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Romania’s Ponta Names New Cabinet, Chitoiu to Finance

Romanian Premier-designate Victor Ponta, whose government will seek a confidence vote from Parliament this week, named his 26-member Cabinet, replacing the finance minister and dividing the Economy Ministry.

Ponta, who was re-designated as premier by his rival, President Traian Basescu, this week, said today in Bucharest that he plans to move Economy Minister Daniel Chitoiu, 45, an economist, to the Finance Ministry, replacing Florin Georgescu, who will resume his post as central bank deputy governor.

“I wanted every European commissioner to have a correspondent in our government to ensure that our goals are met in the next four years as this cabinet is benefiting from a full mandate instead of a temporary one,” Ponta said.

Ponta, whose ruling coalition won a two-thirds majority in Parliament in Dec. 9 elections, is trying to push through his 2013 budget and start talks for a new international accord in January after Romania won a 5 billion-euro ($6.6 billion) precautionary credit from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union in 2011.

Parliament is expected to begin debate on Ponta’s proposed government and hold a confidence vote on Dec. 21, he said.

Ponta also appointed Liviu Voinea as minister-delegate to supervise the budget, under the Finance Ministry. Ponta also divided the Economy Ministry in three bodies, separating a ministry for industry and trade headed by former Finance Minister Varujan Vosganian, one for energy led by Constantin Nita and one for small- and medium-sized companies headed by Maria Grapini.

‘Decisive Victory’

Ponta “announced his new cabinet following the decisive parliament election victory,” said Daniel Hewitt, a London-based senior economist for emerging markets at Barclays Plc, in a note today. Chitoiu’s appointment as finance minister “is likely to ensure continuity of policy,” he said.

The proposed government retained some ministers from the previous seven-month-old Cabinet, including Environment Minister Rovana Plumb and Labor Minister Mariana Campeanu. Ponta appointed Relu Fenechiu as transport minister and Eugen Teodorovici as the minister in charge with the absorption of European Union funds.

Romania plans to cut its budget deficit to 2.2 percent of gross domestic product this year and 1.7 percent in 2013 after a gap of 4.3 percent in 2011. It hasn’t drawn any funds so far from the lenders. Meantime, the government is behind on structural reforms, particularly with state-owned enterprises, said Barclays’ Hewitt.

IMF Relations

“We believe the government is highly committed to maintaining relations” with the IMF and the EU, Hewitt said. “We think the IMF will find a way to reach an agreement on a feasible set of measures for the government to implement, including prior actions.”

Ponta and Basescu, who have been embroiled in a power struggle earlier this year which triggered a failed presidential impeachment referendum, signed an agreement last week, pledging to abstain from political wrangling over Romania’s commitments to international institutions, according to e-mail statements from the president’s office and the government today.

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