The proposed social and economic measures mean a greater role for the state in the solution of the crisis in a moment when president Klaus Iohannis calls on the private sector to give ideas and solutions
This article was published on 31 March on the Bulgarian section of the site ”The Barricade” and is republished with small improvements.
Romania crossed the threshold of 2,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and entered level 4 crisis, which means that whole cities and regions can be quarantined. The measure was already introduced in Suceava, where more than half of patients in the regional hospital have COVID-19. The government and the military have strengthened their control with a new decree, which requires that disinfectants be put in each entrance of a block so that they can be used when entering buildings. Going out at night has been forbidden between the hours of 22 and 6 for a week. Starting on the 25th of March, going out is forbidden with a few exceptions – for shopping, for doctor visits and other visits of this kind.
In this moment, when Romanians’ fears grow in parallel with the number of infected, a group of left-wing professionals have come out with an open letter to the president, the government, and parliament, in which they demand that large-scale social and economic measures be taken against the pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis. Romania has responded, for the time being, with bolder social-economic measures than Bulgaria – e.g. the state has promised to provide 75% of salaries in the private sector, there is a ceiling on the prices of utilities and fuels, and an emergency decree was introduced which allows for the postponing of the credits’ payment. However, the Romanian economy is strongly connected with demand in the EU and in the present conditions there are more than 500,000 suspended labour contracts. It is expected that until the middle of April the suspended labour contracts will amount to 1,000,000 euros…
In their letter, the left-wing activists ask for stronger state intervention in the economy and in the fight against the crisis, at a moment when president Klaus Iohannis has asked the private sector to put forward proposals to the government. The letter-petition launched the idea that private hospitals be requisitioned by the state and that the resources from private healthcare facilities be put to the service of society. The letter also proposes that a minimum guaranteed income be paid to those who have suspended labour contracts but are not in a state of “technical unemployment” (without possibility of working because of a factory’s ceasing of activities), because they are ineligible for unemployment compensation or don’t have income. The letter also proposes ideas for the transformation of the many stopped industrial capabilities of Romania be turned to the production of masks, protective suits and other useful goods in this crisis. There is an appeal for the creation of an air bridge, through which infected Romanians can be sent for treatment in Germany, which has already happened with infected Italians.
Other proposed social measures are the stop of forced evictions for a period of one year after the end of the emergency situation, because economic difficulties for the population will continue after the end of the pandemic. Also, it is demanded that there be an extension on payment deadlines for rents and utilities for the unemployed, people who free-lance and those who do atypical work. People who are on technical unemployment should have a 50% reduction in the rents they have to pay. The letter also proposes measures for protection of the doctors who are on the frontline of the fight with the pandemic. In both Romania and Bulgaria, doctors and sometimes whole intensive care departments resign, because they feel vulnerable and insufficiently supported in their mission.
According to one of the signatories of the open letter – the anthropologist and director of the Center for Study of Modernity and Rural Life at Telciu, Valer Simion Cosma – the measures which the government has taken “are welcomed, but are insufficient”. He doesn’t think that there is a coherent and clear short-term and medium-term plan which deals with the current health, social, and economic crisis. If there is such a plan, its public application and communication has been poorly made. “There is a need for a plan to protect medical personnel and the rest of the employees from the public and private systems on the frontline. There is a big need for such a social plan, which can support the most vulnerable citizens and the people, who have become vulnerable, because of the economic shock,” says Valer Cosma.
The crisis in Romania will get deeper in the next days and weeks. The expectation expressed in the letter-petition is that the most difficult period will last 8-12 weeks. The Romanian left-wing professionals’ plea will put additional pressure on the government of Ludovic Orban for brave decisions.
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