You know, I’ve been following Romanian politics since 2004, and I truly believed that I had seen everything.
But this week, I learned something new from Victor Ponta of all people.
The president of the Pro Romania Party, Victor Ponta, told the press that political parties should stop taking subsidies from the government for a year and instead apply that money towards paying pensions.
Say what? Political parties taking money from the government?
It turns out he’s right. According to Law 334 (PDF), passed in 2006, every political party that currently has a seat in the parliament is entitled to monthly payouts from the government. Furthermore, the amount is calculated on a) how many seats each party has and b) a percentage of forecasted future government revenue.
Mind you, this isn’t about corruption or dirty tricks. It’s a long-standing law that says, “Ok, here you go. Here’s some free money. Have fun!”
The payments are recorded online but not organized, so I put together a little table.
Note: My table includes payouts for all parties, including PSD (Ponta’s old party) and the USR (the opposition). But if you visit the website, it breaks how much was sent to each party. The PSD, with the most seats in the parliament right now, gets the lion’s share of the money.
I realize that 42 million dollars isn’t really “that much” money in terms of Romania’s entire budget, but still…. that really IS a lot of money to be handing out! And for nothing, really.
Note: The Republic of Moldova has a nearly identical law.
According to Ponta, the poorest (i.e. 540 lei/$133/€106 per month or less) pensioners in Romania could see their payouts double if the political parties stopped taking government subsidies.
Of course, right now, Ponta’s new party isn’t getting any of this money, so it’s really easy for him to suggest foregoing free government money in order to pay poor pensioners a little more.
But it is truly astonishing that Romania, perpetually struggling with budgetary shortfalls, still has such an expensive line item in place to subsidize successful political parties.