The 2019 draft budget has stirred criticism not just from the right-wing opposition, but from within the ruling coalition itself
It’s February and Romania still doesn’t have a state budget in place. Published on the website of the Finance Ministry last week, the budget bill will be officially adopted by the Government on Tuesday, most likely after having undergone several changes. The bill is based on a GDP of some 200 billion Euros, an economic growth rate of 5.5%, an inflation rate of 2.8% and a deficit of 2.5% of the GDP.
Additional funds will go to the Health Ministry, a 64% increase as compared to last year, the Transport Ministry, 54% and Education Ministry, 47%. The ministries of the business sector, communications and energy will get less funding. Budget spending, consisting mainly in the payment of salaries, pensions and social security allowances, will exceed budget revenues by some 30 billion lei.
The Social-Democrat Finance Minister Eugen Teodorovici said the budget bill is ground-breaking, aimed at supporting healthcare and education. Criticism was soon to follow after the budget was made public. Social-Democrat leader Liviu Dragnea has called on Minister Teodorovici and on Prime Minister Viorica Dancila to analyze the possibility of slashing the funds earmarked for the intelligence services, and possibly relocate them to other fields, such as healthcare.
There are programs of national security importance, such as granting, free of charge, Vitamin D to children or combating diabetes, that could use these funds, Dragnea said. Political pundits warn that it’s not clear whether the bill will require another approval from the country’s Supreme Defence Council after the aforementioned modifications are operated, considering the changes will affect national security.
The Liberal Party, in opposition, has harshly criticized the 2019 budget bill, saying it is grounded on false estimates concerning inflation and economic growth. Liberal Party leader Ludovic Orban said the sums allotted to investment and education are unrealistic, arguing that the Government fails to fulfil its obligations regarding the modernization of the Romanian army and that local administrations will see their budgets slashed. Either Liberal or Social-Democratic, the mayors of the biggest cities in Romania seem to share this view.
They say that, while the budgets of local municipalities have been increased, under the new bill city halls are expected to cover most of the social spending so far covered by the budget of central authorities. Dragnea’s fiercest rival within the ranks of the Social-Democratic Party, Bucharest General Mayor Gabriela Firea, has sent an open letter to the inhabitants of Bucharest, claiming the city will lose 180 million Euros, accounting for nearly a quarter of its current budget.