Showing that they have in fact learnt nothing over the past two weeks, Romania’s delightful parliamentarians yesterday gave new prime minister Dacian Ciolos a huge ‘fuck you’ of a welcome by voting to award all (yes, all) civil servants (known as bugetari in Romanian) a ten per cent pay rise in time for Christmas. Shortly before voting on another issue entirely (a 25 per cent pay rise for health sector staff), an MP from the PSD, Andrei Solomon, tagged on an amendment handing all civil servants a wad of cash from taxpayers’ pockets, effective from December 1st. Despite the fact that the pay rise will cost a whopping five billion lei per year to implement (money the government does not have), and that no feasibility study has been carried out into its viability, all but five of the 316 MPs present yesterday voted in favour. The leader of the erstwhile opposition, Alina Gorghiu, said after the vote: ‘now we have voted for it, we will do a feasibility study.’ Call us naive, but we thought feasibility studies were usually carried out before decisions were made?
It will now be up to Klaus Iohannis, the Romanian president, to approve or reject the pay rise. Whatever he decides, he will piss off a large number of people. That he and the new prime minister have been put in this position is ridiculous. More evidence that the Romanian parliament needs serious reform (and, once and for all, a reduction is size: a unicameral parliament of 300 MPs – as Romanians voted for in a 2009 referendum – is more than enough).
Of course, there are Romanian civil servants who probably deserve a 10 per cent pay rise. We can think of many who deserve a 200 per cent pay rise. But there is an equally large number who need to be kicked out of their jobs altogether. The idea that every civil servant deserves a pay rise is simply daft: has nobody ever heard of performance related pay? How can you possibly group firemen together with the awful jobsworths at the tax or post office?
Anyway, this will be a real test for Iohannis: if he has any balls he will torpedo the pay rise. We are alas not sure that he does. He will therefore hand a massive problem to the new government, which will need to find five billion lei from somewhere: either taxes will have to be raised or cuts made to infrastructure investment projects. Doing either will play into the hands of the PSD and – to a certain extent – the PNL. What’s clear is that the two zombie parties who have together stripped Romania of its wealth and assets for 25 years are going nowhere without a fight. We might be back on the streets sooner than we thought.
Meantime, who’s going to give us a ten per cent pay rise?