Clientelism without reserves

In October 2021, the indices of clientelism in the allocation of reserve funds to the local administration reached the historical maximum of the last 15 years, according to EFOR calculations.

In full pandemic and uncertainty, the government broke the country’s security wallet – the Reserve Fund – distributing for no reasonable reason to municipalities and county councils, mainly belonging to the Liberal Party (PNL), an amount of 1.01 billion lei, ie the equivalent of EUR 200 million, long before the year is over and we know what unpredictable needs may arise.

This is not the first time it happens: the mechanism has been used in the same clientelistic manner in the past. Only that Government Decision 1088 approved in October 2021 exceeds the usual limits of politicisation and arbitrariness in the allocation of funds, going far beyond what the Social democrat (PSD) governments or the one led by Tariceanu practiced in the past, which until now were quoted as the maximum value on the clientelism index calculated by EFOR.

In short, in October we witness the historical maximum of the politicisation of the allocations of funds for the local authorities because:

  • PNL received 65% of the money, UDMR 14%, and PSD 16%. USR is almost non-existent on the allocation map. In communes and cities over 70% of the money went to the Liberals. Only in county councils the social democrats outnumbered the liberals.
  • There are counties where PNL received over 90% of the funds: Alba, Ilfov, Suceava. In Sibiu and Constanța, PNL took 97% of the funds. In very few counties (such as Ialomița and Sălaj) PNL received less than 50% of the funds, some of them being dominated by UDMR; in Buzau and PSD took 60% of the money
  • GD 1088, issued by the Cîțu Government comes on a clear political background, related to the internal campaign for the party leadership, in which he needed political support and is part of a series of measures which may be labelled as bad governance (including Anghel Saligny Program, an allocation of 10 bil. EUR to local authorities in an opaque manner)
  • This style of governance in which the government allocates money for municipalities with financial problems illustrates the complicated situation in which the local government is and how central governments try to buy influence, possibly in election years; in fact, solid reform is needed. It also shows the lack of long-term vision of all governments. The Saligny Program is built on the same logic.

EFOR analyzed how the money from the FR was distributed, which parties reached it and what was their destination. We wanted to see if HG 1088 is worse in terms of clientelism. Our research includes allocations of 16 billion lei between 2008 and 2021 and 224 government decisions for the allocation of money through the Reserve and Intervention Funds. We did not analyze the allocations to institutions at the central level, although they would also be worth a look, especially since in recent years governments have grounded the practice of allocating money from the Reserve Fund to pay PNDL expenditures, as settlement promises were higher than the allocations, and the budgets were improvised.

Read the full report here. 

See more about the allocations between 2008 and 2021 on the Clientelism Map, the dedicated section FR, updated in October 2021.


Other conclusions:

  • FR remains a clientelistic, vaguely regulated, non-transparent and uncontrolled instrument. The allocations are made by the Government and are not subject to adequate control, the Ministry of Finance being limited to identifying needs. The limits are significantly increased during the year by rectifications and adjustments to the budgets of certain public institutions, whose canceled appropriations are directed to the FR. Also, significant percentages of money, over 70% in 2018 and 2019, were approved by derogations from an already unclear law.
  • In the last three to four years, the government has resumed using a practice widely used by governing political parties in 2004-2009 to significantly increase FR allocations. The peak of allocations was in 2006 and 2008, when the FR was increased 593.22 times compared to the initial allocation.
  • Between 2016 and 2021, most of the money from the FR went to current and capital expenditures (61%), for social expenditures (28%), respectively for ensuring the supply of thermal energy (8%).
  • The government allocated most of the money to communes, almost half, then 21% to county councils and municipalities. Bucharest and its sectors were also part of the scheme, as it received 693 million lei between 2008 and 2021 (5%).
  • In election years, allocations tend to increase and may have another purpose, which is to attract the support of local government to hold elections and obtain as many votes as possible at the local level.

View the interactive below with allocations from FR and FI from the analysis, respectively the allocations from GD 1088, calculated per capita.


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