Euromoney behind the Iron Curtain
We at Euromoney would never claim credit for Romania’s dramatic 25 year shift from the deepest, darkest communism of the Ceausescu era to today’s EU membership and its knocking at the euro’s door, but we’ve been fascinated to learn we’ve had a modest role in its economic transformation.
Mugur Isarescu, long-time governor of the central National Bank of Romania, told us that Euromoney was one of the first foreign magazines he ever read, as a freshly graduated economist in communist Romania in 1971.
His first job was as a researcher in the only institute that was allowed to monitor the goings-on of the evil capitalist world beyond the borders. That institute had a subscription to Euromoney, which had launched in London only two years earlier, and the fascinated young Isarescu would pore over it every month, and report his findings to his Stalinist superiors.
He says he was so absorbed by Euromoney that in 1976, when part of a Romanian delegation to the UK, he swung by the office to meet our then editor, the legendary Padriac Fallon.
“Its always been one of my favourite magazines,” he told us in December, almost 25 years to the day Ceausescu fell. “Its partly how I learned what modern banking was about.”
Save for a few months in 2000 when he was a fill-in prime minister, 65 year-old Isarescu has governed the NBR since September 1990, less than a year after the revolution, and has signed on until 2019, when Romania is slated to join the euro. He’s one of the world’s longest-serving central bank governors, and the critical constant policymaker of Romania’s transition to the market.
Which is more than we can say of Romania’s long litany of finance ministers – the current one, Darius Valcov, is the 21st since 1989. He’s only been in the job for about a month. We’re not sure Valcov reads Euromoney, but if Isarescu’s contribution is any guide, perhaps he should.
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?