Theme: Thursday, July 18, 2013

PM Victor Ponta: I would like to see that companies from Romania that are carrying out honestly their activity, are controlled once in three years, not once in three months

Allow me to speak while sitting down. Perhaps, in this way, my thoughts are more settled for you. First of all, I want to thank you for the invitation – I admit you had a pressure factor in the Government, an extremely determined one, in Madam Minister Grapini, and in the end, I gave way regarding sensitivity.
Really, I say many times that Madam Grapini is not the Government’s Ministry, but your Ministry in the Government; the voice of the SMEs. I also want to tell you that I wanted to participate this time. I see each day with at least two-three large companies; I participate in openings, extensions of investments. It is true that I follow the size principle, if there are 300 new job places, if the investment is worth few tens of millions EUR, it does not mean that I do not further appreciate, and I think that, for SMEs, it is important to have strong, large companies, but usually I meet very large companies, doing you this injustice, and on that occasion, I wanted to tell you that I know how important is the SMEs sector and I do not know any economy with positive potential to rely only on large companies. I think that there is a ratio, a balance between the two economic categories which Romania has great need. Thirdly, I thought that I should start with a bitter joke, but I hope you see nevertheless, the pleasant part of it, to tell that I want to congratulate you that, despite the Governments’ efforts, you still survive. You are extremely resistant and all Governments lately, made all efforts that you do not exist any longer, when I see these figures, those companies withstood, some even developed, it is a good sign, it does not mean we set off like before 89, that you withstand some taxes and controls.

