Most of my FB friends are frustrated and angered. They went again to the protests, fulfilling their obligations of citizens, but yesterday’s protests seem again futile, as politicians in power did not listen to them. Frustrated they are because of bad Romanian spoken by their leaders, red tape, institutionalized stupidity, corruption, bad political leadership, incompetence and many many other things. Clearly, they share no values with most of the politicians responsible for Romania’s destiny.
Most of them have a corporate background. They understand “analysis”, “opportunity”, “objective”, “plan”, and so on and so on. They speak in STARs (situation - task - action - result). They understand what means responsibility, respect, caring for others etc. that they have been practicing for long.
And, again, they experience a never ending frustration vs. the rulers of the day. With some few exceptions, it has been like this since 1990.
In the business associations there is a never ending moaning and groaning about dysfunctional public policy decisions. Sometimes really justified. To the point that those associations have started building up visions, policies and strategies for Romania, exasperated by the poor output of institutional policymaking in a EU member state.
By “normal” stanards, all those people are right. They have really felt encouraged when prosecutors were putting in jail obviously corrupt officials and their partners in crime. I temember that not so long ago, in 2015, I was left with no interlocutors in one of the ministries. Three arrests in a row had depopulated the institution of a corruption network. Woow! Justice was around the corner, it seemed.
Abnormal is that those people have always felt unrepresented. With one or two exceptions. Lately, they do not vote anymore. They just send their children abroad or leave with the whole family. Oh, yes, and they show up in incredible numbers at the street protests. They empathise with EU, NATO, rule of law, a good society, and everything that the West symbolizes.
In the cosiness of their chairs and in front of their FB accounts they do not understand how comes that they are right - and they are - and still, other Romanians end up voting and supporting the wrong politicians. This is a chronic situation - systemic even.
In my professional life I was asked a few times if I want to go into politics. No way! Too many personal compromises...and the same goes for many of the people I know. The perceived safety of a corporate job in a multinational, behind a solid managerial desk, is preferable.
I do not know anyone who has given personal money to a political party. I know no corporation having supported a single candidate politician in Romania. Understandably, corporate rules are very strict about that. And this is how it should be.
In a country whose economy is mostly dominated by multinationals, the financing of the political system is left to the rest of of the country. And the rest of the country looks very different.
The rest of the country is the many who live with at most a few hundred euros per month. The rest of the country are those who are in deep poverty and need assistance. Have you ever tried to live like this? Your income hardly allows you to live between two wage pays. You may need to borrow, because money ends after two weeks. You feel in a permanent state of insecurity, trying to make ends meet. You cannot plan your saving for the next year, or your next holiday.
Corporate people selfishly think that those “deplorables” are manipulated; they do not see the obvious; they do not have enough maturity; they sell their votes for a meagre increase of social assistance...etc. The “deplorables” are simply misunderstood or even despised for accepting to depend on incompetent, corrupt politicians. How lame...how un-intellectual...
The rest of the country are also those that have made money in ways only by them known. Wildly, for sure. And experimenting all sorts of compromises. Often based on connecting shamelessly to the state resources. It pays back for those enriched in this way to finance politicians. They love it. Political power embraces economic potency.
Of course, there is some simplification in the above analysis. But the reality is that the emerging economy integrated with the West and the emerging westernized elites somehow fail to get proper representation in the political system. That is why, frustrated by the dialogue with the policymakers, big business associations end up proposing grand country strategies that their counterparts fail to endorse. This is how they can work; they cannot settle issues in a nice conversation ar a football match as is the practice in some local business environments. And so, frustration gets bigger and bigger.
Politicians cannot be ignored. Even a multinational needs to live in a symbiosis with them. You still need their benevolence to operate and make profit legally. Politicians need investors to generate value that otherwise they would not know how to generate because they are accustomed to plunder, not to deliver sound management. More investment, more value generated in the economy means more budgetary resources to share with friends...and so on.
This is not a virtuous circle. Such a marriage of convenience between groups with different values and ways of working is not sustainable. Somehow, unless the new economy does not find its way to the top of politics the next crisis may be devastating for everybody.
More oversight of parties' financing, more anti-corruption efforts, a better, functional and independent public administration may alleviate the impact of the systemic failure. Bigger Romanian-grown companies with a management culture similar to the western multinationals may also bring in the longer term a different type of approach in the future. A solution is not easy to come by.