The Year Ahead

Bucharest Life’s predictions for 2009.

Property prices will fall through the floor. Expect a return to 2002-2003 prices for older apartments: two-bedrooms on B-dul Unirii will be yours for around €150,000 (tops) by year’s end. New developments will be abandoned, half complete, and those which do get finished will remain empty. Lots of estate agents will go bust.

The leu will also fall through the floor. 4.06 lei to the Euro? Just the beginning. If you’re holding lei, sell it now.

Arguments over the PSD’s refusal to allow Traian Basescu to run unopposed by a PSD candidate for reelection as president in November will lead to the break up of the government (if, indeed, it lasts that long). Sorin Oprescu will end up running for president in November’s election, and will make the second round, where he will be annihilated by Basescu.

Not one kilometre of new motorway will be completed and opened to the public.

Baneasa Airport will be declared ‘unfit for purpose’ and closed. Tarom will be sold or will go bust.

Unirea Urziceni will be denied the Romanian football championship by some very strange refereeing decisions. Dinamo will instead win.

Anamaria Straus (killer of a student in an infamous car accident on Sos. Kiseleff last year) will not go to prison.

Straus (that’s her, left, in the sunglasses) is simply too rich and too well connected for the law to be applied as it probably would be to others. If she does go down then maybe, just maybe, things might have taken a turn for the better in this city. We wait for justice to follow its natural course (she could be innocent!)


36 thoughts on “The Year Ahead

  1. I’m too busy with the Government Ordinance right now and I mobilized an entire law firm today to kick some Emil Boc ass; but when I finish with this I’ll be back to comment on the article.


  2. @Davin Ellicson: actually there should be a discussion here as the element of intention is missing from a car crash. I don’t agree with prison for ‘vehicular homicide’ or how you call it (omor din culpa is called here) unless the driver had actually driven the car after drinking alcohol or had been speeding or crossing a red light.However, I do agree with suspension of driving license for 6-8 months when caught speeding, I do agree with some consistent fines for crossing red lights (both for pedestrians and drivers), I do agree with some safe pedestrian crosses (there has to be a way to make pedestrian crosses safer) and ultimately I agree with canceling one’s driver license if an accident happens and with some hard pecuniary punishments.I don’t know if that woman was speeding, sometimes accidents happen even when everyone respects the law. Drivers should understand the concept of preventive driving but also pedestrians should understand the concept of preventive crossing the street. In the end steel is proven to be harder than human tissue and it’s pedestrians who should be more careful because their lives are in danger unfortunately.


  3. the point in this case is not how drivers who kill should be punished, but whether the law will be applied. In a case a few years ago the wife of (then) senator and poet Adrian Paunescu was let off with a suspended sentence after killing three people while illegally overtaking a slower car.


  4. @Parmalat. Ok. . . Yes, prison sentences in the US and elsewhere for vehicular homicide usually go to those who kill someone while drunk. But, with that said, Romania is just plain oddball even 19 years after the fall of Ceausescu. How the country is in the EU I just don’t know. I was in Ferentari the other day doing an assignment and that place along with smoking (cigarette smoke has hydrogen cyanide, used in chemical weapons; butane, which is used in lighter fluid; toluene, found in paint thinners; arsenic; lead; carbon monoxide; and even polonium-210 for those Romanians who are not aware) in cafes and restaurants should have kept Romania out of the EU let alone all the corruption at the top. I could go on and on. Romanians don’t seem to possess normal ways of being like waiting for pedestrians in cross walks. The police take a passive stance and don’t do speed control outside towns yet instead pull you over in a town where the speed limit is absurdly slow and then try to extort money from you on the spot. In this case the police are not applying the law. I am just always amazed at the lasting effects Ceausescu has had on this place. For me as a photographer it is always bizarre how average people on the street think that I am not allowed to take a picture of. . . the street or of a building. Folks! You are in the EU, time to act more normal! A car is just a car! You don’t need to act like a mafioso even if you own a 6 series!


  5. I also must add that I am in Romania for the adventure and the fact that it is different from the West. So, I should accept what goes on here. But, some of it is just way out of line. Although I usually agree with much of what is said in Bucharest In Your Pocket and on this blog, I also find the authors’ critical comments funny sometimes. The country experienced the worst of the former Communist regimes after all! I mean what do you expect?! Imagine being under Ceausescu for 24 years! You just can’t expect everything to be normal and I think the reason why business people come here and the people at Bucharest in Your Pocket came here is for the adventure of it all and the fact that there are great opportunities in an emerging place. So, you can’t criticize Romania too much, when we expatriates are benefiting from the place. I know I am. I couldn’t do what I am doing based out of New York. But having said this, the law is the law and corruption is corruption and Romania could do a bit to reform itself. I mean the dog problem for instance is a result of Ceausescu leveling 1/6th of the city for the Centru Civic, but siphoning off EU funds at the top is just plain corruption in the here and now. I think we can accept that there are odd legacies of the Ceausescu regime, but what I have a hard time accepting is Romania not moving ahead now and doing things correctly from here on in.


