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If the IMF is necessary...

Autor: Daniel Daianu 14 Ian 2009 - 00:00

People talk about the imminent appearance of an arrangement between the IMF and Romania to cover an "empty whole" in the external financing of the current account deficit; they would rely on the credibility that such an arrangement would provide for the economic policy.

The markets are so frozen that the issuance of bonds by the governments (and eventually by the central banks) is more than problematic.

I argued that an agreement with the IMF would be the last resort; we found that funding from the European institutions, for the public budget needs or for the needs of the payment balance are to be preferred and it would have been well for Romania to initiate the discussions for this matter in the past. If, however, we will end up with the IMF as an imminent solution, I suggest that our authorities (Government, NBR) should take into consideration a series of aspects. The balance (stabilization) program, which would have been a part of the package of financial assistance, should consider the economy recession in Europe and in the entire world in order not to enhance vicious circles in our economy. The program should cover several years, which would allow a gradual drain of the local public finances. I am talking about the avoidance of a programmed drastic reduction of the budget deficit below 2% of the GDP in 2009, especially when the dynamics of our economy would show that under this threshold the avoidance of the recession in the country would not be possible. The rigidity of many public expenses: there is no need for an excessively procyclic budgetary execution in the rapid growth period to be replaced with an excessively procyclic one in the period of the dramatic slowing of the economical growth. The reimbursable European funds should co-finance non-refundable European funds. This is how we would have free resources to use in case of expenses caused by the decrease in the fiscal revenues. The absorption of the EU funds should be a piece of resistance in the construction of the general budget; since these funds will be higher, it will be more likely to have a budget that would compensate the weakening of the private sector. It is desirable to avoid an increase in taxes when the economy weakens sensibly. A target budget deficit around 3% of the GDP in 2009, with considerable funding from the European institutions and the IMF, becomes reasonable under the given circumstances (this is how we would avoid a significant eviction effect on the domestic market of credit). The NBR should have a swap-type arrangement with the ECB. If the recession is to be long over time (it will still be in 2010 ...), we must be prepared to adjust the program. There could be some serious corrections of the tax revenues, but they could be compensated by a spectacular increase in the absorption of the European funds.

There is an express recommendation of the European Commission regarding the national budgetary stimulants; it says that, in periods of recession, it is normal to increase the budget deficits, but in the conditions in which these targets would be getting under 3% of the GDP in a few years. This is the logical scheme that, in my opinion, should guide Romania when engaging a stabilization program with the European institutions and, eventually, with the IMF. The latter also has learned from the mistakes of the past - some committed in the relationship with Romania. The exceptional expertise of the IMF must be seen now in such a way that Romania would be able to overcome the financial crisis with the smallest collateral damages. But we also have to do our homework.

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