Tuesday, February 1, 2011

IMF asks Romania to open its energy markets

BUCHAREST Feb 1 (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund has asked Romania to let the market set its regulated power and gas prices, Economy Minister Ion Ariton said on Tuesday, which could lead to higher tariffs for consumers.

The country's energy price regulator, which is independent, has held prices stable over the last two years in an attempt to cushion the blow of a painful recession on households and help the central bank curb inflation.

"They (IMF) want prices to be liberalised," Ariton told reporters after a meeting with an IMF mission in Bucharest to review the country's 20 billion euros aid package and start talks on a new deal.

"By the half of the year we will have to present a new calculation formula because there are problems with regulated prices. The IMF has asked to verify these prices and (ultimately) liberalise energy prices."

Foreign investors have repeatedly criticised Romania for capping its energy prices, saying the policy hurts competition and raises the risk of pushing investors to projects in other countries in southeast Europe. [ID:nLDE68S1L3]

The European Commission, which requires member states to align its energy prices to EU levels over a number of years, has also called Romania's regulated tarrifs an "anomaly." (Reporting by Luiza Ilie; editing by James Jukwey)

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