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February 8-12 2021
Budget draft for this year has been modified
The budget draft for this year has been submitted for public debate. The executive in Bucharest is relying on an economic growth of 4.3%, and estimates a budget deficit of 7.1% of the GDP, as well as an annual rate of inflation of 2.4%. According to the draft, salaries and bonuses will stay the same, there will be no more vacation vouchers, overtime for state employees will be compensated only by free time, while students will only have a 50% discount on public transportation. PM Florin Citu said that there would be no tax increases to affect citizens and private companies. He also said that the budget would continue to pay for medical programs and the vaccination program against COVID-19. In the new budget structure, the Health Ministry will get 11% less money, and the Ministry of Education will have almost one percent more. The draft budget will be passed by the government next week, when it should go to Parliament for a vote. The opposition Social Democrats announced they would introduce amendments for all the major chapters of the budget. They accuse the incumbents of lack of vision and solutions to problems. According to opposition senator Radu Oprea, speaking on Radio Romania, this is a budget of austerity and cuts, is not oriented towards people, and does not bode well for the economy. The Social Democrats have introduced on Wednesday a simple motion against Health Minister Vlad Voiculescu.
More union protests in Romania
Trade union protests are growing. This week has seen protests by retirees after the announcement that pensions would be frozen this year, as well by penitentiary staff, for lack of personnel and unpaid increases. Syndicalists in the Sanitas Federation have protested in front of ministries, the government building in Bucharest, and prefects' offices in several counties. The Cartel Alfa union members picketed this week the Ministry of Finance and the Labor Ministry, calling for a decent minimum wage, equitable pensions, quality public services, and unblocking collective bargaining. After the government announcement that expenditure slashes would affect free transportation for students, their representatives also took to the streets. The latter said that the underfunding of education would have grave repercussions.
The first COVID-19 cases since school started
The situation after school reopening is good, said President Klaus Iohannis, specifying that over 10,000 education units are working in person for around 2 million children, which makes for over 70% of the total of students, with the others continuing to study online. The president said that teaching should be in person for children in the country, but he warned that the pandemic is not over, and that restrictions have to be observed as before. Klaus Iohannis made these statements after meeting on Thursday the minister of education, Sorin Cimpeanu. The two major topics of discussion were reopening schools and financing education with European funds. In this context, the head of state said that there are a number of schools with problems caused by insufficient financing, and said that European moneys can be invested in digitization, modernizing educational units, as well as introducing the concept of green schools. On Thursday, only four days since the beginning of the second semester of this school year, the first cases of COVID-19 started cropping up among students and teachers, both in the Capital and other counties.
The state of alert in Romania has been extended
On Friday, the state of alert in Romania has been extended by 30 days, keeping in place standing restrictions. During this period, the flashpoints of infection will be included in calculating the rate of infection in each locality. In addition, the National Committee for Emergency Situations updated the list of countries and areas with high epidemic risk. People entering the country from these areas have to submit a negative coronavirus test, run 72 hours at the most before entry, and have to go under quarantine for 10 days, or go under quarantine for 14 days if they don't submit it. At the same time, the vaccination campaign continues. This week, about 35,000 people per day were vaccinated, most with the Pfizer vaccine, and the rest with Moderna. The Astra Zeneca vaccine inoculation campaign starts on February 15. This vaccine, according to the national vaccination strategy, is aimed at people in the second stage, people with chronic disease or essential workers under 55. Scheduling for vaccination was resumed on February 10, after being restricted for vulnerable situations for a while. The authorities announced that they would open in February 180 new points of vaccination, of which 22 in the capital alone. Meanwhile, Romania expects new tranches of vaccine from the three main producers, according to the set schedule. Until then Romania has administered a symbolic number of one million doses.
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