The EU is a critical source of funding for major infrastructure projects, especially for newer members who also have access to convergence funds. Road projects are expensive not only because of costs in design, land acquisition, and construction materials, but because they require large amounts of labor over several years. While it's often the same multinational consortia who bid on and win such construction projects, these firms aren't set up to do everything by themselves, and partner with local subcontractors for much of the work. The way work gets subcontracted makes this process vulnerable to corruption and graft. But sometimes it's the big consortia that get themselves into a problematic situation: just read up on Bechtel and Viaduct at Suplacu de Barcău.
EU transport and convergence funds might be a big help, but they do come with a few strings attached: they have to be used for projects that can be justified though a regional or EU-wide lens. On top of the slow pace of progress on the matter, Moldavia has an unfortunate geographic situation that puts it far away from the most important transit corridors -- the TEN-T corridors -- that EU desires to prioritize. In Romania's case, this means that connections towards Hungary and Bulgaria have so far made more progress than connections towards Ukraine and Moldova.
And most of all, corruption. I was talking to someone involved in a construction project (from donated / borrowed EU funds). EU eventually had to send someone to supervise because workers would sneak in it back at night and steal materials. Some were very creative as they might steal cement but replace it with something cheaper.
Basically it is really an uphill battle. Just handing over a bunch of money to countries with a lot of corruption, doesn't work at all
I'm not sure if the corruption has gotten better since the project or just more subtle now that it's no longer all concentrated on several tunnels under Boston. Probably the latter considering that the various departments of state government do not seem to have improved much.
This is hardly a new problem. Literally any first world aid programme has this exact issue, whether it be USAID, AUSAID, DFID. Maybe there's just reluctance to treat EU partners the same way they treat South American and South East Asian partners?
I think that was the case. It was embarrassing for the local officials to have to admit to the corruption. They know it is there and they are usually the ones involved in it, it's just that brining it to light and making it obvious is "embarrassing".
It’s understandable that the EU is prioritising corridor connections between member states and wealthy trading partners. I am sure Moldova will not be forgotten, but as long as they still have the last vestige of the USSR within their borders (Transnistria), it’ll be hard to extend them membership or the benefits of new infrastructure. Furthermore, extending east from Moldova into Ukraine is also challenging, as there is an awkward area of disputed territory around the border with frequent checkpoints, diversions, and razor wire fences. Oh, actually, that was seemingly resolved after my visit - but Transnistria remains.
Transnistria: A land in limbo: CNN: 3m 22s: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mAReDKkT9TA
Transnistrian Independence Day 2017: A travel blogger who doesn't over-do it with commentary: 3m 9s: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q28ZONQIHK0
It has its own "borders, police, military and currency"!: Another travel blogger, well narrated and short: 8m 15s: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-m-9Q5CkEvE
So my friend is a very nice and friendly guy, who travels all over the world. He speaks Romanian well, but not too much Russian. The border checkpoint, naturally, was manned only by a few friendly folks who spoke nothing but Russian.
He shows them his papers, and they manage to understand each other only to the extent that he explains he wants to visit Tiraspol, and that he's a tourist. All of this mostly in sign language.
So this guy apologizes, tells my friend to wait, and goes off through a door in the back. Almost an hour later, he returns with someone who speaks a little Romanian. My friends explains the whole I wanna visit Tiraspol, I'm a tourist thing all over again. More discussion and paper checking ensues.
Another hour later, the two guys leave again, and return with a third soldier. This time, someone who speaks excellent Romanian. The whole explanation gets repeated. They finally give him the visa, wish him good luck and safe journey -- and one of guys pats him on his shoulder and apologizes.
Sorry, man, he says, you look like a nice guy and I'm sure you really are a tourist. But you have to understand, when someone shows up at the border and claims they're a tourist, we usually find out he's definitely not a tourist.
Edit: every other event of his trip was equally funny, except it involved no public authorities :). From what I've heard, Tiraspol isn't too bad a city -- but do remember this is basically still a Soviet state. I'm sure it's very bad if you piss of the wrong person.
Tiraspol feels like many post-soviet cities, and reminded me of Volgograd - the only real difference is the ubiquitous and contemporary soviet imagery.
Interestingly the same descriptions of Moldova today I experienced when I visited Romania in the late 90ies.
