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Financially responsible and acting in good faith? Hell, no, let's gamble 'cos someone else will foot the bill!

Watching as the members of the Cambers of Deputies stood up to cheer the adoption of the Law on the conversion of CHF loans, I had the revelation that the ghost of Caritas still haunts the Romanian financial environment more than two decades later.
Should we be surprised that in an electoral year the Romanian lawmakers joyfully passed such legal oddities like the he law on conversion of the CHF loans, the Law on giving in payment and the law on stopping the food waste? Should one be amazed that the Romanian legislators consider that financial responsibility, reason, temperance, restraint, risk-avoidance and fulfilling one’s contractual obligations should be reprimanded and instead,
risk-taking, carelessness, financial mindlessness and
deed-breaching should be rewarded?  Hell, no!

There is no need to dig deep into our past to discover that, as a matter of fact, Romanians’ financial behavior has been so clearly encapsulated by the Caritas affair. In the early 1990s, millions of people risked their life-long savings for the dream-turned-nightmare of becoming reach come morning.  The scheme put forward by an obscure accountant, promised to increase one’s deposits by eight fold in less than half a year and millions of Romanians were eager to follow him. At its’ peak, it is believed that more than half of the Romanian households took their money into the financial wonderland of Cluj-Napoca, where Ioan Stoica would perform his miracle and almost one third of the Romanian banknotes were held in the Caritas’s coffers.
The ones that attempted to talk some sense into the crowd and argue that no miracle would propel the poverty-stricken post-communist Romanian family into the capitalist heaven, were labeled traitors of the Volk. I still remember the thousands of hate-letters the Romanian Section of the BBC in London had received following a series of programs in which one explained that Caritas is nothing but a Ponzi scheme, a financial scam that will collapse sooner rather than later.
By the way, I am curious to know if anyone who have lost one’s savings in Caritas scheme had also took a loan in CHF, as there are several striking resemblances between the Caritas depositor and the CHF borrower. First of all, both believe that financial miracles truly do exist. Secondly, both refute any responsibility for their own actions and blame “the other” for the misfortune. Thirdly, in the aftermath of the financial collapse, both strongly believe that they have been misinformed or conned, rather than to accept the fact they only listened to the arguments that they wanted to hear.
Both the Caritas depositor and the CHF borrower truly believe in Father Fortune. Who would see any problem if a merchandise – say a house – may be affordable in one currency – say CHF - and not in any in another currency – Euro, Leu, or US dollar. Who would admit that he/she just wanted to avoid the two digits interest rate on Leu when was much more morally convenient to say that one has been sank into debt by a world conspiracy to destroy the Romanian national fiber. 
Both the Caritas depositor and the CHF borrower strongly believe that they bear no responsibility for their choices. Every Romanian that lost money in the Caritas scheme still defend his/her actions by pretending that he/she was just following the crowd and just wanted take advantage of the same opportunity to get-rich-quick as any other fellow Romanians did. Every CHF borrower would tell you that he/she simply followed the common advice that CHF was a safe and stable currency. Who would admit they really enjoyed being the smart guy with an affordable loan while the other not-so-smart fellows were struggling repaying their Euro mortgages?
Both Caritas depositor and the CHF borrower will tell you that he/she did not know or was misinformed or outright conned by “the banks”. While the poor Caritas depositor of the early ’90 may have been excused for his/her lack of economic knowledge, the borrower of the 2007-2008 has no excuse whatsoever: the internet, the lawyers specialized in banking and the independent financial advisers were there, but who could be bothered to pay a fee and ask for their independent advice? Who would bother to run a google search on economic news to see what’s going on especially when getting ready to make the purchase of their life and not the daily loaf of bread? No, it is much simpler to play the Silly Billy game and pretend you did not know that borrowing in any other currency than the Leu makes you a gambler on the foreign currency market, where you may win or you may lose.
The conclusion is simple and plain for everyone who want to see it: twenty years on, we still fail to learn the lesson that acting reasonable and being financially responsible pays off. Unfortunately, a financially responsible citizen may demand a financially and morally responsible politician and why should be a Romanian lawmaker interested in creating such a discomforting situation?

To read the full version, see the print edition of Business Arena.

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