Romania - Infrastructure, power, and communications

Romania's infrastructure is fairly extensive, with 103,671 kilometers (64,276 miles) of road, 11,385 kilometers (7,058 miles) of rail, and 3.84 million main telephone lines. But most of it is in a poor state of repair, due to decades of underinvestment. This is a situation that successive governments are eager to rectify, though they have had difficulty finding the necessary funding. Most hopes rest on foreign aid, particularly from the EU, and on attracting foreign investment.

Since 1989, every government has instituted a road-building program, partly in an attempt to generate employment. The EU has helped, but its money has mainly gone towards improving border posts and building the major trans-European corridor routes that run through Romania. Critics say the money would be better spent on improving smaller roads, particularly in ensuring that donkeys and carts are kept off major routes. Railway services, meanwhile, are still provided by the state-owned rail company SNCFR and are loss-making, despite government subsidies. Only a third of the tracks are electrified, and speed restrictions are widespread. In March 2001, the Japanese government lent Romania US$220 million to upgrade the Bucharest-to-Constanta railway.

Romania has 6 major ports, of which Constanta is seen as the most important to the country's future. It is located where the River Danube flows into the Black Sea. The Danube itself is the country's most important trade route, but, in 1999, was blocked thanks to NATO's bombing of Serbia. It has recently reopened, but problems remain. Romania also has 3 international and 16 domestic airports. The dominant carrier is the country's national airline, Tarom. It is currently state-owned, and the government has been trying to find a strategic investor to provide financing and connect the airline into the rapidly forming global alliances. But the latest attempt

Communications
Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Romania 300 319 233 119.2 29 N/A 10.2 9.01 600
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Russia 105 418 420 78.5 5 0.4 40.6 13.06 2,700
Poland 113 523 413 83.3 50 N/A 43.9 40.86 2,100
a Data are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
b Data are from the Internet Software Consortium ( http://www.isc.org ) and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

to sell Tarom, in late 2000, failed thanks to a lack of interest.

Investment into Romania's energy sector is also badly needed. The country currently generates 22.6 gigawatts of power from a combination of thermal, hydro-electric, and nuclear power plants. But most of the plants are over 20 years old, and about 60 percent of Romania's power capacity will have to be replaced within the next 10 years. The power market is dominated by the state monopoly Conel. To meet EU expectations and attract investment into the power market, Romania plans to liberalize the power market, break up Conel, and privatize parts of the sector. The government is also pushing for an oil and gas pipeline to be built through the country to transport fuel from the Caspian Sea region to the West. But with several countries competing to become a transit route, the outcome is uncertain.

Romania's telecommunications system is extremely outdated, with poor service. But there has been some progress in recent years. In 1998, Greece's OTE bought a 35 percent stake in the state fixed-line monopoly, Romtelecom. OTE plans substantial investment, while the government has raised US$7 to 8 billion through a 15-year telecoms program supported by the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Meanwhile, mobile telecoms have grown rapidly, led by private companies such as Mobifon and Connex. Over 1 million Romanians are now thought to have mobile phones, with 60 percent of the country covered. Internet access has been slow to develop because of poor phone lines. Internet accounts penetration is now 0.25 per 100 inhabitants, compared with 1.25 in neighboring Hungary, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

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