Archive for category Inside Romania

Innovation

See below a Romanian solution to a German vehicle’s problem: just put in there a PET bottle. It’s green, so it’s eco friendly :)) At least, it is a Mercedes bus. In Bucharest.

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Solitudine aparentă

Nici măcar acest stâlp, aflat singur pe un câmp, nu este izolat de restul lumii. Firele de curent electric cărora le este sprijin îl conectează cu alți stâlpi, cu oamenii cărora le este necesara energia electrică. Uneori, conteaza să nu uităm această realitate.

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Observatii urbane (I)

Ieri, stand la semafor in zona Garii de Nord, surprind urmatoarea scena: un grup de patru persoane, doi barbati si doua femei. Ei, cu aparenta de pesti, ele, cu aparenta de curve. Una dintre ele protesta, cu voce destul de sonora, ceva in legatura cu niste bani. Unul dintre ei, ii da replica: “ce tipi asa, fa? ce tipi asa??”, cuvinte pe care le-a insotit cu trei lovituri scurte, orientate precis in gura protestatarei.

Primul impuls a fost sa opresc masina si sa intervin (n-ar fi fost prima oara). Dar am ezitat si, in final, m-am decis sa imi vad de drum. De ce am ales sa nu ma bag? Pentru ca, in minutele in care am fost martorul scenei, am vazut ca:

Respectivul a lovit-o convingator, dar cu palma, nu cu pumnul. Asadar, nu o pedepsea, ci ii facea educatie. De altfel, inconvenientul reclamat de respectivul era numarul de decibeli cu care respectiva apucase sa se exprime pana in acel moment.

Respectiva nu a avut absolut nicio reactie la loviturile incasate. A tacut imediat, dar a continuat sa mearga langa respectivul, un pic mai semet, e adevarat, ca sa arate ca are si ea mandria ei. Prin urmare, nu era prima oara cand dialogau fara cuvinte si era deprinsa cu astfel de “lectii”.

Dupa primul impuls, gandul imediat a fost “ok, sa zicem ca intervin … mai departe ce se intampla?”. As fi putut pati precum unii prieteni ai mei care au intervenit in situatii similare si s-au trezit atacati cu palme si tipete tocmai de cele in salvarea carora sareau, pe motiv ca “ce se baga??”. Desigur, logic este sa presupunem ca ele au actionat rational, urmarind sa-si demonstreze fara echivoc loialitatea fata de indivizii alaturi de care aveau sa ramana in continuare, mizand pe aprecierea acestora din urma, exprima in mai putini pumni incasati pe viitor. Deci, si de data asta putea fi o asemenea situatie. Si chiar daca nu s-ar fi repetat o scena precum cele descrise, din reactia total pasiva a respectivei, rezulta clar ca tot cu respectivul avea sa isi petreaca ziua si zilele. Sau cu unul ca el. Nu vad ce finalitate ulterioara, pozitiva, ar fi avut o eventuala interventie din partea mea.

In mod particular, am de facut o observatie, deloc corecta politic. Respectivul era de etnie rroma (tigan), respectiva era de etnie romana. Din cate stiu eu, pestii tigani le bat mai abitir pe curvele romance, cel putin prin comparatie cu cele de etnie rroma. Departe de mine intentia de a fi rasist. Doar exprim o realitate, asa cum o stiu eu.

In mod general, Bucurestiul e plin de pesti si de curve. Iar acestea din urma … nu toate au conditiile de lucru propice pe care le ofera un salon de “masaj”. Sunt destule, inca, pe strada. Unele sunt minore si nu au nici macar carte de identitate, deoarece le-a fost luata de “mame” adoptive, care le trimit la produs (am cunoscut cazuri concrete, nu vorbesc din auzite). Viseaza sa plece in Italia sau Spania, unde sa faca acelasi lucru, dar poate in conditii mai bune. Pentru asta, sunt dispuse sa isi asume riscuri nebunesti (de parca ratiunea ar mai insemna ceva in atare conditii) si sa asculte orice minciuna spusa de cate un plasator de fete. Iar unele nu vad niciun motiv pentru care sa se lase de droguri.

Unde sunt autoritatile, unde sunt ONG-urile, unde este biserica (oricare ar fi ea) ? Pentru aceste institutii, pe strada nu e nimeni.

