Policy Performance


Economic Policies

Despite some positive signs, Romania falls into the bottom ranks internationally (rank 40) in the area of economic policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.3 points relative to 2014.

The exceptional growth rates of recent years have tumbled, but the overall rate remains robust. The growth has been driven by private consumption, boosted by tax cuts and strong increases in wages and pensions. Inflation rates are comparatively high.

Unemployment rates reached a 10-year low of 4.3%. Wages have grown substantially, led by an increase in the minimum wage. Problems include a high inactivity rate among the working-age population, high youth unemployment levels and a brain drain among the most educated youth.

A significant cut in the flat income-tax rate has enhanced reliance on indirect taxes. The fiscal deficit has grown to above 3% of GDP, driven by the tax cuts and public spending. Debt levels are rising as a result. Increases in R&D spending have been reversed, with funds recently withheld and grant allocations blocked.

Social Policies

With a number of problematic areas, Romania falls into the bottom ranks internationally (rank 39) with respect to social policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.1 point relative to its 2014 level.

Teacher salaries have been increased, and investments have improved school facilities. However, the education system remains of poor quality overall, with serious structural problems. Nearly one-third of the country’s population is at risk of social exclusion, with higher rates among the Roma. An anti-poverty program begun in 2016 has been largely ineffective.

The public health-insurance system falls significantly short of universality. The prevalence of informal payments, low doctor density in rural areas, and large-scale emigration exacerbate problems with care quality. Parental-leave benefits are generous, but a shortage of affordable child care hampers the work-parenting balance. Women today represent the majority of outward migrants.

Pension payments have been increased, undermining the system’s sustainability. Migration policy has been focused on retaining educated young Romanians. Anti-discrimination and labor-market mobility policies for migrants are strong, but education access and naturalization polices are weaker.

Environmental Policies

Suffering from ongoing difficulties with pollution and waste, Romania falls into the lower-middle ranks internationally (rank 24) with regard to its environmental policies. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.2 points relative to 2014.

Romania continues to struggle with developing and implementing comprehensive environmental regulations. Despite improvements to the waste-management regime, households and companies recycle little. The Danube river and its watershed are polluted by industrial and agricultural run-off, with soil degradation from poor farming practices increasing pressure on the ecosystem.

Illegal logging conducted by organized crime groups remains a problem. The forestry sector more generally suffers from poor regulation.

The country participated in the Paris climate conference, and has undertaken some measures to uphold its commitments. However, the withdrawal of the United States from the accord has relieved some international pressure to meet its obligations.



Quality of Democracy

With continuing tension between the government and civil society, Romania falls into the bottom ranks internationally (rank 38) with regard to democracy quality. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.4 points since 2014.

Political parties routinely circumvent campaign financing laws, with sanctions rare even in blatant cases. The government has significant influence over the public media, while private media owners often trade good coverage for favors from politicians. A high-profile referendum campaign against same-sex marriage, supported by the government, failed due to insufficient turnout.

Civil rights are generally respected, but preventive detentions and security-service surveillance activities have drawn criticism. Massive street protests have continued, with civil-society groups protesting modifications to the criminal code and the constitution. The state has not effectively countered discrimination against LGBT people, individuals with disabilities and members of the Roma community.

The government has sought to undermine judicial independence, sparking a fierce political battle and EU-level criticism. The head of the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA), widely deemed effective, was dismissed. The government’s attacks on the DNA, combined with funding cuts, have limited its ability to fight corruption.



Executive Capacity

With a number of notable weaknesses, Romania falls into the bottom ranks (rank 40) with regard to executive capacity. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.4 points relative to 2014.

Policymaking has suffered from a lack of strategic planning. Repeated reorganization of the government office has undermined its policy-evaluation capacity. Informal coordination has involved effective control by the PSD party leader, who has toppled prime ministers for acting independently. This has undermined formal government coordination measures.

RIAs are required, though quality and actual use are highly uneven. Ex post evaluations have remained the exception rather than the rule. Public consultation has been largely ad hoc, with external groups complaining that their views are not taken seriously. Ministry communications are occasionally contradictory.

Successive short-lived cabinets have sought to strengthen control over the judiciary and the anti-corruption body, but have failed to fulfil major campaign promises. Subnational governments are underfunded, contributing to the low quality of public services. Regulations are mostly enforced so as to benefit powerful lobbies and politicians’ clients.

Executive Accountability

With only a few bright spots in this area, Romania falls into the bottom ranks internationally (rank 40) with regard to executive accountability. Its score on this measure is unchanged relative to its 2014 level.

Individual parliamentarians have minimal resources, but fairly broad formal oversight powers. The current audit-court president is close to the head of the governing party, and parliament has proposed placing the body further under government control. A data-protection entity is underfunded, with its president tarnished by corruption charges.

Despite a wave of citizen activism and protest, the general level of policy knowledge remains low. Though some media organizations provide high-quality information, the largest media groups are highly partisan. Several brands with major market shares actively spread misinformation, contributing to the radicalization of politics.

Political-party decision-making is quite centralized, with the head of the governing PSD party wielding unprecedented authority. Business associations and unions play only a minor role in proposing concrete policy measures. Despite a dependence on international financing, a number of NGOs have significant analytical capacities.
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