Fresh News

Wednesday, 06 January

Press briefing by Prime Minister Florin Cîțu and Education Minister Sorin Cîmpeanu at the end of the Cabinet meeting

[Check against delivery]


Florin Cîţu: Good afternoon. On today’s Cabinet meeting, we started the preparation for the 2021 budget. In this respect, I notified every Ministry asking through a note several things. First of all, I asked an analysis of the current pieces of legislation in force and which have a budgetary impact, but cannot be fully covered by 2021's budget, and other pieces of legislation in force, but which cannot be enforced this year because of some legislative inconsistencies. Therefore, all pieces of legislation, for each ministry, with a budgetary impact, we will see where we will place them. I asked of course, each Minister to come up with a note of presentation and solutions for these legislative documents.

The second thing that I asked the Ministers, in the case of those ministries with economic operators under their authority, to conduct an analysis based on the accounting reports and the financial situation, which was also done in the past.

Until the 4th of February, each minister must present to the Government approval, a memorandum which contains the current situation of these economic operators, the causes that determined the registration of losses, outstanding payments and so on, and, of course, a set of solid measures, quantifiable and with clear deadlines to render these companies more efficient.

As I have said, granting sums from the budget to these economic operators will be firmly conditioned by observing the implementation of the measures mentioned in these memorandums.

There will be a memorandum for each Ministry, we will see there the terms, and the budget or money to be allocated to these companies will be conditioned by these terms.

The third thing requested to Ministries is the status of investment projects, which we also analyzed last year and I can tell that we could see a strange practice when looking at projects throughout 2016 -2020: projects which were included in the budget, some were budgeted, others not, but the implementation was very bad even for the budgeted projects.

Therefore, we asked for a list of all the investment projects that were included last year, the implementation in 2020, the implementation of each budget to see their status. /… / And another list of investment projects that were included in the 2020 budget but did not have commitment appropriations, so they were only included there. These lists will be sent to the Prime Minister's Office and the Ministry of Public Finance. Based on these lists, we will prioritize and budget these investment projects for 2020. An information note from the Ministry of Public Finance has been presented which will be the basis for a memorandum drawn up by the former Ministry of European Funds and the Ministry of Finance, with projects that can be financed from European funds and not from the state budget. I announced this last year when I was at the helm of the Ministry of Finance. We want those investment projects that can be financed from European funds, to be financed from European funds, not to put pressure on the state budget anymore. And we will have this list too.

Next week, we begin the procedure for the 2021 budget, with the preparation of the limits for each ministry. We propose that the budget enter parliament on February 4, be debated then and approved. Until then, we will do all these analyzes. These are the things I wanted to say on today's Cabinet meeting. Minister Cîmpeanu will present you a draft emergency ordinance. If there are any questions...

Reporter: As for the draft budget, why does it take so long to make this budget given that, at this moment, we operate, we know it very well, on 1/12 of last year's expenditure, especially since you said that you prepared a form of the draft budget for 2021, even if there is a higher number of ministries, in fact, we are talking about the same budgetary impact, in general, that you could take into account?

Florin Cîţu: On the one hand, we give our colleagues, the Ministers, the chance to get to know their ministries. And this request that I made today is in this direction. They will have the chance to know exactly what investment projects they have, the companies under their authority, whether they are profitable or not, to deal with restructuring and of course the legislation in force. It's an analysis I've never seen anyone conduct before a budget. I have said very clearly and I am firm about it: I want to reform! Public money will no longer be wasted. That is why this transparent analysis is needed. At the same time, it happens the same with the prioritization of investment projects: I want to budget those investment projects that can be done this year, not just to budget investment projects in general to present a high number. I tell you that for 2020, according to my estimates, nevertheless, the Minister of Finance may confirm or deny it over the next days, yesterday, we managed to hit a record in terms of investments, they amount to approximately 53 billion, I do not have the exact figure - you will see, after 12 months. But these investments too must be analyzed. I want to see that this money has been spent efficiently and that it has led to economic growth. That is why this budgeting this year is very rigorous. It takes a little longer, but you will see a positive impact on the economy.

Reporter: Precisely because I'm thinking about economics, the business community should know what to expect in the current year. 2021 has already started and at the same time you said in a statement in early 2019 that a delay in the draft budget in a year is unacceptable because it comes only in times of crisis. At this moment, don't you think that good predictability would help the business sector, given that currently, not even the fiscal- budgetary strategy is made public or at least the estimated GDP you have been working on?

Florin Cîţu: Let's take them one by one: predictability - the business sector has the greatest predictability on my part. I said that there will not be changes to the Fiscal Code, to taxes, everything goes forward. Secondly, regarding the fiscal-budgetary strategy, the government programme of this coalition says very clearly: we want to reduce the budget deficit below 3% in 2024. So, we already have a firm, clear target that we will stick to.  I have mentioned the budget deficit estimate for this year that we consider, 7 percent. These are the details for the business sector, and you will see that the business sector does not need more. The rest are details regarding how we will distribute the money this year. At the same time, we wanted to see the execution for last year, to know exactly how the measures we took, worked - you saw that, based on last year's budget implementation, we extended a series of measures that were in favor of the business sector, therefore, in my opinion, things are running in the right direction. We will see, if something new appears, we will let you know.

Reporter: And a clarification regarding the minimum wage: why didn't you approve it? You even said that this week you will approve the draft law on the minimum wage. Yet, it is not approved.

