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The Death of the PSD

The text below was initially written as a response to an email. I was asked whether a newcomer to Romania could manage life here given the ongoing political and economic downturn.

Let's make one thing clear. What is happening in Romania now stems from decades of unchecked corruption and the mass embezzlement of state funds orchestrated by an organized crime syndicate. The PSD is by far the main culprit in the scheme, but Romania's political and bureaucratic class at large have consistently played a role.

This would be a very pessimistic post if it weren't for the fact that "the owner has noticed".


There is a significant chance the PSD will just disappear some day. Maybe not with the next election cycle in 2020, but I'd be surprised if they continue to exist, or to field any candidates, after 2025. If it isn't a sudden defeat (a black swan event), they will die the slow death of irrelevance, as…
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A Fine Horse

The snow crunches under the the sturdy Hucul's marbled hooves as fresh flakes drift all around, steady, fat, soon to cover the evidence of our mid-winter ride. I'm riding 'Cyklon', a 9 year old bay, bred for life in the mountains. He is calm and patient, but has a tendency to stop mid-stride for mouthfuls of sparse, dry leaves hanging from the shrubs and trees lining the trail.

tsk, tsk and pull on the reins to get us back underway, sympathizing with the craving for a snack. The landscape is desolate at this time of year. A  gusting wind whistles over the plateau as a white panorama stretches ahead and below us, peppered with brown and black copses of dormant trees, and dark woods in the foothills beyond. It is what sad, poignant poetry looks like. It is death. It is rest. It is a prelude to life.

We're on a 'horseback hill tour' with a group, about an hour's train ride from Cluj, in the village of Stana. The guide told us the horses don't wear shoe…

The Romanian Mafia Is The Government - Part 2

The first version of this post was published not long after I moved to Romania, when the political battles in the country resembled mafia clan wars - minus the restaurant drive-bys. (You can find it here). The same types of unscrupulous bosses laying claim to and fighting for fiefdoms while their lieutenants (ministers or deputies in parliament) run the day to day management, right down to the associates (bureaucrats) who may not be 'in' the system, per se, but who facilitate and gladly take favours when they're given.

This is not such an original analogy, if you're looking at the situation objectively, but people here don't quite see it because, even if the government is run by a criminal organization, the ordinary citizen is ignorant as to how organized crime works.

Many Romanians are are also ignorant about the way democracy works. Or, if you think about it, how business and economics work. Let's just say we're on a learning curve. But, if we're goin…

An Open Letter To Romania's Leaders

Dear Leaders,

Do you ever wonder, if only fleetingly, what your legacy will be? Will school children learn your names, will your statues stand on pedestals in parks? Will you be remembered as wise, enlightened, leaders who made Romania better?

In case you ever do wonder, the answer to these questions is, of course, 'No'. 
You will be remembered as 'The Post-Communism Communists', 'The Incompetents', 'The Corrupt', 'The New Phanariotes' - though that is a generous comparison, the Phanariotes were at least educated and, at times, capable governors, patriots even.  You, on the other hand, will have done nothing more than govern, speak, and behave like the communists you replaced in 1989, though with a touch less patriotism and a lot more incompetence.

How does it feel to know you cannot point to any one single nation-building accomplishment? No crowning achievements. No names to stand out and go down in history, except maybe with the label 'mos…

A Breakdown of The Romanian Consumer Market

Much the same way in which politicians are not the only problem in Romania, because there are voters on the other side of that coin, the businesses that thrive despite their sub-par products or services tend to survive only because they continue to retain customers who, in their ignorance, sustain a sub-standard offering.

Romanian businesses have come a long way over the past several years. Owners are now looking outwards and willing to invest (a bit) in branding and marketing, they make an attempt at differentiation beyond the price point, and they at least pretend to pay lip service to the notion of customer service. The resulting increase in competition has left the businesses who do not adapt in an an existential limbo, with an archaic business model focused on being everything to everyone but in reality being nothing to nobody.

I say that these business are in a limbo because they continue to exist while, in developed markets, most would have died out long ago. We can credit thei…

A Guide To Importing Your Belongings and Vehicle Into Romania

Jennifer reached out with some suggestions for new blog posts and I thought, why not have a guest blogger? Her post addresses several questions I've already received from readers and will be helpful to anyone who is looking to make the same move I made years ago. It is a well sourced guide, but keep in mind that when it comes to bureaucracy in Romania there are usually alternatives and variations to the process on a case by case basis.

Jennifer Bennet loves to travel and to write when she travels. She also enjoys reading and a simple life with few belongings.
Here is her guide to importing your belongings and vehicle into Romania.

Smârdan Street in Bucharest,
Source: Ștefan Jurcă via Flickr

There aremany reasons to make Romania your new home, when looking to change your country of residence. Romania offers free or nearly free healthcare to foreigners, as long as you work within the country. Crime rates are also quite attractive, with the capital city of Bucharest enjoying a rating as…

"Crucify Me" - A Conversation With a Romanian Politician

We were celebrating a friend's birthday in a rented log cabin on the banks of Lake Tarnita when I met Steve (not his real name). Steve was well dressed, in dark coloured slacks and a white button up shirt with cufflinks. It's only worthy of mention because I found it overly formal for a cabin get-together where the principal activities were eating, drinking, and karaoke, but to each his own. He'd kept to himself most of the evening, but then he came by the kitchen-counter/bar where I'd gotten comfortable with a bottle of Ballantine's and we got to talking, initially about travel.

"If I could live anywhere in the world I'd move to Costa Rica." Steve said.
"Why there?"
"Nice, peaceful country. The weather's perfect. And it's far away from here."
"And you'd leave Romania for good?" I asked.
"Oh yeah, this country is done for."
"How about the future?" I asked, just to be philosophical.