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BANKING

Mugur Isarescu: Romania’s central figure

While finance ministers come and go, one man has been a figure of constancy for the nation’s economy: central banker Mugur Isarescu. He has created a fully functioning central bank in a market economy from the shell of a communist regime. With inflation under control and the exchange rate stable, what is his next challenge?

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Illustration: Pete Ellis



























The soaring walls and revolving doors of Romania’s communist-era finance ministry on Bucharest’s Constitution Square expose a deeply rooted instability that hampers one of Europe’s more volatile economies.

Portraits of former ministers are displayed around the walls of the ministry’s foyer, their faces looking beyond those doors to the pompous People’s Palace, one of the world’s largest buildings, that dictator Nicolae Ceausescu had built for him before he was toppled during the revolutions that swept eastern Europe in 1989.

Ministers must have departed office before their depictions go up here, and on the foyer’s southern panels, it’s getting rather crowded. This side displays Romania’s finance ministers since 1989, since Bucharest embraced democracy, capitalism, the European Union and, by 2019 as envisaged here, the fiscal disciplines demanded of its euro aspirations.

When Euromoney visited the ministry in mid-December, near 25 years to the day since Ceausescu fell, there were 20 portraits on the post-1989 side of the building.