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Romania: Details Of Economic Reforms Expected Today

Bucharest, 17 February 1997 (RFE/RL) - Romania's Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea has scheduled a news conference today to discuss details of his new centrist government's sweeping economic reform plans. He says the steps are necessary to bring deficits and inflation under control and to avoid an economic crisis similar to that now occurring in Bulgaria.

Romanian reports say Ciorbea's plan provides for prices to be fully liberalized, except for bread prices, which will be subsidized another six to eight months.

Ciorbea is also quoted as saying about 50 enterprises will be privatized each week and that more than 10 percent of the gross domestic product will be allocated to cover the social costs of reform.

Reports say allocations for children will be raised five-to-sixfold, and pensions for peasants and unemployment benefits will be doubled.

Ciorbea told leaders of his National Peasant Party last week "there is no alternative" to the "tough" reforms, which he says include price liberalization, faster privatization of the economy, and streamlining of communist-era industries. He predicted that they will produce a real recovery within 12 to 18 months.

Ciorbea's coalition government drafted the reform measures together with experts from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. Bucharest is seeking up to $1 billion in total loans from the IMF and World Bank. Both institutions withheld credits for Romania last year, but reports indicate the government has now reached agreement in principle with the lenders.