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American soft power in Romania (IV)

American cars

You see them in the movies, in music videos or read about them in books. You could dream of driving one, not speaking of owning one. The beautiful, heavy old times American cars. There are only a few countries in the world able to claim such a powerful image, and to have their national identity associated with a huge automotive industry. The USA brand includes the American cars, no doubt.

All over the world, people admire them, regardless of how they see the political stances of the US authorities. Such cars are used for practical purposes, like making commercials, or for very humane actions, like expressing love or getting married. Some even make a cult from owning American cars and congregate in dedicated clubs. There are such private associations in Mexico, Japan, in the European states, Sweden or Romania. Even tourists in Cuba love them.

I watched today, being driven in Bucharest, two such American cars: a Ford Mustang made in 1967 and a Chevrolet Corvette from the ’50, both perfectly maintained and fully functional. I took pictures of the logo of each.

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The US embassies from abroad should have a database with these cars and their owners. Usually, these people are rich and, in various degrees, influential. They should be kept in close connection with the embassies and invited to American branded events. With a small effort, make them feel proud for being owners of such pieces of American history.

IMG_20150929_141657By doing this, their efforts to recondition and keep alive such amazing cars would be valued and even turned into the Embassy’s own advantage. Their passion itself shows they have connections in the local environments, be that in the field of economy, politics, art or media. Every time they drive or exhibit their cars, they inherently project American soft power. After all, this is free and high quality advertising for the USA.

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American soft power in Romania (III)

Continuing the series dedicated to this topic:

Doing American business in Romania

The commercial approach of promoting American soft power is to put together American world-wide known symbols and any product made in the USA that can be sold overseas. Advertise it in association with the chromatic mark of the US flag – blue, red and white – and with the word “American” inserted in any text. The principle employed in such cases would be that the straightest path to reach people’s mind is to target their basic needs, such as eating. Thus American food is one perfect example, as one doesn’t need much brains to get the message.

The photo from below shows one of the big ads placed on the walls of the subway stations in Bucharest:

IMG_20150630_203523The first one is clever: it creates a straight link between the place where the product originates and the place where the customer is, as it says “The American dream has a better taste here in Romania”. This is not just food, but living the American dream. At the same time, it flatters the Romanian buyer by discretely implying something what everyone here believes – the Romanian agricultural products are tastier than the ones made in the West, and they are! Although the brand and the meat are both Americans, some of the ingredients are locally purchased. Consider it a win-win situation.

The photo from below shows one of the advertising cards placed on the tables of a pub:

IMG_20150615_155823The second one goes even further: it has everything, the flag, the USA acronym, the buffalos, and the riding cowboy. Among these, the price displayed in the local currency – “lei” – properly adjusted to the Romanians’ average income. That means anyone can afford to buy some American food, and by doing so to take a bite of the American dream, live a little of an western movie adventure, feel a thrill far away from the every-day life.

Now, this method of promoting American soft power has a net financial advantage: there are almost no costs for the American government, as the private entrepreneur delivers the message anyway, according to his own business interests. Of course, the government has little control or none over it, and mistakes could occur, resulting in wrong messages being delivered to the targeted public. But through consultations such potential cases of mismanagement can easily be avoided. In terms of efficiency, everyone wins: the US government promotes the American symbols overseas, the US companies sell their products, and the Romanian customers feel good about it. Moreover, the entire thing has a full legitimacy: it’s a private enterprise and no one could suspect this is a deliberate action aiming to influence people’s views and opinions, according to some hidden agenda of the US’ political interests. Just enjoy the food!

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Closing time for the pink rats

Prime-minister Victor Ponta was indicted on October the 17th, as the National Anticorruption Division (NAD) is charging him with 17 counts of forgery in private deeds, complicity in tax evasion and money laundering, together with senator Dan Şova and the head of the Rovinari complex at the time, Laurenţiu Ciurel. According to the Romanian constitution, the prime-minister can not even be suspended by the Romanian president, because the offenses he is being charged with were not committed during his prime-minister term.

The action of the NAD yesterday generated rumors about the potential resignation of Victor Ponta as prime-minister. Some claimed that he would resign in a few hours, while others were skeptical. By the time the newspaper went to print, Victor Ponta had only posted one response on his personal Facebook page, deliberately overlapping the country’s situation with his personal issue: “In three years Romania will economically surpass many European countries – that’s what the IMF says! I strongly believe that this is achievable, through the Romanians’ work and through a more effective government (and then, in 2018, we will think that the times when the economy is growing, salaries and pensions are growing, we are absorbing European funds and we are helping the Republic of Moldova, and the country’s only problem is the obsession of a completely unprofessional prosecutor to further his career, by making up untrue facts and situations ten years ago)!”.

