Statements by Prime Minister Ludovic Orban and other Cabinet members, at the start of the Cabinet meeting of June 16

16 June

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Ludovic Orban: We are starting today’s Cabinet meeting. At the start of it, I want to give you some information and to approach some topics which I deem important. You know very well that we have been criticized for the functioning of the SMEs Invest programme. The data shows that there are 4.750 companies whose credit was approved, and the credit ceiling reached to date, amounts to 3.8 billion. Of course, there are already two banks that have reached the maximum ceiling allocated under the program, and the pace of processing credit applications with the state guarantee will increase in the next period. As such, I have not the slightest emotion that the 15 billion ceiling will not be reached. Of course, here, Minister, we will have to reallocate the ceilings. If it is a bank that does not process credit applications at a convenient rate, we can take from its ceiling and allocate it to banks that are quick to resolve applications and make the decision to grant loans.

Florin Cîţu: Good. We look at how the program is evolving. There are some banks that, as you said, have already reached the ceiling and are advanced. If we stay a little longer, we see how things are evolving and we make another reallocation between the ceilings. But, I repeat, I also think that in a month's time we might think about whether or not we want to raise the ceiling.

Ludovic Orban: Good. Here we had from the beginning a commitment to raise the ceiling. In fact, in the law promulgated by the president, there is an increase in the ceiling, but we must wait for the approval of the European Commission. That is why we have suspended the application of some provisions of the law for adopting the ordinance because we need the approval of the European Commission because these amendments affect the state aid scheme that is approved by the European Commission.

I wanted to give you some data on the labour market. You know very well that many analysts, but also political leaders from the opposition predicted the apocalypse in the field of the labor market, soaring unemployment, we were even accused of not taking action. I'll just give you some data. In May, the number of citizens with employment contracts - not the number of employment contracts, the number of citizens with employment contracts in May 2020 was lower by only 14,000 compared to the number of Romanians with employment contracts in May 2019, despite the fact that April, May and June are the months with the greatest impact of the economic crisis. However, the measures we adopted defended Romanians’ jobs, and this is proven by data, figures. Over one million Romanians benefited from the furlough measure and approximately 70,000 Romanians, authorized individuals, professionals within the meaning of the provisions of the Civil Code, benefited from forms of support allowance. According to the data we have - obviously, they are changing- up to 750,000 Romanians benefit from the active measure of payment of 41.5% of the gross salary for employees who resume their activity within the companies in which they worked and who were furloughed. This shows that, practically, not many jobs have been lost in areas where there have been restrictions.

Because in addition to 750,000 Romanians, almost 750,000 Romanians who will benefit from this active measure, we have kept the measure of paying the furloughed salary for employees in areas that are still under restrictions. And, with the new relaxation measures that will open activity in several areas, the number of people affected, the number of employees working in the affected companies will decrease. And, certainly, many of those who are still furloughed, once the activity reopens, will resume their activity and will benefit from the measure we decided together in the government. I would also mention that there is a demand in the labour market. Of course, the availability of personnel does not always match demand, because it is always necessary a continuous process of training, learning new crafts, professional reorientation - and here we will have to allocate significant resources, but with changed mechanisms, we should stop throwing money at all kinds of programs, as it was in SOP HRD or other programs, but to effectively direct this money to the beneficiaries, to the people to be hired and to the companies that want to hire.

In terms of bank rates, there are almost 200,000 beneficiaries of the measure we have adopted, of postponing bank rates until  December 31. These 200 thousand beneficiaries are only those who benefited from the emergency ordinance issued by the government. Because, before the adoption of the normative act, several banks took the decision to postpone the payments before the entry into force of the normative act. In reality, the number of beneficiaries, individuals and legal entities, who were the beneficiaries of this measure of credit rates postponement was much higher, and the total amount of instalments they had to pay, amounts to 4.6 billion lei. In terms of sick leaves, you should know that we have reached an absolute record in the settlement of sick leave.