On the other hand, it sucks when you’ve spent six hours buttering up an entire border station, and then the shift changes, as happened when trying to get into Uzbekistan just after a bombing in Tashkent. Ended up having to sleep in a brothel in a Kazakh border town, as the border was truly closed, and after 30 hours of wakefulness we were ready to drop - and the nearest hotel was in Shymkent.
Travel is great.
Still, it's worth visiting, for a day or two, once.
It's a semi-lawless land, used sometimes as a hiding spot for criminals, assassins, etc. Gun trafficking is at home there. When on bike, I managed once to pass the border without being checked (and I didn't notice I didn't have my papers with me, I almost got stuck in there) - you're basically at the whims of the border patrols.
There are a few villages that belong administratively to Republic of Moldova (I visited Coșnița [coshnitza] with a friend, that is one such village) - this state of affair came with great cost of lives, and people there still remember the price they paid. Tensions sometimes get high - in 2012 a drunk guy was shot and killed by the border patrol, as he was traversing the bridge - people were literally picking up forks and scythes to avenge him [ http://www.ziare.com/europa/moldova/moldovean-impuscat-de-ru...]
And a 1000 left their lives that this small strip of land can exist. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transnistria_War
There are many disputed areas in the Caucasus, I am aware of this. But just recently I heard that Armenia holds an area inside Azeribaijan:
PS: Armenia and Yerevan are very interesting!
We've got Iași there, one of our biggest cities and an important economic center, home to thriving software companies actually, because we've got an old and reputable computer science university there. Next to Iași's district is Suceava, another important district.
EU may not be interested in this region, however crippling this region due to a lack of infrastructure projects is going to cripple Romania.
Of course, the EU isn't to blame for us not being able to build one freaking highway that connects Bucharest and Iași, just saying that it's very shortsighted to dismiss infrastructure projects based on proximity with the former USSR.
Agreed that there’s no good reason not to.
Suceava, where this 1-meter motorway was built, will likely find itself on a corridor between Bucharest and Lviv (UA) and on another from Cluj-Napoca to Iași and Chișinău (MD) and Odessa (UA). This will unlock EU funding bring upgraded roadways and railways to this region.
Problem is, Ireland converged and the money dried up! Now we got to fund major infrastructure projects ourselves and we haven't really done that since the Victorian era when we were part of the British empire! (I kid you not.)
There was this joke back in the day, what's the easiest way to make loads of money? Lie down and pretend you're a road. Dumb joke but it wasn't wrong, billions were spent.
Maybe identifying why the same companies keep getting these contracts and under-delivering and/or merely uses subcontractors. Then attempt to fix that system as a first step before throwing more money at the problem?
Possibly by introducing more competition by making the bidding process easier, hiring multiple companies by breaking down the projects into smaller pieces, having strings tied to contracts based on performance, bonuses and other financial rewards to incentivize reaching goals under budget, include funding for an oversight team to monitor paper trails and check who gets paid + their connections to government, demand public transparency reports, etc.
Projects are already broken down into smaller pieces and there are penalties if you don't meet deadlines and/or some quality aspects.
There's definitely a lot to improve but in a country where you find corruption at every level it's very difficult to improve upon the situation, since many politicians have a direct interest in keeping things the way they are, as they get to pocket some cash either via bribes or sending some work to their friends' companies when work needs to be subcontracted and getting a slice of that pie later.
Some of the politicians that got busted ended up revealing systems where you would pay, as standard, 10% or more of the contract's value if your company got the job, so we really need to focus on solving this corruption thing and then we can work on the quality aspect as well.
Some years ago, before I left, using the Transilvania Highway to get anywhere, it took longer to get to the highway than it took to drive the entire length of the highway.
Furthermore the majority of my extended family left the Soviet Union in the 90s but my grandparents came over long before that (fraternal in the 1930s and maternal in the 40s right after WW2). Neither the old nor new arrivals ever talked about their former homelands in a positive way.
To my surprise many former communist countries/cities neighbouring Austria & Germany (I lived in the former for 8 years and in the latter for 5) actually seemed more or less the same as their western counterparts, or least the parts of them that I visited (Prague, Brno, Cracow, to a lesser extent Budapest, Ljubljana & Bratislava).
