>Clientelism to lead to pension protest in Romania?


Romanian English language newspaper Nine O’Clock carries the following reflection on the country’s clientelistic and fragmented pension provisions, which seems to have shades of the Italian pattern. I rather doubt the apocalyptic predictions of ‘massive pensioner protestst’ which
uch sectoral divisions strikes me as likely to diffuse unless there is an obviously neglected majority group capable of taking collective actionand/or a highly unpopular priveged special group – in which case one would perhaps expense more generalized anti-political populist protest, if any.

“Pensioner fairytale law

published in issue 4460 page 1 at 2009-06-29

Among the imagines to shock Romania’s future are massive pensioner protests, government and prefecture picketing turned not once into street fights with police forces’ brutal intervention to restore the ‘rule of law’, which rule of law does not stand when it comes to daily life and the
4.6 million-strong pensioners, nearly half of whom have pensions below the minimum wage in the economy and 200,000 benefit from ‘specialpensions’, 70-80 to even 100 times the minimum one, which the governmentin office raised to RON 300 recently.

Romania has several pension laws, the majority of which are drafted in such a way as to unnaturally and immorally favour various categories of political clientele.

Justice, defence, home and foreign affairs and a few other fields benefit from ‘special’ pension laws.

The decisive factor for the pension amount is not the tax paid on it throughout the years, but the way in which a party president, government head or parliamentary group identified themselves with the interests of the said ‘special categories’. Since in Romania, all but every government
official, party head or lawmaker exercise their authority at the expense of the national interest, which results in the bulk of pensioners suffering the most from it.

Such contradictions led to the international financial and political community to ask Romania on and on to sort the salary and pension laws out. The most recent such request was occasioned by the financial loan Romania has taken, with the Boc government pledging to collaborate at the
oonest towards a blanket salary and pension laws. The latter was the subject of long and contradicting talks between government officials, trade unions, employers’ associations, heads of Parliament-represented parties. Yet, only occasionally and by means of mass-media only are
pensioners’ voices heard. Should this be a mere accident?”

It isn’t, as it stands testimony again to blanket pension talks ducking the core of the matter and seeking collateral interest instead. This is why the future pension law doesn’t take into count a fair ration between minimum and maximum pensions, a key lawful and fairness principle that
doesn’t apply to the overall pension law, unlike its salary counterpart.

Moreover, the current or past opposition has often clamoured about the collapse of the pension fund or payment default. Yet none of them refer to the huge ‘special pensions’ as the root of the pension fund being likely to enter collapse. Most of them speak of either the large number of
pensioners and the high unemployment rate, the decline in Gross Domestic Product and the 16 per cent rise in salaries over the past 12 months. Yet, it is exactly such aspects of the ongoing economic crisis that call for cutting special pensions down, as they threaten to bring the pension fundinto collapse. How come this reticence?

Because of the clan spirit, since both in civilian, and political-parliamentary life especially, there is a strong clan spirit with the most contradicting results. ‘Special pensions’ are therefore held
to be a ‘legally earned right’ that cannot be touched by any new law. The fiercest I this respect are the magistrates, whose views drastically change when it comes to the apartments that quite a few Romanians purchase legally from the state. When such properties purchased both legally and in good faith have been claimed by the so-called descendants of the former owners, court rulings are handed down in their favour more often than not.In this instance, there is no such thing as the ‘won asset’ law , as if the Romanian state of 1996 is not the same with that nowadays.

Further more: many at the high end of the rank and file are rushing to retire under the old laws, still in force, which favour them. And ‘special pension; recipients are advised, rank and file wise too, to get their pensions on cards, so that they remain ‘secret’. On the other hand, there
is a trend for decision makers to step in so that the value of the pension fund is no longer tied to the average salary in the economy, so its increase will no longer reflect on pensions too, which are to be frozen indefinitely. Other call for special pensions to be frozen at their current level, until the new ones catch up with them. Yet, since such aspiration is estimated to take about 15 years to come true, its perfidious intention is plain to see, as 15 years from now most of the
pensioners will no longer be among the living, which makes the blanket pension law into a ‘pensioner fairytale’.

by Mihai Iordanescu”

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