Government cheese

I still have no idea what the Szeklers mean when they want autonomy but, as I said in my article, the biggest problem in Romania is that literally everything is decided in Bucharest.

A case in point – yesterday President Basescu signed into law a bill that will increase the salaries of mayors, deputy mayors and members of the local city councils throughout Romania.

government-cheeseThe idea that the national government needs to be paying for mayors and county council members is, to me, utterly preposterous. Certainly in America and England it is the locality itself that pays the salaries of its administration. A mayor, after all, works exclusively for the city so it makes sense that the city would pay for its own civil servants. But here in Romania taxpayers in Bucharest are paying the salary of a village mayor halfway across the country.

For “cities” with more than 7,000 residents, the mayor will now receive 4200 lei (roughly 933 euros) per month.

For “cities” with more than 10,000 residents, the mayor will now receive 4900 lei (roughly 1100 euros) per month.

And for cities with more than 30,000 residents, the mayor will receive “more than” 5000 lei per month.

Each mayor’s salary is based on a formula that includes the number of his/her city’s residents and the level of education the mayor has and a few other things so it’s impossible to know with certainty what any given mayor is earning. However Romania Libera is reporting that the mayor of Bucharest (Sorin Oprescu) will now be earning “more than” 80000 lei (roughly 1800 euros) per month.

Not only do I think it’s wrong for the national government to be paying for local administration positions but you can see just how unfair these salaries are. A mayor in a small town (between 7k and 10k residents) making 4200 lei a month is probably one of the richest people in that city as even here in Cluj (over 300k residents) a good job for a university graduate with several years of work experience is usually less than that.

In contrast, Bucharest’s mayor is making far too little. Extrapolating his monthly salary (in lei) and converting to euros, he’s earning roughly the equivalent of 22,000 euros a year for managing a city with approximately 2 million residents.

The mayor of London (~8 million residents) is making 144 thousand pounds per year (171k euros). Even in a comparable city like Vienna, Austria (population ~1.7 million), the mayor is making 228,000 euros a year. And the mayor of Paris (~2.2 million residents) is making over 8,000 euros a month (104k a year).

Clearly the management of the European Union’s sixth biggest city, with millions of residents, is a full-time job with enormous responsibilities and yet Oprescu is making a pittance compared to his counterparts throughout Europe. But in contrast, mayors of dinky little towns like Turda or Lugoj or even “wide spots in the road” like Baciu are making a king’s ransom.

Even worse, the new law will also increase salaries for 6,339 other local politicians with some of them getting up to a 50% boost in their paychecks. It’s hard for me to even believe that a this country needs that many local politicians. Doing the math (a total of 6600, 6339 + 261 who were ineligible for a salary increase), this means that there’s one local politician for every 3000 people in this country.

That sounds abundantly democratic until you remember that each and every one of these people is dependent on Bucharest for their livelihoods. It’s the same with all other city positions that in countries like Britain or America would be paid by the local authorities, including school teachers, police officers and firefighters. Everyone from mayors to cops on the beat are organized on a national level and paid by the central government in Bucharest.

And, as what has become usual in this country, even this law to increase local politicians’ salaries was not passed by the usual parliamentary procedure but is, once again, another one of Ponta’s government’s “emergency ordinance” bills.

As His Excellency Martin Harris (UK ambassador to Romania) said on his blog two years ago:

One of the most common concerns I hear from British companies is the need for more predictability in the legislative environment. The phrase ‘Emergency Ordinance’ is not a popular one with them.

The problem with Emergency Ordinances is that, by their nature, they introduce sudden changes in the rules and allow little time for consultation. That means that a company can suddenly discover that the assumptions it based its business plan on no longer hold true. Also that the government does not always take the time to assess the full impact of the measures that are being introduced.

In short, extensive use of Emergency Ordinances increases the risks attached to any investment in Romania, and makes the investment climate less attractive.

That was in response to then-PM Ungureanu promising that his government would use fewer “emergency” ordinances. Of course his government only lasted two months and since April 2012 we’ve been saddled with Victor Ponta, whose government has passed hundreds of “emergency” ordinances, including this most recent one to increase salaries (at a net cost of 8 million lei or 1.7 million euros) for local politicians.

Frankly, as much as I detest the Szeklers for being myopic extremists, they really should just go “all in” and hold a referendum to declare their independence and then try to stake out their own sovereign country. Autonomy is never going to happen when even the mayor of Odorheiu Secuiesc is dependent on Bucharest for his salary.

6 thoughts on “Government cheese

  1. Don’t worry about oprescu making “far too little” – he makes a whole lot more on the side with his back-handers from the real estate mafia…


  2. the idea is to increase the salary of mayors in small villages so they don t fall to acts of corruption as easy as before


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