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3rd Mar 2024

Romanian PM resigns over anti-government protests

  • Emil Boc admitted the austerity measures have been 'painful' (Photo: Romanian government)

Romanian Prime Minister Emil Boc on Monday (6 February) resigned together with the entire government in response to several weeks of anti-government protests.

"I decided to hand in the government's resignation," Boc announced in a press conference in Bucharest, adding that he took this decision in order to calm "social tensions" and so that the "economic stability of the country is not affected."

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The ruling party lost its majority in the upper house last week, after two MPs defected to the opposition, making it impossible for Boc's government to pass further austerity measures.

Boc admitted the austerity measures his government had to take so far as part of an €20bn EU-IMF-World Bank bail-out have been "painful".

In 2010, his government slashed public-sector wages by 25 percent and increased VAT from 19 to 24 percent. But Boc insisted that the measures are paying off because Romania returned to economic growth in 2011 and is projected to have a higher growth rate in 2012 than eurozone countries.

For its part, the IMF (International Monetary Fund) on Sunday cut Romania's growth forecast for 2012 to 1.5-2 percent from 1.8-2.3 percent as earlier predicted "in light of the more difficult economic environment in the euro area."

Romania last year concluded a second, precautionary-type agreement with the IMF and the EU on a credit line of €5 billion to be drawn in case of emergency.

"Romania is better prepared than other EU countries to cope with the economic crisis," the head of the IMF mission, Jeffrey Franks said in a press conference on Sunday, before the government's resignation.

But for thousands of Romanians who took to the streets in the past few weeks, the reassurances are not enough. Initially sparked by a controversial health care reform which was later scrapped, the protesters vented their fury at politicians' incompetence, hard living conditions - a minimum wage of €161 a month and pensions which are often smaller than the expenses needed for medical treatment - extra taxes, inefficient public administration, widespread corruption and nepotism.

The Social-Liberal opposition is now calling for early elections and a transitional government under a technocratic leader.

"We are a drifting ship on a very turbulent sea," Socialist leader Victor Ponta said, adding that his party is open for "any responsible solution" for the country.

General elections were supposed to take place later this fall and opinion polls put the Social-Liberal camp well ahead of the ruling centre-right party, at around 50 percent of the votes.

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