people are victims of forced labour, sexual exploitation and domestic servitude, but the police say the real figure could be much higher.
WINTER OLYMPICS -29 hundred athletes, including 28 from Romania, are attending the 23rd edition of the Winter Olympics underway in the South Korean city of PyeongChang between February 9th and the 25th. At the foot of the Taebaek Mountains, the city of PyeongChang has won the right to stage the Winter Olympic Games after having applied two times before, in 2010 and 2014. This is the first edition of the Winter Olympics and the second Olympic Games staged by South Korea. PyeongChang has become the third Asian city to stage the Winter Olympics after the Japanese cities of Sapporo in 1972 and Nagano in 1998. Over the following two weeks, the city of PyeongChang will be seeing 102 sporting events in 15 disciplines of seven major winter sports.
TENNIS - Romanian tennis player Sorana Carstea will be playing Carol Zhao in a singles game in Cluj Napoca, north-western Romania on Saturday, the first game of a series pitching Romania against Canada in the Fed Cup World Group ll. The cast drawn on Friday pitched Irina Begu against Bianca Andreescu, in the competition's second game. Begu will be up against Zhao on Sunday, and Carstea will be playing against Andreescu on the same day. Ana Bogdan and Raluca Olaru will take on Katherina Sebov and Gabriela Dabrowski in the doubles. Ana Bogdan is replacing the world's number two player, Simona Halep, who is recovering from an ankle injury she got during the Australian Open last month. (translated by Mihaela Ignatescu)