I therefor assumed the supposed backwardness was mostly just propaganda. But reading the above makes me think that the closer approximation to the truth is that even European (i.e. not central-asian former soviet republics) former-communist countries vary a lot & can't be that simply pigeon-holed.
Others are sliding into back into dictatorship and economic failure.
Can you elaborate? Sometimes I distract myself so much from my country politics (Romania) that I even (guilty admit) I forget I live there.
Add to that the country wide 15 minute strike that followed. That one was huge. Cars stoped dead in the street in major cities, big companies stopped work. Wow. Just think: a protest art event with hundreds of thousands people participating.
22,247 km (13,824 mi) of railroad tracks
And 807 km of motorways
In contrast the UK (similarly sized, within 2% of area) has
16000 km of railway and
3688 km of highway
I am joking but my experiences with UK Rail made Polish railways look good.
While the UK has ~1700 million passengers per year traveling by rail, Romania has 61 million.
I don’t live in the EU, but how does public infrastructure funding work? Are there no funds to invest in infrastructure?
It seems like trading partners would benefit a lot from a more connected Romania.
What people seem to remember is who cut the ribbon, so it's a bit of a risk for a party that has a 4 year mandate to build something and not finish it during their term as nobody will remember that they started a project.
For the last two or so years the political alliance in charge of things has been mostly focusing on making the laws more lax as most of them have legal problems, instead of focusing on the peoples' problems. We get what we deserve, since you never really do see a smart people ruled by idiots.
Edit: we've had to warn you about this before. Continuing will eventually get your account banned, so please stop.
This is a gross exaggeration. We are a country of around 20 million people and we export a diverse array of finished goods, not to mention setting up shop in Romania if you are a multinational company is very useful as the standard of living is lower and you can pay less than you would pay a German, for example.
> What the Romanian government has done with that money is frankly not something anyone really wants to investigate.
Actually it is investigated, nobody's really turning a blind eye to these things. The EU has an anti-fraud office specifically for this: https://ec.europa.eu/anti-fraud/home_en
Also, the European Public Proscutor's office will be set up in the very near future to specifically prosecute fraud concerning EU funds: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Public_Prosecutor
On the military side, we host part of the NATO missile defense system.
Edit: It’s 80 billion passenger kilometres per year which is a respectable 3+ kilometres per person per day.
From the link:
« The London Underground ("The Tube") had an additional 1.34 billion passengers in 2015-16 »
Anyway, 80 billion passenger kilometres, per year is very good relative to 327.1 billion miles driven.
And it definitely does not even have the strategic highways.
Plus you wouldn't want a be stuck in one of our trains going at 60kmph for 6-8 hours, trust me ;)
There are highways between every mainland settlement though, obviously.
I’m pretty disconnected from this stuff back home so this is an honest question :-)
Also, the A96 between Aberdeen and Inverness is still not even dualled, something that has been slated for decades, and will likely come as no surprise to you.
Something that perhaps will come as a surprise is that Aberdeen now has a bypass. The Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR) was finally opened recently - although after something like a decade and incredible costs.
Because for Romania, we're asking the same question: "why on Earth don't we?" 30 years after the fall of Communism. That's why people are angry.
Some of the things about railways and road connectivity are even better in poor country like India
It used to be very low in the 90's when it fell from numbers comparable to today's, but the old ones were based on fake, communist numbers.
We were very poor until 1945, close to Third World poor, we still had famines until then. Then the communists helped us industrialize a bit, but then refused the Marshall Plan.
Then from 1963 to 1989 we had a Kim/Mao wannabe dictator building heavy industry and paying external debts while people were starving.
We also sold - literally - our German and Jewish communities to their home countries. About 1 million people out of 23 at the time.
So a combo of uneducated populace, Soviet control, communists headhunting elites (again, literally). We're trying to build something now but these things take decades if not centuries.
You "Then from 1963 to 1989 we had a Kim/Mao wannabe dictator building heavy industry and paying external debts while people were starving."
Not defending him, but what I found interesting is that it is the only country that comes to my mind that actually paid its debts off without defaulting:
"By 1986, it paid half its debt and it finished paying its whole debt early in 1989, ahead of schedule."
Yup, they did do a few things well. Free primary and secondary school education, giving women access to jobs, increased urbanization, etc.