Just one day earlier, senator Ilie Sârbu, Victor Ponta’s father-in-law, was appointed by the Romanian Parliament as vice-president of the Audit Authority of the Romanian Court of Audit, for a nine-year term. His nomination was possible despite the fact that he is being criminally investigated in the restitutions case, in which Viorel Hrebenciuc, his former colleague in the government and in the Parliament, has been indicted. The Romanian legislation does not view as a problem holding an important position within the institution which supervises the manner that public funds are spent, while the suspicion of having committed criminal offenses looms over them.

Victor Ponta and Ilie Sarbu have a common past, based on their kinship and their simultaneous holding of multiple functions within the Romanian government. They now also have a similar present, at least where the criminal legislation is concerned.

The deeply vicious way that both of them have looked at and hungered for the nation’s wealth now explains why each of them clings to a public position and hopes to extend as much as possible, the life duration of the obscure species that they belong to.

It is a matter of survival, but not of the individuals, but of a hybrid species of “pink rats”, born before 1990, at the confluence between the communist regime and the foreign capitalism, and subsequently raised through the spoliation, regardless of the means, of the public resources managed by the Romanian government which they completely mistreated, because formally it wasn’t theirs and ” they” didn’t feel like they belonged to it either.

“They” are the ones who have created, for 25 years, laws that facilitate if not their perpetuation, at least the withdrawal into nooks such as the Court of Auditors, to escape the general disinfection which is, at its core intended to redistribute the public resources towards the security pillars of every modern democratic country: army, education, healthcare. In order to achieve that goal, the remaining rats and their heirs have to be driven away from the barn, and the mice that would inherently remain should be afraid to steal more than a few grains.

Victor Ponta’s departure as prime-minister is not a matter of “if”, but of “when”. The structure that has raised him and supported him has been slowly but surely eroded, and Victor Ponta now hangs in the strings that have always dictated his moves. On his own, he doesn’t know what to do and he becomes receptive to the suggestions of his friend and “basketball comrade” Sebastian Ghiţă.

The successor of the current prime-minister will need to have the ability to negotiate an apparent or partial pact with the species that Victor Ponta is the exponent of and to secretly join the disinfection campaign, at risk of falling victim to it themselves eventually. The next prime-minister will have stability if they understand that the state apparatus is going through a transition imposed by the scale of the transformations that Romania as a whole has gone through over the last decade and which has been progressively accelerated by the dangerous developments in Romania’s eastern side.

Political sources claim that after the possible rehttps://wordpress.com/post/24090475/684signation of Victor Ponta, his successor will be Gabriel Oprea for a few months, who could also be invited to take on the management of the PSD. In this scenario, a minority Liberal government could be formed which would be active until next year’s general elections.

Winter is getting close and with it, the usual snow-ins of cars, trains and people. :)) Perhaps the Victoria Palace will set up a crisis commandment led by a strong person, experienced in dealing with difficult situations and dedicated to the nation’s interest before winter comes. Maybe, if they are also endorsed from abroad.

This article was written by Iulian Mareş, translated by Cosmin Ghidoveanu, and initially published in the “Bursa” journal.

http://www.bursa.ro/the-rumors-about-the-prime-minister39s-resignation-victor-ponta-keeps-changing-his-mind-278833&s=english_section&articol=278833.html

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Road wishbone

       Motto: “One of two things: either it gets revised, and I accept that! But it doesn’t get changed in any way; or, it doesn’t get revised, and I accept that! but then it should get changed here and there, namely in the crucial points”, political speech held by Tache Farfuridi (“A lost letter”, a play by Romanian author I.L. Caragiale). roads

       Two highway projects, Piteşti – Sibiu and Ploieşti – Braşov, threaten to disturb the peace of Carpathian bears and to assuage the anger of amateur drivers who are fond of mountain landscapes or of road trips across Europe. Both of them involve crossing the Romanian segment of the Carpathian mountains and have long been the focus of the public and to a lesser degree of the Ministry of Transports, as shown by the statements made by a current minister and a former minister, respectively: the minister in office, Iulian Matache, gave an honest and logical answer when he was asked about the fate of the Ploieşti- Braşov during his term, saying “I don’t know how long or how short my term is going to be”, and his predecessor, Ioan Rus, oscillated with his typical dependability between considering Piteşti – Sibiu a highway one day and an express road the next, only to finally resign, exhausted by all the going back and forth.