  6. Romania was accepted in the E.U. because we sold the SIDEX Galati Steel Mills (which is as big as the city of Galati itself) for 60 million Euro while the Ukrainians sold their similar (smaller) for 3 billion Euro. To the same buyer (Arcellor Mittal).Obviously the difference in money from SIDEX and other giant factories and businesses sold for nothing represents the price of our presence in the E.U.People are not relaxed here. They can’t be; people in Romania divide in two big cathegories: – people that made lots of money in a very short time- people that didn’t make lots of money in a very short time.Of all people living in Romania, 95% are of peasant origins and lack education (I mean general education not university or other diplomas). Converging this information with what I said above, we can think out the general pattern of behavior for the two cathegories:- the first cathegory obviously believe themselves to be God on earth and will do anything in their power to be as arrogant as possible- the second cathegory will begrudge the first cathegory for lifeThese are the reasons for which Romanian people are not relaxed at all.About smoking in public places, parking in forbidden parking areas, not taking care of their own person etc… these are actually small things that don’t require cognitive thinking from the Romanian people, they belong to instinct because they are peasants and nobody told them to behave otherwise.The civilized Romanian class is just starting to appear and is mostly represented by people who have travelled in the E.U. and their children.Of course there are good sides of this situation as well: Romanians are mostly good people who won’t hesitate to help anyone if they can (this sense of solidarity was also induced by communism), they can work hard (even if they don’t want to – but they can with proper control), they’re easy to control by someone with a business vision, etc…But what were you doing in Ferentari? If Hollywood movies show some reality, Bronx is a lot worse than Ferentari πŸ˜€ Have you ever been to Hanul Drumetului in Dr. Taberei to listen live to manele? It’s the general place to be every evening if you are a 6 series mafioso.


  7. @Parmalat. Very insightful post! I know that Romania is the way it is in large part to Ceausescu. You can’t fault Romanians for being oppressed like they were. I just become exasperated sometimes here in Bucharest, but of course I actually love the way Romania is so different–it makes life exhilarating. One question: what was Romania and Romanians like before Communism? I see pictures of the Calea Victoriei in the 1930s and there were all the latest cars and lots of them and everyone was dressed really well. Obviously, 40 years of Communism changed the country and the people’s psyche. But I wonder if Romanians were generally like the way they are now–appreciating high fashion and nice things?!I was in Ferentari shooting for Bloomberg News, trying to see what effects the Russia-Ukraine gas dispute might be having in Bucharest. Of course Romania has reserves and only gets 30% of its gas from Russia and so the effects were not so immediately clear like what is happening in Bulgaria.


