Saturday, March 28, 2015

Romania PM picks EU funds minister as new finance minister

BUCHAREST

(Reuters) - Romania's leftist prime minister, Victor Ponta, said on Friday he had appointed the government's EU funds minister, Eugen Teodorovici, as the new finance minister.

Ponta had briefly taken over the portfolio following the resignation earlier this month of Darius Valcov, who faces accusations of corruption -- charges he has denied. Parliament voted on Wednesday to allow prosecutors to arrest him.

Teodorovici, 43, faces potentially difficult talks in April with the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission, where he will seek backing for Romania's plans for sweeping tax cuts in 2016 to 2019.

On Friday, the IMF said the planned tax cuts threatened to undermine five years of fiscal consolidation and urged the cabinet to reconsider their size and timing.

Romania has a standby 4 billion euro aid deal with the IMF and the European Commission, which is tied to its performance in implementing reforms and keeping the deficit in check. The accord expires in September.

The tax cuts were formally approved by the government on Wednesday and will be debated in parliament before a final vote that is expected by June.

Romania's talks with the IMF ended without agreement in February as Bucharest resisted calls for gas price hikes and restructuring state-run coal firms.

Including Ponta's brief stint, Teodorovici will become the sixth finance minister since Ponta took office in May 2012. The premier has jokingly referred to the position as a "kamikaze" role.

Valcov quit after prosecutors alleged he had favored a firm for a public works contract in exchange for about 2 million euros ($2.20 million). Prosecutors subsequently accused him of unlawful gains after they discovered cash, gold bars and a French Impressionist painting in his safe.

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