Piteşti – Sibiu is a highway that has been insistently requested by Dacia Renault and very kindly recommended by the French Embassy in Bucharest, whereas Ploieşti – Braşov is a highway which is wanted by the owners of hotels and guesthouses in the Prahova Valley, of the Rucăr – Bran lane, and of Poiana Braşov, with many of them having mutual interests as the domestic politicians or being members of it. These two projects compete with each other and when looking at them on the map, they make up a wishbone which the Romanian government will have to break, because it is hard to believe that it will be capable of supporting two simultaneous “works of art” of that scale. The latter project isn’t eligible to receive European funding, because it is not part of the pan-European transport corridor number IV, unlike the former, which also has the benefit of facilitating the travels of president Klaus Iohannis to his native hometown of Sibiu.

When used buy Romanian transports ministers, the word “priority” is ridiculous, or rather, denotes that there are financial interests of the parties they belong to, given what the priority of building highways actually means. For example, the project of the Piteşti – Sibiu highway has “advanced”, while not actually moving forward, from the drafting of a first feasibility study, which cost 2.5 million Euros, to the drafting of a second feasibility study, contracted for 6.5 million Euros. The progress is obvious, but not for drivers, just for the consulting firms that win calls for tenders repeatedly organized by the generous Romanian state. Thus, another “pipe dream” highway.

Given these circumstances, it is not surprising that in June this year, the US embassy publicly warned about the habit of the Romanian authorities to contract feasibility studies which are superficial or outright obsolete. The appetite for such studies does not show that the Romanian government is smart or has a natural penchant for research, it just reflects the lack of will to help the country progress, which is hard to understand for foreigners.

A brief comparison: Slovenia is a European country which, in terms of its surface, (20,000 square km) and number of inhabitants (2 million), is ten times smaller than Romania. Keeping those ratios, it should have 10% of the total number of kilometers of highway which Romania has (696 km), in other words about 70 km. But Slovenia has 533 km of highway. By reversing that same proportion, Romania should have over 5,000 km of highway.

The Slovenian highway networks has capital Ljubljana as its hub and it cris-crosses the country, literally, as it forms two North-South axes, which are perpendicular with a long East-West axis, which all have their endings on Slovenia’s borders with Croatia, Hungary and Italy. For comparison, Romania’s first interconnection with the European highway network was made on July 11th, 2015. Slovenia has achieved that by launching in 1994 a National plan for the construction of highways, which it has actually adhered to, whereas Romania only completed the first “post-communist” segments of the Sun Highway in 2004. The essence of the Slovenian plan was to connect the Alps to the shore of the Adriatic Sea and to exponentially increase tourism revenue, by reducing the time needed to travel from one resort to the next as much as possible. In Romania, the construction of highways is still an issue in the context of the (as of yet!) unfulfilled desideratum to unite Romania’s historical regions through the road infrastructure, while the local “barons” are short-circuiting the decision-making process at the level of the ministries responsible (see the project of the Bucharest – Alexandria highway, discussed by Liviu Dragnea, which is welcome, but not immediately necessary).

Because of the mountainous landscape, neither the Piteşti – Sibiu, nor the Ploieşti – Braşov highway is easy to build. For now, it can be seen how the evaluation, design, approval and auctioning stage is taking anywhere from five to ten years. For the first of them, the drafting of the feasibility study has just been restarted from scratch. In the case of the second, the uncertainty is complete: the segments of the Ploieşti – Braşov highway have been the object of multiple calls for tenders held by the government which have then been cancelled, without anything actually happening.

Between the two projects, the one that leads to Europe the fastest is the Piteşti – Sibiu highway and it can also have a greater effect on the country’s economy, by clearly facilitating Romania’s exports to the Community market. But at this snail’s pace, the growth gap between Romania and the other countries of the European Union will not be closed during the lifetime of the current generations, but a lot later, and the benefits we want for our children will be late in appearing.

This article was initially published by the “Bursa” Journal, written by Julian Mares and translated by Cosmin Ghidoveanu.

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