Florin Cîţu: I understand that it is in the approval circuit. The SME test was needed, the CES is required- there are several things to consider. When the opinion is given...

Reporter: The SME test should have been obtained before all the approval procedure started. You said there were only a few opinions left, not the actual test.

Florin Cîţu: It is in the process of approval. Everyone knows the value of the minimum wage in 2021 already.

Reporter: Mr. Prime Minister, I would like to ask you when are you going to approve that emergency ordinance whereby the medical staff who will vaccinate Romanians, will be remunerated, and how much will they receive?

Florin Cîţu: It was in first reading today. It will be approved next week.

Reporter: Can you tell us what this emergency ordinance basically provides?

Florin Cîţu: Although it is not a final form - a way to motivate family doctors to participate in this vaccination campaign, was additionally introduced. Regarding the amounts, we'll see, we'll discuss those amounts. I don't know if the final ones from this draft ordinance, remain as such. But compared to the initial project, a motivation scheme for family doctors was introduced to help this vaccination campaign.

Reporter: Apart from family doctors, who else will administer the vaccine? You accept resident doctors, volunteers including...?

Florin Cîţu: Yes. There are both resident doctors and volunteers. Volunteers, I do not know if they are included in the current document. But, I repeat, it is in first reading. It will go through the approval process and, depending on how the ministries will introduce or add things, we will see what it will look like. I say that the major change is the introduction of this motivation scheme for family doctors. We know very well, it can be very helpful right now.

Reporter Will we see this ordinance approved next week?

Florin Cîţu: Yes, it must be next week. I asked the Health Minister to get all opinions until next week.

Reporter: Are we ready for the second stage of vaccination, Mr. Prime Minister?

Florin Cîţu: Yes, we are ready. I say that in Romania the vaccination campaign is going well, and the estimates we have to go to 150,000 vaccines a day clearly show that the direction is good. When I communicated with prefects yesterday, there were 230, I do not know how many vaccination centers are at this moment, the intention to have 1,000 vaccination centers is ambitious. I'm sure it'll be attained. We need to bring more vaccines, to increase the pace of vaccine deliveries to Romania. That's actually a challenge. We are also limited by what happens in the EU, the way the vaccines are being approved and then delivered. I say we are ready to vaccinate 100,000 people per day, as quickly as possible.

Reporter: Vice Prime Minister Kelemen Hunor stated he insists schools be re-opened on February 8. I would like to ask you if you discussed with him and if you agree on schools re-opening on February 8?

Florin Cîţu: Of course, I had a discussion with Mr. Hunor and with Mr. Barna and I too want schools to reopen, to have restaurants opened, I said that last year too. As far as I'm concerned, if it wasn't for the health problem, I would like them to be reopened. Yet we have this pandemic conditionality. Minister will present you the amendment from the Emergency Ordinance. Personally, I believe that we must do everything we need to be able to reopen schools as early as possible, which is why it is important that in addition to the vaccination campaign we also have this campaign to reduce the effects of the pandemic, to keep up the pace. So far we have seen that numbers have dropped, we have reached a comfortable level, there are cities, municipalities that have come out of quarantine, and we must follow this trend. If we keep this trend, we can reopen schools on February 8. But I repeat that the vaccination campaign is important, we have the necessary resources and it is a top priority. At the same time, we must keep this campaign to reduce the effects of the pandemic. Let us not forget to further maintain physical distance, wear mask, use disinfectant, etc. Thanks.

Cătălina Mănoiu, Realitatea Plus. If teachers do not get vaccinated in a higher number, are you considering applying the same criterion, a financial incentive as it happens in the case of the doctors?

Florin Cîţu: There is no incentive for doctors to get vaccinated, it is intended for the family doctors to help the vaccination campaign, to register people for a vaccine.

Cătălina Mănoiu: However, we have seen in the European Union and in the United States that this vaccination incentive exists. Do you consider implementing it here?

Florin Cîţu: No, I see that in Romania there is an interest in vaccination. No, we are not considering this at the moment.

Cătălina Mănoiu: Only 50 percent of teachers said they will get vaccinated.

Florin Cîţu: There are estimates. I say to wait and see when there is the vaccination that there will be a higher number, and the majority will get the vaccine. I would not go on estimates and surveys, we follow what is happening in reality and you will see that it will be a successful vaccination campaign.

Cătălina Mănoiu: You talked about projects that cannot be financially supported during this year. From the data you have, what exactly do you mean?

Florin Cîţu: That is why I asked for this report. I said let's see.

Reporter: Don't you have a partial evaluation yet?

Florin Cîţu: I asked every minister today to present the situation regarding the projects that were financed last year, which must be financed, companies, everything. And then we'll see the report. I have my information, but I would like every minister to come up with solutions and with these lists as well.

Reporter: What are the risks for ministers who will not perform at the quarterly rate that you announced according to these plans to reorganize troubled companies?

Florin Cîţu: There will be no such ministers. I'm sure everyone will perform well. Thanks!

Reporter: A clarification! The state of alert expires next week; if you extend it. Will it be a Cabinet meeting? Monday, it expires ...

Florin Cîţu: We will make a decision depending on the national situation. Thanks!

Reporter: Regarding the vaccination campaign: is it possible to extend the vaccination scheme so that doctors' families are also vaccinated in the first stage? Did you consider this?

Florin Cîţu: We haven't had this discussion so far. Thanks!


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