Monday, February 23, 2009

Romanian Parliament Adopts 2009 Austerity Budget

BUCHAREST (AFP)--Romania's parliament Friday adopted an austerity budget for 2009 that freezes public sector pay and allocates billions of dollars for investments in infrastructure to boost the struggling economy.

The aim of the budget will be to halt the economic slump and "stimulate the country's economy," Prime Minister Emil Boc said after the plan was approved by a large majority of lawmakers. "We want to maintain and increase jobs with massive investments in infrastructure."

"We have the largest budget allocated to infrastructure in Romanian history, at 20% of the budget, or EUR10.2 billion."

This would make up most of the EUR13 billion earmarked for the country's economic stimulus package. The total budget will amount to about EUR51.16 billion.

The plan foresees economic growth at 2.5% in 2009 and a public deficit of 2.0% of gross domestic product.

Boc also emphasized the need to protect the "most vulnerable groups," with EUR260 million allocated to social measures, including a minimum pension of about EUR80 a month.

Public sector pay however will be frozen until April 15, when the government will resume talks with its social partners over a possible increase.

Pay rises have been a key issue in discussions between the government and the unions. Unions initially secured a promised 5.0% pay hike, equivalent to the forecast inflation for 2009, but other sectors have since protested the measure.

Romania's lawmakers also voted Friday on a social security budget on pensions and unemployment.

The budgets were to be sent to the president for final approval.

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