But you have to keep on thing in mind: this was communist planning and reporting. We even have jokes about it. Stuff like the production being reported as having grown 10x in one year and then people having to bring stuff from home (from last year's harvest) when being asked to hand over this year's production.
Plus, they changed the country from 90% rural and agricultural to 60%. Even in 2000 45% of the population was still working in agriculture. If you compare their results with same-period Western bloc countries, Romanian gains were lower and shorter term ones.
> Not defending him, but what I found interesting is that it is the only country that comes to my mind that actually paid its debts off without defaulting
Well, it was interesting, but it was at the cost of turning us into an autarky. You know who is/strives to be another one? North Korea. Do you know how Ceaușescu got the idea? In North Korea, after a state visit. He wanted to turn Romania into one of the world's poorest states, just so people would shower him with flowers at yearly events...
And regarding our growth numbers ("between the 1950s and 1970s"), guess when Ceaușescu visited North Korea... 1971 ;)
That's like saying "Say what you will about Hitler, but he built some damn good highways.."
I live in Portugal, trust me, I know a thing or 2 about national debt..
So what is the problem with quoting a fact without a judgment?
If it wasn't then I digress.
PS: They can barely build highways in Muntenia, which is flat as a pancake. It would be underwater in case the ocean level rises...
That can be misleading if these are the late 19th / early 20th century railroad tracks which got dismantled in most of the west (due to road competition) especially as it's unlikely they got upgraded. For instance the french railway system has contracted by half since its height in 1914, Belgium's didn't contract quite that much but not far (according to wikipedia there were 5300km of tracks in 1912, today there are 3600).
Many of the smaller single-track ways linking small villages got progressively abandoned during the 50s and 60s, as local train lines were replaced by buses, cars and trucks (for freight).
And keep in mind that "motorway" is specifically referring to what we would call interstate highway spec in the US. There's plenty of high quality roads that don't meet this spec that nevertheless would get you where you need to go quickly. In the US we have state routes and similar, and the UK has their own thing.
I'm less knowledgeable about Spain, but I know they've had a massive building boom in the early 2000s, was it part of that?
Plus you have populations on all 4 sides of the Iberian 'square', so you do have to build long roads to connect them all.
Here's a song he used to like to sing that sarcastically reminisces about it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x3ljx1roqto
This phenomenon is natural for countries relatively poor compared with their neighbors, but if the quality of life improves there's always a plateau. Other European countries that are now considered to be well developed by us, like Ireland, went through the same process.
Also the Romanians that are leaving still have family here and many send money home or have plans for returning later.
Because as a matter of fact, buying a villa in Romania in a nice area is much cheaper and actually achievable, compared with any of the western countries, where it is next to impossible without winning the lottery. Or in other words, Romania is a nice country to retire to, if you have some money.
Also between you and me, if I were to choose between Romania and the US, I'd choose Romania any day of the week, because I actually have a nice life here, whereas in the US you can always end up on the street, with no safety net and your children forever condemned by not being able to attend an Ivy league university.
I think Romania made great progress since the '90s. The problem is this wave of populism that allowed PSD, our ruling party, to start destroying the great progress that we've made. And if nothing changes at the next elections, I think we are doomed.
However the wave of populism isn't unique to Romania. Notice UK's Brexit, notice US's Trump, notice the far right rising in Europe. Our situation is not at all dissimilar to what is happening in Hungary or in Poland.
But it too will pass. All we need is another economic crisis, because populists spend other people's money and at some point whatever source they have will dry out, at which point the government will be taken over by people that are actually competent. I just hope that this happens before it's too late.
Does similar tech is available for building roads which hopefully last?
The downside is that they have to reduce the speed, and this is on roads that never have problems with congestion. So there is no reason to extend the roads or reduce the speed..
“You get what you measure.”
Also corrupt officials who have inside information buy land that will be crossed by infrastructure then delay it with lawsuits and astronomical prices for the land that has to be expropriated.
On the other hand, with enough vision and willpower their lack of roadways could be an opportunity to create a development model that is not so dependent upon car infrastructure. They could devise tax policies, zoning, and regulations that promote walkable communities. They could build out light rail, or Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) for intra-urban travel. And high speed rail for longer distances.
Cars aren't all they are cracked up to be. Don't just copy everyone else. Learn from their mistakes.
