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Aspects of Independent Romania?s Economic History with Particular Reference to Transition for EU Accession

Author(s):Turnock, David
Reviewer(s):Haar, Laura

Published by EH.NET (September 2008)

David Turnock, Aspects of Independent Romania?s Economic History with Particular Reference to Transition for EU Accession. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2007. xxi + 298 pp. $100 (hardcover), ISBN: 978-0-7546-5892-4.

Reviewed for EH.NET by Laura Haar, Manchester Business School, University of Manchester.

This book traces Romania?s economic and social transformation over almost three centuries and, given its ambitious scope, could have been undertaken only by someone with extensive scholarship in Eastern European economic history and regional development. For David Turnock, Emeritus Professor of Human Geography at the University of Leicester, UK, this study is a crowning achievement of over twenty years of research and analysis focused primarily upon Romania?s modernization efforts. In ten chronologically organized chapters, the reader is introduced to the main historical and ideological events that shaped Romania?s economic development, starting from the time of the Greek Phanariot rulers, through to the aberrations of the Communist regime and, last but not least, the 17 years of complicated economic and institutional transition reforms that culminated with the country?s accession to the European Union.

The first two chapters, spanning across thirty pages, concentrate a great deal of historical detail, with emphasis upon the creation of the Romanian Kingdom in 1918 and the following period of rapid industrialization, suddenly interrupted by the Second World War. The third chapter presents the centrally planned economy under Ceausescu?s regime and discusses its distorting implications for the country?s industrial structure, infrastructure and radical rural/urban changes. These first three chapters offer a useful historical perspective to the rest of the book which focuses upon the post-communist years. In the following two chapters, the author describes at length how successive governments tried to restructure the economy, upgrade the country?s institutions, deal with ensuing social tensions and attract the much needed foreign direct investment to modernize the country?s industrial base. Turnock also mentions the role played by international lenders such as the IMF, EBRD and World Bank and the non-reimbursable financial assistance received by Romania from the EU during the pre-accession phase. In chapters 6 and 7 the author undertakes a sector-based analysis to illustrate some of the transition-related economic and political challenges. Turnock pays attention to the post-communist environmental issues as well as to the structural changes observed in the following industries: chemicals, building materials, textiles, clothing and leather. Turnock offers readers a wealth of statistical data and an update on the successes and limitations of the gradual approach to privatization pursued by Romanian policy makers. There is some information, albeit mainly descriptive in nature, on foreign direct investors and their preferred modes of entry. The final three chapters deal with agricultural reforms, infrastructure reconfiguration and urban planning and development respectively and here, in particular, is material to satisfy economic geographers who, no doubt, will appreciate both the statistical data and the country/region maps tracing recently evolving patterns.

Overall, given its encyclopedic level of detail, the book is a rich reference source for researchers with an interest in European transition economies. Turnock?s detailed account of Romania?s restructuring process (whose drawbacks, setbacks and sector-based examples are detailed over seven chapters) is based upon extensive fieldwork, relevant statistics, wider readings and personal inferences. The author?s depiction of successive post-communist governments and their proposed economic, political and social agendas is lucid and informative and is indicative of his direct exposure to (and understanding of the) debates covered over time in the Romanian economic and political literature and press. In fact, the book draws the attention of Western readers to the ideas and writings of Romanian academics, otherwise not easily accessible due to language barriers. Turnock?s knowledge of local matters and appreciation for the local ethos gives his account of Romania?s economic reforms a matter-of-fact character and, at times, allows for entertaining anecdotal detail (as in his discussion of ethnic issues in Romania since 1989).

On the cautionary side, the encyclopedic character of this book may overwhelm those readers who favor larger themes and synthesized ideas instead of this book?s detailed narrative. Using this work as a reference tool, readers can escape the tediousness of the text if they know in advance what to search for. It is also unfortunate that the rigor displayed by the author in describing the long-term economic transformation of Romania was not matched by his publisher. Punctuation and other typographical errors are common throughout the text and impede its fluency. Despite the above, the book is to be commended for its breadth and its useful and updated material on Romania?s economic history and human geography.

Laura Haar is Lecturer in International Business at the Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, UK. She is the author of ?Misreading Liberalisation and Privatisation: The Case of U.S. Energy Utilities in Europe,? Energy Policy (2008) and ?Industrial Restructuring in Romania from a Bilateral Trade Perspective: Manufacturing Exports to the EU, 1995-2006.? Email: laura.n.haar@mbs.ac.uk

Subject(s):Economywide Country Studies and Comparative History
Geographic Area(s):Europe
Time Period(s):20th Century: WWII and post-WWII