The Romanian government collapsed Monday after weeks of protests over biting cuts meant to keep outside funding flowing to the troubled nation.
Prime Minister Emil Boc said he and his Cabinet were resigning “to defuse political and social tension,” the Associated Press reported.
Opposition leaders are calling on President Traian Basescu to step down as well. Crin Antonescu, who heads the opposition Liberal Party, called it “the most corrupt, incompetent and lying government” since the 1989 revolt against communism, the report said.
Austerity has become the watchword in Europe, where governments have been cutting back and trying to rein in debt to help restore faith in the battered euro currency. Spain, for example, crafted a nearly $20-billion package of cuts and tax increases and even cut back on puentes, an extra vacation day slipped in when holidays fall on a Tuesday or Thursday to make a long weekend, Lauren Frayer reported for The Times.
Such austerity cuts are often a tit-for-tat for strapped nations' financial survival: Romania made sweeping cuts to secure a $26-billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the World Bank to keep paying salaries as its economy shrank. Sales taxes were hiked from 19% to 24%. Government workers took a 25% pay cut.
But in Romania and elsewhere, such deep cuts are deeply unpopular. Italy was racked with strikes in December before its lawmakers hiked taxes and put off pension payments. In Greece, workers clad in black are holding marches almost daily, Anthee Carassava has reported for The Times. Greeks argue that the austerity measures just aren’t fixing its tottering economy:
"One minute we're being told to do one thing; then, they tell us something else. Then, they modify that with something different, and in the end, it's scrapped and replaced with something even more brutal," said Nikos Tassos, a carpet salesman in Marathon.
"It's nerve-racking," he said. "Does anyone really know where this is all heading?"
To get a sense of the anger over the cuts in Romania, take a look at this video, shared several weeks ago by the Associated Press, of the protests rocking the country:
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Photo: Romanian Prime Minister Emil Boc, left, is escorted by a bodyguard as he leaves Democrat-Liberal Party headquarters shortly after he resigned in Bucharest, Romania, on Monday. Credit: Robert Ghement / European Pressphoto Agency