Some modern societies, like Denmark, have moved towards a less car-centric model, and it has worked. And just because prior societies that have developed high speed rail have done so after developing cars, that doesn't mean everyone else must do so in that order.
The concept of leapfrog development is that developing nations can save all the expense and trouble of intermediate solutions and skip right to the good solutions.
Cars are a failed god.
> Cars are a failed god.
This is a hyperbole, people still want to own cars and have the comfort of leaving home whenever they wish and going directly wherever they want to go instead of exchanging buses and trains as well as waiting in between these in order to get from one place to the other.
Specifically for Romania, though I'm sure this is true in other places as well, public transportation inside cities needs to be nailed down before looking at things like high speed rail systems - companies have an interest in their employees getting to work on time, the state would spend less on healthcare if the cities were less polluted, and people would rather wake up a bit later in the morning.
I believe that in the future we'll still see roads being developed alongside rail and high speed rail or other solutions, regardless of how many people think roads are a failing concept.
There are many other possible ways to achieve a modern, prosperous society. One of my favorite ideas is Personal Rapid Transit, but there's plenty of other possible options.
Say what you will about Elon Musk's hyperloop idea, but at least it is trying to think outside of that box.
This is just a wasteful stunt. The only shame is on himself.
Our railways are decaying and the average speed is around 60 kmph. Air transport is super inefficient in super expensive for the average Romanian, for internal flights.
A whole region of the country is cut off from development because on a 400 km radius the fastest you can go, legally, over long distances, is an average of 70 kmph.
I'd put the effort there, mass transit is much more sensible than cars.
Trains would be awesome, but they need to be correlated with the local needs. Romania is poor and has low density. High speed trains are super expensive and only serve cities, basically. We need decent roads and highways.
The article estimates the problem is only a 2% drain on the Romanian economy.
The SF Bay Area economy is surely burning more than 2% due to multi-hour commutes, distorted property values, lack of non-tech workers to support basic infrastructure (like schools and fire stations) etc, etc.
Romania's GDP per capita is ~$10,700. They've made great strides in building up their economy in the past two decades. Their 21% GDP growth since 2007 is among the best in Europe. Per capita they rank above Mexico, Brazil, Turkey, China and will pass Russia this year or next.
California's problems aren't due to lack of income or economic output to tax, and it can afford a bit of drag on its economy from mediocre roads given the extraordinary output levels in question (which isn't to say CA shouldn't fix its terrible roads). California is a case of mismanagement of riches over decades, which isn't a position that Romania has (yet) found itself in.
Can you elaborate. AFAIK after privatization in '89 (fall of the communist party) we kind lost a lot of industry in metallurgy, marble extraction (got owned by big guys) etc..
Yeah. No. California has 'too much wealth / productivity / how do we share the surpluses? ' kinds of problems.
Romania has 'maybe we should have roads ?' problems.
This is a different dimensionality.
I've been to japan recently. I've seen with my own eyes what a good rail infrastructure is like.
We need to learn to walk before we run.
And regarding high speed trains, for Romania that means 130 kmph :)
I had to go look it up, it’s $200Bn! $200M shocked me and also didn’t at the same time, as I have been there and seen it for myself.
They've restarted works 2 times, my guess they do it so that each new government gets its cut.
These people are so cynical they'd just watch the country burn for their personal interest.
For comparasion see Denmark: https://www.populationpyramid.net/denmark/2013/
Edit: removed offensive stuff
Roads are antiquated technology. Romania has a chance to leapfrog most of the world and it seems you're looking backward.
We're currently fighting against our government party because they want to put the lead anti-corruption prosecutor in jail as the EU is trying to appoint her as the head of the EU prosecutor's office.
We're talking about people who not only want to stuff their pockets (super bad, but let's say... ok, by local standards) but don't even do their jobs. They're like a parasite that kills the host knowing full well they'll also die without the host.
Heaps of hubris and stupidity lumped up in our politicians.
Trains are slow and have huge delays pretty much all over, the only subway system is in the capital city and is jam packed during rush hours, and it's also a bit unpredictable in terms of when the next train will arrive.
To speak to the stunt, it is actually very well viewed by both the average person as well as businessmen in Romania.
... Of course it can be wasteful to them personally, if they think it didn't achieve its aims. But considering the modest price, the fact that I'm even aware of it means it definitely did.