There are two important ideas that I wanted, however, to tell you for which I am preparing, I felt good that I have seen them in your presentation, because, in a sense, this means that I touch the important things . I think the number one problem of Romania and Europe, but now we speak of Romania, to try to deal with us first for the actual development of the economy, is the lack of credit. The greatest problem. I fell from one extreme into another: if by 2008 - not only in Romania, but everywhere, America, Europe - loans were given to anyone and anyway, after the financial crisis, we fell to the other extreme, the most difficult thing in the world is for someone to give you a loan. And the fastest thing that the bank is doing, is to foreclose you. Banks have turned to real estate agencies car salespeople, your assets salespeople. When you go, however, apply for a loan, the situation is dire. Obviously we cannot directly influence. And here, it is a problem specific to Romania that we do not have a large Romanian bank, Eximbank as much as it can, supports the area of exports, CEC ... still waiting to see that is a Romanian bank that supports Romanian small businesses. I would not want that CEC shall be a bank like any other. But, well, that's a matter of banking policy. What government can do - and here we come to the issue of these days - maybe to try, if possible, not to compete with you, on loan market, and all remissions of this year, we tried to do, the securities and loans, I went to the foreign market, not to make you an unfair competition. Bank, between government and you, prefers to give money to the government. They meet three people from finance and they solved the problem. I think it is unfair competition, which simply destroys you, and then the Government’s policy is to try to go on foreign markets and to let as much as possible, national liquidity for you. We cannot do it if we do not have an agreement with IMF and the European Commission, because they give us the certificate. The Government of Romania can go, and borrow at smaller costs. Also, having an agreement with international institutions, we can bring in the country, not only let you access easier the reserves of commercial banks, we can bring in the country other international institutions, I refer especially to the World Bank, EIB, EBRD, to use these resources for the Government, which we do not take from the commercial banks in the country, on the other hand, we use them at public works, the central and local public authorities that inevitably go further, to you. There is the third thing, in our agreements with international institutions, that consistency in asking the reduction of arrears. I think that the reduction of arrears is not only an objective requested by IMF, I think it is a way for us not to lead you to bankruptcy. Those who have money to take from city halls, Ministries, authorities, the big problem with arrears, is not whether or not they meet the criterion, the problem is that behind the arrear, there is a company like yours, awaiting to take money from the institution for which it provided services or made the work, borrows with difficulty from the bank to pay salaries or state obligations, afterwards it awaits five, seven months, one year, to receive money back, from the one that did the work.
I think that Europe, in its entirety, until finding a solution on this problem, every month, other decision is taken regarding banks in Europe and not only in Romania, Spain, Italy, France, you take a loan in a difficult way, this is why Europe decreases every month. You cannot make an economic development with pocket money. I doubt you are, the SMEs representatives so wealthy to allow the funding of your business endlessly. This is why banks exist, to fund successful businesses, it is true, not only real estate booms and state titles, but beyond this problem at European level, if in Romania, we succeed, the Government, not to borrow from that envelope which exists for Romania and if the Government brings money from financial institutions, I think it is a success for you. And here, a special stipulation for European funds. I think it was the biggest tragedy of Romania in the last seven years, worse than anything that happened to us during the crisis, the fact that last year, at 6 years since the EU integration, we have 7 percent of 20 billion EUR absorbed, it was a disaster. The fact that we managed to reach, today, Minister Teodorovici informs me daily, we reached 21 percent, it is not a big success, we are yet very far from the last place, where Bulgaria ranks, if I am not wrong, nearly 30 percent. Therefore, we are yet very far from what we could do. The most important is that borrowing from Treasury, we managed to make payments for very many of the programmes. The nightmare with POSDRU, yours….because you borrowed, you accessed the money, and you entered bankruptcy, waiting for the money, ours, as we did not succeed in unblocking it, when we did, via huge efforts of Ministers, Managing Authority employees, by everybody, the fact that we advance the money from the Treasury, to make the payments, accounts, environment, …., all the others, this thing should be felt as money reaches you, in the end.
Surely, the beneficiary is a public authority or a trade union, an university, but they should further work with somebody. In this context, following the terrible pressures of Madam Grapini, we made a risky decision, I hope it to be a good one nevertheless. You know very well that we make the payments at POS CCE, although it is yet suspended, I hope in Septe,ber – October, we unblock it, it is a risk I undertook, the Finance Ministry was very sad a long time because of this. I can imagine, not only from what Minister Grapini tells me, from what all those whom I know and have an SME, I can imagine what means for you if I tell you: “Yes, you accessed the program, you did the works, but we do not give you the money. Detail them there, I do not know, in one year, two, five, seven, when we or Ministry of Finance will decide to give them to you. " So, to conclude this point, if we, by macroeconomic policies, it is true that we, at the Victoria Palace, we see it in large, but if we can see the less important, but if we can do this , to help you, to no longer compete in terms of access to credit, to bring money into the country cheaper and get the payments as close to the time of settlement, I think for SMEs this is the oxygen you need.
The second issue, and the last approached today, is that obviously I never understood and now look, I'm prime minister so that I can change it, I still do not understand why, in Romania, the company that pays the tax is controlled, and the firm that declares the income is visited by the Financial Guard and Financial Administration, and still 7000, I do not mention many other institutions, which is why, when I started the ANAF restructuring, I just started from the idea of a man who did not work in finance – if I ask those in Finance, nothing can ever be changed, and I said: the new Anti-Fraud Directorate – the Financial Guard, the Customs Control were dismantled, should have two objectives. First of all, they should not go to every company, firm, micro-enterprise, but there where we have indeed tax evasion: alcohol, tobacco, petrol, and vegetables – fruits. Let us first solve those four and afterwards, see if you declared or drafted the documents as a Guard inspector wanted. I think this is the role of an Anti-fraud Directorate, not to chase any small enterprise, to see where we lose the billions lei, euro, assessments are different.
Thirdly, I want to believe that through financial administrations, that financial control is made once in two or three years. I want to see the societies , the largest part of societies from Romania, the fair ones, those performing their activity in accordance with the law, are really controlled once in three years, not once in three months, once in three weeks, or once in three days, because in this way, it is impossible on the one hand, to carry out a normal activity. If you pay the taxes and the other not, but he is never subject to control, obviously that you cannot withstand on market. It is an objective; nine of ten people told me that I will not succeed in changing something that is functioning for 23 years in the same way, in Romania. Allow me to aim at objectives even difficult to achieve, because, if we do not do them now, it is clear that we are not going to achieve them in the next 20, 30 years.