‘‘I’ve always been a right wing person’’, said Mr. Mihai Razvan Ungureanu, the designated prime-minister for Romania, on February 7th this year, when he was nominated by the acting President of Romania, Mr. Traian Basescu, as the future prime-minister of Romania.
This was rather amusing for the 43 years old former Chief of Spies in Romania, who also served as a Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Romanian Government, between 2004-2007, This was amusing because back in 1989, before the fall of the communism, Mr. Ungureanu served as a leading representative of UTC, the former communist body for young people, especially undergraduate people.
‘’Of course he was a right wing persons with beliefs on the right spectrum of the politics’’, joked a friend of mine. ‘‘During the communist era, everything was up-side down, so being a right wing person on that time showed you like being a leftist.’’
It is almost like on the TV screen: if you raise your left hand in the TV studio, people back home will perceive that you raised the right hand. You might look like a rightist but back in the studio, you are very leftist.
This wouldn’t came back into my attention if, after 64 years, the self entitled ‘‘right wing government’’ wouldn’t have been in the situation where it looked more communist than the communists themselves. I am referring at the personal property issue, or, to be more specific, at the way in which the Romanian government understands to solve the issue of restitution of the properties that were confiscated by the communists in 1948.
Back in 1948, the communist regime that came into power nationalized by a parliamentary law the assets that were in the possession of the capitalists. The short story was like this: everything was nationalized (that means confiscated and transformed in public property). The long story mentioned some 77 categories of enterprises (from mining, oil, sugar, textile, chemical to credit companies), that became public property under the management of the communist regime.
Under this confiscatory rule (Law 119/ June 1948), there was a Chapter that tried to legitimate the catastrophe: this was the Chapter 4, that dealt with the compensations for the former private owners. The text was like this: ‘‘the State will compensate the owners and the shareholders of the nationalized companies. For this, we create the Nationalized Industry Fund. The Fund will issue bonds (in favor of the former owners) that will be bought back from the future profit made by the nationalized companies’’. In brief, it was like owning a cab, that was confiscated by the government. From the future activity and future profits of the state owned taxi-business, the communist regime said that is going to compensate the owner of the cab.
Hilarious, but true. It is useless to say that the Romanian government never paid back for the nationalized assets. Until 1989. After the fall of the communism and on its way back to a democratic society, Romania said that it will give back the nationalized properties or where it will not be possible, it will pay some compensation.
Some 200.000 people were believed to represent the target of the restitution process or of the compensation. A few got their properties back. Others, after more than ten years of fight in the justice for their rights, ceased and sold for pennies their rights to very diligent politicians or lawyer with strong connections, that become ‘’de facto’’ beneficiaries of the restitution process. Most of them were send to a vehicle called ‘‘Property Fund’’, in order to be compensated. After the situation of the property would have been made clear, they would have received some property papers that were good enough to be converted into share at the Property Fund (a vehicle created by share of the most important and profitable companies of Romania – like energy companies).
After this ‘‘restitution’’ process, some 5000 out of 200.000 owners became shareholders of the Property Fund (a vehicle that was estimated to worth 4 billion Euros). Some of the 5000 new shareholders had nothing to do with abuses from the communist regime: they were simple ‘‘clever enough’’ to buy litigious rights from desperate people who were tired enough after waiting almost 20 years to get their properties back. That’s how people that had nothing to do with the abuses, like a former Minister for Finance – Ionut Popescu (who was acting as a Finance Minister when the Property Fund was created), became shareholders of the Fund. Mr. Popescu once got more than 1% of the 4 billion Euros Fund (even if he had not any single property confiscated by the communists). As a finance minister, Mr. Popescu was personally in charge with speeding the restitution process. He did not.
Even the acting Finance Minister, Bogdan Dragoi, who had nothing but benefits from the communist regime, was a benefit taker from the Property Fund. He was paid almost 200.000 Euros as a member of the Supervisory Board for the Property Fund. Meanwhile, nobody speeded the restitution process.
Meanwhile, politicians with strong connection at the government level, like Mr. Boldea, a jailed deputy of the government party, were net beneficiaries of the restitution process. Mr. Boldea even succeeded to receive a property that was supposedly confiscated by the communists at an address that was invented just after the fall of the communism.
Everything went bad till the crisis came into Romania. Than, the bad became worse: the government decided to confiscate the profits of the companies that became part of the Property Fund (like Romgaz) doing another ‘’de facto’’ nationalization process. The money were supposed to compensate the people that were abused by the communist regime and ended to compensate the lack of competence of the people who are now managing the economy. The administrator of the Fund – Franklin Templeton Asset Management sued the Romanian Government on the issue of profit confiscation.
And than the worse became ugly: the self-entitled ‘‘right wing believer’’, Mr. Ungureanu, the acting prime-minister of Romania, came with another strike: there are no money. So, his government propose to compensate just 15% of the real value of the assets. And this in the next 10 to 12 years. Even the communists, back in 1948, proclaimed that they will pay 100% as compensation. That means that in 2024, some people will finally get to get back 15% of the value of their heirs properties. That means 35 years AFTER the fall of the communism (that was ruling Romania for 45 years).
The life expectancy in Romania is 73 years. In order for a person to get 15% of their properties value in 2024, they where supposed to be 38 years old at the revolution, in 1989. And to dedicate the rest of their lives to courts, attorneys, trials and so on. This ‘‘performance’’ would have definitely made proud the genuine communists, back in 1948. The leftists. Even if, back in 1948, on the left side there was nothing right. After 64 years, the Romanian reality shows that on the right side, there is nothing left. Nothing. This shouldn’t surprise us: after 22 years, the former communist HR department is still able to provide a prime-minister for the country.