In May, we settled medical leave worth over 600 million lei. To understand the amount of the settlements, you should know that the average settlement for sick leave in 2019, until we came to power, until November 4, in the months before our coming to power, the average settlement amounted to less than 100 million per month. And in May, during the crisis, we paid more than 600 million in medical leave. What does this money mean? It means money that goes back to companies that paid for the sick leave for employees, it means providing liquidity in these companies, and providing liquidity in these companies was a goal that I systematically pursued through all the measures we have taken, it came to the aid of companies to maintain their working capital, to keep activity at an acceptable level and, above all, to keep employees, so as to minimize the number of people who are left without a job.

Minister Vela, again, Hungary took measures that are contrary to the EU Treaty on the free movement of people. I have received personal accounts, including from people I know personally, that they are not allowed to transit through Hungary, that the Hungarian authorities have re-established some transit rules for individuals travelling not to Hungary. I understand, if they want to establish for Hungary, for those who go to Hungary, specific health protection measures, as we have instituted. Once again, the free movement is affected and it is odd for me that the main victims are Romanian citizens. My request to you is to intervene urgently with your Hungarian counterpart and make a firm request for the free movement of people to be observed. There are families who left together, a father who wanted to take his daughter to her exams and who was not allowed because he was asked for an original employment contract and was not allowed to transit in the absence of an original employment contract.

Marcel Vela: Tomorrow, at 3:00 pm, I will have a video conference with Commissioner Ylva Johansson on the migration pact and I will also raise the issue encountered at the border with Hungary. Indeed, the behaviour of the Hungarian partners leaves much to be desired, because we had all the openness, including on the cross-border area and on everything that meant a liberalization of ...

Ludovic Orban: Cross-border area liberalization, all the measures we have taken for different categories of citizens, including pupils, students who have to take exams. Therefore, we were very open. Therefore, we must notify the European Commission because we cannot accept ... A large part of the Romanian citizens who travel to European countries - Austria, Germany, France -  transit Hungary. Or I don't know how many times they have faced such obstacles arising from administrative acts that seem to be dedicated to them. That's really annoying, I'm telling you honestly. Therefore, you should also contact your Hungarian counterpart and, if they do not waive such discriminatory measures, contrary to European legislation, you should notify the European Commission and act at European level for these European regulations to be observed.

Marcel Vela: Yes.

Ludovic Orban: Minister Oros, two points, payments per hectare and I am interested when you complete the compensation claims for farmers whose farms have been affected by the drought.

Adrian Oros: Yes. Mr Prime Minister, last night, the campaign for submitting the single payment claims for 2020 closed. Although it was carried out in atypical conditions, because we wanted to protect the health of APIA employees and of the beneficiaries and the APIA team developed with their own resources an online procedure so that farmers do not have to go to town halls, APIA or banks, all this connection was made by those from APIA, they managed to register an agricultural area by 170,000 hectares larger than last year ...

Ludovic Orban: That is, requests for payment for an area by 170,000 larger than last year ...

Adrian Oros: ... since last year, even if the number of applications is lower by 17,000. This means that some of the farms have merged and we have fewer farms, but a larger agricultural area than last year.

Ludovic Orban: In this respect, we have to plan our budget, maybe we will also see at the budget rectification so that we can make the payments when the farmers need the money so that we can allocate the money when they set up autumn crops and when they have other needs.

Adrian Oros: This year I issued those APIA certificates two months earlier. What does it mean? It means that after the negotiations we had with the banks, they can borrow on the basis of those certificates in an amount of 85% of the total amount that we will pay in the autumn. So, I helped a lot, because from May 16 all those who wanted to benefit ...

Ludovic Orban: But tell me, do banks accept these certificates as a form of credit guarantee for farmers?

 

Adrian Oros: Yes.

Ludovic Orban: I understand. Regarding the completion of drought assessments?

Adrian Oros: Yes. Here we have the total area that appears to have been affected, amounting to 1,165,000 hectares as reported.

