Thursday, October 21, 2010

AP: IMF mission in Romania to evaluate austerity plan

An International Monetary Fund mission arrived in Romania Wednesday to review the country's recession-mired economy and begin talks on a possible new loan agreement amid protests against wage cuts and austerity measures.

IMF mission chief Jeffrey Franks said an increase in the minimum wage, as requested by unions, should be evaluated to determine whether it would overburden the economy. The current monthly minimum wage is 600 lei (euro140, $192).

Romania took a euro20 billion ($27.72 billion) loan from the IMF, the European Union and the World Bank last year, when its economy shrank by 7.1 percent. Some of the money was used to pay pensions and wages.

In return for the loan, the government has to cut spending drastically to keep the deficit down.

In recent weeks, thousands of state workers have protested in Romania, demanding a hike in salaries after the government cut wages in the public sector by a quarter and hiked the sales tax from 19 percent to 24 percent to reduce the budget deficit from its current 6.8 percent of GDP.

The government faces a no-confidence vote in Parliament next week.

President Traian Basescu said he supports a new agreement with the IMF, but this time for a credit line and not for a loan.

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