  8. =)) yeeaaaah that’s about 90% true πŸ˜€ Now let’s give some explanations:Yes, Romanians do care about what their neighbors think and they also care about what their neighbors own, how smart their kids are, how much money their neighbors make, how much they’re paying for gas, hot water, etc… (intretinere). And it all comes from the second cathegory of people begrudging the first one for life – see my comment. Obviously when Ceausescu was president these weren’t happening.Yea, nothing about religion and God but priests (popa) are always the subject of laughter.About getting robbed: Romanians are not violent people but they are (or believe themselves to be) wise guys so if they want to trick you into anything, they’ll try it and it will seem perfectly ok. You’re not allowed to call the Police, this is an unwritten rule, “I was smarter, I took your money the Police has nothing to do with it”.Actually Romanians are very curios from their nature, but the communist regime made them to be otherwise (“I didn’t see, I didn’t hear anything, I never even taught about it”). The years what followed brought in the problem of survival from day to day so another aspect of Romanian thinking is “why should I bother with someone else’s problems, I have my own problems”. In the same line I would add that a Romanian who sees a colleague or neighbor of his stealing from the company where he works or simply doing something illegal without being caught for his family to make a better living – he will never tell the authorities about his colleague or neighbor (“we’re not against each other, we’re against the system” or “if he’s smart, let him do it”).Yea you should close the door behind you so as to keep things as they were before your passing πŸ˜› and also your home and clothes should be clean if you’re a Romanian – considered as a minimum of decency. Actually Romanian house wifes really have a problem with maintaining order in the family home: they educate their husbands and children to not enter the house with shoes on, not eat in other places than the kitchen, put things back in their places after they used them and the children will get quite an argue if they break these rules.Yea, curent =)) Romanians hate it πŸ˜€ I remember my grandfather used to wear cotton in his ears too so he wouldn’t make otitis :)) And also the traditional treatment for otitis was to put a cork of cotton in your ear embeded in some hot sunflower oil that is after keeping a small bag of heated salt over your ear (the air coming from the heated salt probably contains somehting that fights otitis…)It’s not Romanians who can’t give directions, it’s the way streets are arranged and counted – in some cases you simply don’t know how to explain :PAbout the news: in the last years of Ceausescu, the only program available on tv (the only tv channel existant) was actually the news. After 1989 there were another 3-4 years when TVR was the only available tv channel and their most important and interesting show was… the news (when you suddenly go from 3 hours of broadcasting per day to 18, what do you expect to get?!). So we were educated to watch the evening news “so that we know what’s happening in this country” and most Romanians watch the news (including myself – it’s the only thing for which I keep my tv set).Yea, the most of what you buy you have to keep; I remember after 1990, the small shops that appeared had big inscriptions on the door: “the merchandise bought can not be returned or exchanged for other merchandise”. Nowadays we have OPC (the Office for Consumer’s Protection) and they’re some very busy lads. Where OPC intervenes it is likely that you will get a refund and some appologies but that can last for more than a month and there are papers and formalities…Women from Moldova are actually considered to be whores. My grandmother is from Oltenia (county of Gorj); Oltenia is the region that starts from the west of Bucharest and goes all the way to Timisoara where Banat region lies. And in 1955 she was asked to move to a town in Moldova because of her work; and she used to tell me that she didn’t like what she saw there: women were whores, they were drinking alongside with men and shouting to the singers in the carciuma (carciuma = small bar from the countryside; the term is sometimes used today to make fun of people who enjoy drinking) to sing more. And all these things were forbidden for a woman in Oltenia.Actually when Ceausescu was president, Russian language was compulsory in some education institutions and people of the age like my father (50-55) who attended university studies may still remember some Russian (my father also does).


  9. Hey your picture is on Bloomberg! I luv Bloomberg TV I always turn it on after some good trades and I imagine myself in the chair of a Wall Street bank watching 20 monitors and processing information from 20 sources πŸ˜€


  10. Parmalat: Thanks for speaking to all the points on that blog entry! One last question: when did all the cars appear here-2004-2005? I first came through Bucharest in April 2000 and then my next trips only going to Maramures. It was a shock to come back here in 2007 and see Bucharest! I think it will be very interesting to see how Bucharest further modernizes over the coming decade. I mean it will be hard to make it look like a Western European capital when you still have the Communist Bloc architecture that can’t really be changed. I found this recent book by Andrei Pandele which provides a fascinating look at Bucharest in the 1980s. It’s so sad what Ceausescu did to Bucharest. You saw my picture on Bloomberg TV?!


  11. You missed the best part :PActually in 2000 the country was nearing the end of it’s worse 4 years in history, under the governing of Conventia Democratica Romana (CDR) who changed exactly 3 PM’s and a few dozens ministers in 4 years, who took out tanks on the streets because 20.000 miners came and beat the Police forces in Costesti (1999) and threatened to come to Bucharest to overthrow the Government (nothing on youtube about it unfortunately) and many others.In 2000 PSD won the elections with Ion Iliescu as President and Adrian Nastase as PM and then the economic development of the country began. In 2004 at the end of the term, the country had reached 7.5% economic growth and – in what conditions – while being under strict monitoring from the IMF!! 2000-2004 was probably the best government in the entire history of the country.After 2004 the political right came into power and the first thing they did was to impose 16% unique tax and cancel the agreement with the IMF. That’s when the film was cut: the budget deficit as well as the trade deficit jumped into the air as borrowing conditions were relaxed by the banks, salaries were raised and a lot of other unacceptable measures (for the current state of the economy) were taken. In the end the country remained with no assets to sell to the Europeans (I’m talking about factories, banks and other state-owned assets that had to be sold, as imposed by the EU) so there was no money left to sustain all measures taken by the government. This was the period when everyone bought cars, electronic equipment, apartments, land and everything. The result can be seen nowadays because what’s happening now with the state of economy obviously has to do with the measures taken in the last 4 years.Right now the country is still living off the results of the excellent PSD government which was in office from 2000 to 2004. Unfortunately Romanian people don’t know sh** about macro-economy and they voted for Basescu because – unlike Adrian Nastase – he made jokes. What happened to Adrian Nastase was a major injustice! That’s why we don’t deserve to have a developed country, because we killed Ceausescu who didn’t even have a house of his own when he died (everything he did – even with his limited skills – he did for the country), he deserved at least to live his last years in peace and because we took down the best PM in the history of Romania only to put a circus clown in his place. And people still don’t understand this!


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