Ludovic Orban: Did you carry out all the field checks, through a survey, to verify the veracity of the requests?

Adrian Oros: Yes, they were made ...

Ludovic Orban: Because there are some more enthusiasts, who ...

Adrian Oros: They were, but the area declared as hit area was 1,452,000 hectares, and after the verifications, this area reached 1,165,000 hectares.

Ludovic Orban: Here, too, we will have to do budget planning so that we can allocate resources for compensations.

Adrian Oros: Yes, until the autumn campaign, which starts at the end of August.

Ludovic Orban: So when do we have the final reports?

Adrian Oros: At the end of the week.

Ludovic Orban: All right. Minister Tataru, you received a report on what is needed, from the Ukrainian authorities or Mr. Aurescu, who ...

Nelu Tătaru: Yes, I discussed it with Minister Aurescu.

Ludovic Orban: Did you talk to Minister Aurescu?

Nelu Tătaru: ... he also has it. It remains to be seen ... today we will also receive the budget sheet from Finance and we will start the auction.

Ludovic Orban: The tender procedure must be initiated. Also, together with Secretary of State Arafat, you should prepare the medical team that will travel to Ukraine to help our partners. Before the government meeting, I had the meeting of the National Committee for Emergency Situations. Within the National Committee for Emergency Situations, we unanimously adopted the following decision: Article 1 - "It is proposed to extend the state of alert throughout the country for a period of 30 days, starting with June 17, 2020 '. Article 2 - "The measures to prevent and stem the coronavirus infections necessary, which need to be adopted from June 17, 2020, in the current epidemiological context, are set out in the Annex which forms an integral part of this Decision." Article 3: "This decision is communicated to all components of the National Management System for Emergency Situations for its implementation by order and administrative acts issued by their management." Compared to the situation existing so far, we have decided to take a new step in relaxation, in accordance with the decision we took on Friday in the Cabinet meeting, it is known that it will be allowed to carry out activities in mall-type shopping centres, surely, except for cinemas, restaurants, gaming rooms. The activity of the fitness and aerobics rooms will be resumed, for sure, under the strict conditions set out by joint order by the Ministry of Health. Also, the activity resumes in afterschool, kindergartens during the summer, also under the conditions set out by the joint order of the Minister of Health, the Minister of Education and the Minister of Labor. It is known that once the school finishes, the support measure we adopted, ceases. Through this measure, we ensured income for a parent to stay home with the pupil during the suspension of classes.

Once this aid form ceases, all these parents should return to professional activity, resume their work. Very many parents requested, without having the possibility to resort to other solutions while at work, the reopening of these kindergartens and those types of afterschool activities taking place during summertime.

As it is about children, my request is for you to be very active in checking the observance of conditions which were instituted by order. We do not play with the children’s health. All these rules we established by means of regulations should be observed by those performing such activities, to minimize the risk of infection of those benefiting from these services. Surely, the decision belongs eventually to parents.

Here I am convinced that parents will also see the conditions offered by the different structures, entities that provide these services and we will have to make sure that things are going in very good conditions. In addition to Friday's decision, we made the decision to allow services to be held inside churches as well. Here I would like to make a clarification. We did not close the churches. Churches were opened during this period. The only thing that was not allowed was the religious service indoors. It was allowed, for example, at various events: baptisms, marriages, certainly with a limited number of people attending, at the family level. Also, the churches were not closed, so those who wrote that the churches are reopening did not tell the truth. The proposal made by the National Committee for Emergency Situations is to allow the service to be held indoors, inside churches, and outside churches. As the churches vary in size, for the observance of the conditions to be established by the joint order of the Minister of Health with the Secretary of State from the Department of Cults and the Minister of Internal Affairs, they will receive a small number of believers who will be able to attend the service inside the church. For this reason, services will be held for believers both inside and outside churches. Here, we will have to stipulate very clearly the rules, especially the social distancing,  health protection rules, the rule of mask-wearing by all those inside the church, as well as the rules of disinfection of common areas, so as to minimize the risk of virus transmission. Of course, gambling activities are resuming. Here, it was a real campaign against us that we let the slot machines clubs open. Gambling is not just about slot machine games. Gambling includes also bookmakers, the lottery, a series of other games taking place according to the law. What those who criticize us do not understand is that the decisions we took regarding the measures of gradual relaxation, were based on the assessment of the epidemiological risk, we have taken the opening decisions where we have considered that the epidemiological risk is low or even if there is an epidemiological risk, through the protection measures established by joint orders, the health of the citizens can be protected. These are, briefly, the elements related to the CNSU decision. Minister Vela.

