Romania’s revolving door – an update

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A year ago, we at Euromoney marvelled at the near perennial progression of personages passing through the portals of Bucharest’s finance ministry in the 25 years since Romania’s tyrannical Nicolae Ceaucescu was toppled: 21 finance ministers since 1989. 

And the reason we – and the long-suffering Romanians who employed them – knew there’d been 21 ministers was because portraits of each of them who’d gone before were pompously crowding the walls of the ministry foyer, in honour – if that’s the right word – of their sterling public service to the Balkan nation.

Incumbent 21, back at the end of 2014, was 34 year-old economist Ioana Petrescu. She got the chop a few days after we had interviewed her, after just nine months in office. The official artist has been busy ever since. Over the past year there’s been – count 'em – no less than three more fin mins, with at least another one expected inside the next year after ex-PM (and, briefly, acting fin min) Victor Ponta’s government collapsed in the wake of myriad corruption scandals. The most recent occupant is Ana Paliu Draga, an economist with the European Commission in Brussels who was appointed in mid-November.

If all that sounds like chaos, then through it all there has been one reassuring constant in Romanian fiscal policy-making; the governor of the central National Bank of Romania, Mugur Isarescu. He’s been in that chair, save for a year when he was caretaker PM, since 1990, a sage and safe pair of hands to calm national nerves. The new fin min Draga worked under Isarescu at the NBR before going to Brussels.

When we asked Isarescu about that amazing revolving door at the finance ministry, notionally his policy peers, he sort-of smiled, wryly, and knowingly.

Or perhaps he was musing on how to pay for the annex surely needed at the ministry now there’s another round of vainglorious visages to be rendered in oil on canvas up there.