Situation of COVID-19 cases in Romania

  • Another 1,679 new cases reported in the last 24 hours: Another 1,679 new cases of infection with the new coronavirus were reported in the last 24 hours in Romania, the total COVID-19 cases in the country reaching to 108,690 on Thursday, September 17, according to the official daily report released by the Strategic Communication Group. Most new cases were reported in Bucharest (244) and Iasi (110), followed by Valcea (83) and Cluj (82). To date, 2,160,669 tests have been processed at national level, of which 24,025 tests were performed in the last 24 hours. In total, 6,960 persons are hospitalized, of which 460 are treated in intensive care units. There have been 27 deaths in the last 24 hours.

Political and regulatory

 

  • Iohannis: There is currently no need to discuss postponement of elections: President Klaus Iohannis said on Wednesday in a press conference that there is currently no need to discuss about the postponement of the local elections, noting that things will be well organized in this election. On the other hand, he pointed out that no new restrictions are in place at this time in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. “No new restrictions are currently expected,” President Iohannis said, while urging once again Romanians to be solidary with the authorities’ fight against COVID19 and wear a mask. Other main statements:
    • “If the vote on the budget revision were applied, this would “cost” over 6 pct of the Gross Domestic Product of Romania”, Iohannis said referring to the PSD amendments in the joint budget committees forcing the pensions increase by 40%.
    • We can’t afford healthcare system having to manage double epidemic – flu and COVID-19
    • Local elections on September 27 are “essential“, citizens should go to the polls.
    • “The whole range of issues” must be taken into account as regards the Eastern Mediterranean conflict and the fact that sanctions “are not an end in themselves.”
    • Iohannis also admitted that not all schools have benefited of the necessary tools to enable the education in good conditions and urged all involved authorities to resolve the problems as well as for the government to make a full assessment after the first two weeks.
    • As there is the risk that not all poll stations can be opened abroad due to the coronavirus pandemic, Iohannis called on the Romanians from Diaspora to vote by mail.
  • Romanian Social Democrats closer to forcing 40% pension hike: The Romanian Parliament’s expert budget committees passed the Social Democrats’ amendments to the budget revision law, promoting a 40% hike in public pensions starting September instead of the Government’s proposed 14% increase. Technically, the MPs have removed the Government’s proposal for a 14% rise while the 40% hike is applicable, in principle, by default under the Pension Law. Finance minister  Florin Citu, however, assured that “this will not happen,” according to Economica.net. If endorsed by MPs in this form and promulgated by president Klaus Iohannis, the budget revision law would push the country’s public deficit above 10% of GDP for more than a year. The strategy pursued by the Social Democrats is thus highly risky unless they plan to remain in opposition for another term after the general elections in December. Chairman of the National Party (PNL), Prime Minister Ludovic Orban, accuses PSD of “bankrupting Romania” by adopting certain amendments to the budget revision in the parliamentary committees that would generate expenditures of over 6.3% of GDP. “Today PSD (…) has bankrupted Romania. In the budget-finance committees, a majority of PSD of 20 delirious people, in my opinion, generated expenses of 6.3% of GDP through amendments submitted to the budget revision and, at the same time, they adopted another amendment through which Romania can no longer borrow, because they reduced from 47% to 40% of the GDP the maximum level of the public debt,” Orban said in Pitesti on Wednesday.
  • PM Orban attending start of construction works at subsea pipeline under Midia-MGD natural gas project: Prime Minister Ludovic Orban on Thursday attended in the Corbu rural town in the Constanta County the start of the construction works at the subsea pipeline that makes the object of the Midia-MGD natural gas project developed by Black Sea Oil and Gas company, part of the Carlyle Energy Group.  The head of the Executive stated that the project, worth a total of 400 million US dollars, is an extremely important one, with this being the first offshore natural gas deposit exploited in Romania. Prime Minister Ludovic Orban said in Constanta Thursday that the Government he leads supports capitalizing on Romania’s all natural resources “in a way that generates economic development potential“.
  • Romania recommends 10 delegated prosecutors, 20 support specialists for EPPO: Romania’s Justice Ministry (MJ) provided clarifications on Wednesday on the procedure of nominating the country’s delegated prosecutors to the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO), emphasising that the information and statements publicly carried that Romania would block the process of establishing the number of European prosecutors is not grounded in reality. President Klaus Iohannis stated on Wednesday that he will have a discussion with the Justice Minister, Catalin Predoiu, for clarifications regarding the number of prosecutors delegated by Romania to the European Prosecutor’s Office and made a parallel with Germany, mentioning that ten prosecutors from Romania “doesn’t sound so bad.”
  • HealthMin Tataru: There will be voting booths and boxes for persons with respiratory symptoms: Health Minister Nelu Tataru has stated on Wednesday that the persons that have a temperature over 37.3 degrees or respiratory symptoms when they come to vote in the local elections, organized on September 27, will have separate booths available.
  • In phone conversation with Cypriot counterpart, ForMin Aurescu discusses tensions in Eastern Mediterranean: Minister of Foreign Affairs Bogdan Aurescu had on Wednesday, a telephone conversation with his Cypriot counterpart, Nikos Christodoulides. Minister Aurescu reiterated Romania’s solidarity with Cyprus and its full support for the ongoing EU-level efforts to de-escalate and relaunch dialogue in the region. He presented, in context, the willingness to share the experience gained by Romania in the process of maritime delimitation in the Black Sea, settled by the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
  • Ciolacu criticizes budget allocations mainly to PNL mayors: Chairman of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) Marcel Ciolacu said on Wednesday that instead of directing money from the government’s reserve fund to real problems, Prime Minister Ludovic Orban used it to “buy mayors or parliamentarians”. He reiterated that the decision by which the money was allocated will be challenged by the PSD in the administrative contentious court, and the local administrations led by the Social Democrats will receive money at the budget revision. Marcel Ciolacu also brought up the voting abroad subject, as there is an issue with setting up voting sections due to the COVID crisis.
  • Health Min Tataru on World Patient Safety Day: Coronavirus pandemic unveils huge challenges, risks for healthcare workers: The SARS-CoV-2 virus pandemic has unveiled huge challenges and risks for healthcare workers, Health Minister Nelu Tataru said on Thursday on the occasion of World Patient Safety Day.
  • Marcel Ciolacu, confident of PSD winning local elections in Timis County: National chairman of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) Marcel Ciolacu said on Thursday in Timisoara that he is convinced the PSD candidates will win the local elections in Timis County, who will also get a good score even in Timisoara. However despite optimism, PSD has little chances of winning the Timisoara City Hall, where the incumbent mayor, Nicolae Robu (PNL), holds this position since 2012.