Marcel Vela: Mr. Prime Minister, given that the state of alert was established by Government Decision 394/2020 and already approved by Parliament Decision number 5/2020, the state of alert ends at the end of this day, I request the inclusion on the Cabinet meeting agenda of the Draft Government Decision on the extension of the state of alert on the territory of Romania and the measures to be applied during it, to prevent and combat the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ludovic Orban: Extension of the alert state for 30 days ...

Marcel Vela: For 30 days, from this moment.

Ludovic Orban: All right. Other proposals on the daily agenda, Minister Cîţu?

Florin Cîţu: Mr. Prime Minister, I propose the inclusion on the meeting agenda of the emergency ordinance regarding some fiscal measures, amendment of some normative acts and the extension of some deadlines and I will detail them.

Ludovic Orban: It is about the extension of some measures that we adopted in the state of emergency, the state of alert ...

Florin Cîţu: That’s right!

Ludovic Orban: And the imposition of fiscal measures, such as the special tax.

Florin Cîţu: The exemption for a period of 90 days of some taxpayers who fall under the incidence of the specific tax and here we have the code ... Hotels and other similar accommodation facilities, accommodation facilities for holidays, caravan parks, campsites and camps, other accommodation services, restaurants, event catering, other food services, bars and other beverage serving activities.

Ludovic Orban: Don't forget to ... In the discussions we had with the hospitality sector, with HoReCa, especially with those who managed beaches, we promised that we will exempt them from ...

Florin Cîţu: It is a proposal ...

Ludovic Orban: One of the three instalments they have to pay for the beaches they manage.

Florin Cîţu: It is a proposal that comes from the Ministry of Environment.

Ludovic Orban: Yes, it will be from the Ministry of Environment.

Florin Cîţu: And I think we will add to ...

Ludovic Orban: Yes, I agree with the introduction on the agenda. Any other suggestions? I am listening to you.

Vetuța Stănescu, Secretary of State: Mr Prime Minister, please agree to the introduction on the meeting agenda of the draft government decision on the functioning and organization of the Ministry of Public Works, Development and Administration.

Ludovic Orban: It is necessary after the adoption ...

Vetuța Stănescu, Secretary of State: It is necessary.

Ludovic Orban: Law approving the emergency ordinance.

Vetuța Stănescu, Secretary of State: Of course! Law 77/2020. Absolutely necessary.

 

Ludovic Orban: I understand. I agree.

Vetuța Stănescu, Secretary of State: Thank you!

Ludovic Orban: Minister, do you have any good news?

Monica Anisie: Yes, we have a piece of good news. Mr Prime Minister, please agree with the inclusion of the draft decision on the allocation of amounts from transfers from the state budget to local budgets, provided in the budget of the Ministry of Education and Research for financing in 2020 some capital expenditures of the state pre-university education units. It is in fact about the distribution of funds for the continuation of the works regarding sanitation facilities or the financing of the works for some sanitation facilities and provision of utilities to state pre-university education units.

Ludovic Orban: I mean it's about moving the sanitation facilities inside the schools to those schools where they are not inside at present, right?

Monica Anisie: Exactly!

Ludovic Orban: For how many schools is the funding?

Monica Anisie: These are 375 pre-university education units.

Ludovic Orban: All right. I agree!

Monica Anisie: Thank you!

Ludovic Orban: Any other suggestions? Thanks to the media.



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