Romania Table of Contents
The Romanian economic structure was unusual in the extreme degree to which party and governmental hierarchies were intertwined and even formally merged. This fusion of bureaucracies was even apparent in the architecture of the capital city, Bucharest, whose skyline in the late 1980s came to be dominated by a massive new Palace of Government, housing both party and state agencies. All state administrative offices, from the national to the lowest local levels, were filled by carefully screened PCR careerists. As early as 1967, Ceausescu had called for administrative streamlining by eliminating the duplication of party and government functions. His solution was to assign responsibility for a given economic activity to a single individual.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the merging of party and state organs gained momentum, affording the PCR ever tighter control over the economy. The process culminated in the emergence of national economic coordinating councils--administrative entities not envisioned by the Constitution of 1965. These party-controlled councils provided Ceausescu, who after 1967 held the dual titles of general secretary of the PCR and president of the Council of State, the means to dominate the economic bureaucracy.
One of the most powerful of the new joint party and state bodies was the Supreme Council of Economic and Social Development, which Ceausescu chaired from its inception in 1973. The new 300-member council coopted the authority to debate and approve state economic plans--authority constitutionally granted to the Grand National Assembly (GNA--see Glossary). The latter's role in the planning process became increasingly ceremonial, as real policy-making power shifted to the Supreme Council's permanent bureau--also chaired by Ceausescu. At a joint meeting of party and state officials in June 1987, Ceausescu announced the conversion of the permanent bureau into a quasi-military economic supreme command, further tightening his grip on planning while reducing the role of the governmental institution created for that purpose--the State Planning Committee. That same year, he signed a decree endorsing the 1988 annual economic plan even before obtaining rubber-stamp approval by either the Central Committee of the PCR or the GNA. Thus the general secretary had assumed absolute authority in setting economic policy.
Among other important joint party and state economic councils to evolve during the Ceausescu era were the Central Council of Workers' Control over Economic and Social Activities, which oversaw economic plan fulfillment; the Council for Social and Economic Organizations, which controlled the size and functions of the ministries and enterprises; and the National Council of Science and Technology. The latter was chaired by the general secretary's wife, Elena Ceausescu, who was emerging as a powerful political figure in her own right. In June 1987, it was announced that this body thereafter would collaborate with the Supreme Council of Economic and Social Development and would draft development plans and programs, thus giving Elena Ceausescu much of the authority constitutionally vested in the chairmanship of the State Planning Committee.
Ceausescu consolidated his control of the economy not only by creating new bureaucratic structures, but also by frequent rotation of officials between party and state bureaucracies and between national and local posts. In effect after 1971, the policy was highly disruptive. For example, twenty economic ministers were replaced in September 1988 alone. Rotation enabled Ceausescu to remove potential rivals to his authority before they could develop a power base. He justified the policy by attributing virtually all the country's economic problems to inept and dishonest bureaucrats intent on sabotaging his policies. Another control tactic was making highly publicized visits to factories, state farms, or major construction sites, where--usually accompanied by his wife-- Ceausescu would interview workers and front-line managers and solicit complaints about their superiors. The threat of public humiliation and removal effectively deterred the managerial cadres from independent thinking.
Data as of July 1989
Romania Table of Contents