 

Impact on the economy

  • Authorities sign contracts for last segments of Craiova – Pitesti expressway: The Romanian state road construction and management company CNAIR signed the contracts for the last two of the four segments of the Craiova – Pitesti expressway with a group of local construction companies controlled by local businessman Dorinel Umbrarescu, Economica.net reported. The construction should be ready within 36 months. The expressway is expected to link Ford’s factory in Craiova to the A1 highway that will stretch (once completed) from the Black Sea port of Constanta to Romania’s western border.
  • Romanian state road company CNAIR promises Sibiu-Pitesti motorway by 2026: The tender for the third section of the Sibiu-Pitesti motorway will be launched soon, prime minister Ludovic Orban announced on September 16, Economica.net reported. The procedures have already started for three of the motorway’s five segments, and the European Commission recently unlocked EUR 875 million for them.
  • Merger of its subsidiaries might cost Romanian group Electrica EUR 128 mln: The merger of the three subsidiaries of Romanian state-controlled electricity distribution group Electrica might cost it RON 620 million (EUR 128 mln), Economica.net commented based on the interpretation of new regulations drafted by the energy market regulator ANRE. The possible financial losses incurred due to the flat distribution fee set under this procedure can be recovered, if demonstrated by the company, in the next regulatory period, Economica.net added.
  • Romanian company opens biggest local grain terminal after EUR 56 mln investment: Romanian port operator Comvex Constanta is preparing to inaugurate the largest grain terminal in the Port of Constanta, with a capacity of 200,000 tons. The company aims to become a grain hub, following an investment of EUR 56 million (including VAT) started in 2017. The investment was financed by Raiffeisen Bank and EximBank.
  • Italian group invests EUR 11.3 mln in Romanian steel bars factory: Italian AFV Beltrame Group, one of the largest European producers of steel and special steel bars, is investing over EUR 11 million in modernizing the rolling mill within its Donalam steel plant in Calarasi, southern Romania. The company will replace the current technology, dating from the 70s and 80s, which will reduce carbon emissions by up to 40% and increase the competitiveness of steel bars produced in Romania.
  • Romanian companies more willing to hire in September: Local online recruiting platform eJobs received more than 14,000 new job ads in the first half of September, more than in each of the last six months since the pandemic broke, but also compared to January, February and March before the crisis. The number of vacancies posted this September is thus almost equal to that of September 2019, when companies were still competing to attract candidates on a tight labor market.
  • Romania’s borrowing cost is double compared to euro area countries: The interest expenditures generated by Romania’s public debt will rise by 13% to EUR 3.1 billion this year and by another 26% to EUR 3.9 bln in 2021, according to a forecast of the European Commission. The increase in interest expenses for Romania is among the highest in the EU. The interest paid by Romania for its public debt this year accounts for some 1.5% of GDP – a ratio that is very close to that seen in the euro area. However, Romania’s public debt to GDP ratio is just over half that in the euro area: it will reach some 46.5% at the end of the year (up from 39.2% at the end of 2019), compared to an 85% debt to GDP ratio in the euro area.
  • Romanian IT sector’s turnover up 26% in Jan-Jul: The turnover index in the Romanian IT and related services sector increased by 26% in January – July compared to last year’s similar period. The growth rate was slightly slower, only 18.5% year-on-year in July alone. The index reflects the nominal aggregate turnover of the companies in the sector.
  • Working remotely – benefits and challenges conference organized by BNR Thursday: The National Bank of Romania (BNR) is organizing a conference on Thursday with the topic “Working remotely – benefits and challenges”.
  • ACEA: Romania, Estonia report in August most significant decline in car sales in Europe: New car registrations in Europe fell 17.6% in August to 884,394 units, while Romania and Estonia reported the most significant decline, according to the data released on Thursday by the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA). In August, the Romanian car market registered a decrease of 51.9%, with 11,157 cars registered, compared to 23,177 vehicles in the similar period of 2019. Estonia reported a decline of 42.3% last month.
  • Romania’s Fondul Proprietatea cashes in EUR 115 mln from OMV Petrom sale: Fondul Proprietatea (FP), the biggest investment fund in Romania, completed on Wednesday, September 16, the sale of a 3% stake in oil and gas group OMV Petrom (SNP). The fund sold 1.7 billion OMV Petrom shares representing 3% of the company’s capital, through an accelerated bookbuild offering.