Romania has backtracked on its economic reforms by postponing price rises on basic foods, medicines and children's goods planned for January.
The announcement of the delay was Prime Minister Petre Roman's first big retreat from market-oriented economic reforms in the face of mounting opposition to his National Salvation Front (NSF), which took power a year ago in Eastern Europe's bloodiest revolution.The price rises were originally due to come into effect Jan. 1, but the state-run news agency Rompres said late Friday that the Cabinet had decided to postpone them till June 1.
The delay was announced amid rising tension as the first anniversary of Romania's anti-Communist revolution approaches.
A popular uprising from Dec. 16 to 22 led to the overthrow and execution of Stalinist dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu. The NSF, an organization dominated by former Communists, has controlled the government since then.
Roman liberalized the prices of non-essential goods Nov. 1, abolishing four decades of Communist subsidies and allowing the prices of many goods and services to triple.
But he left the price of staple foods, power, heating and some other essential items untouched, saying these would only be freed Jan. 1.
Rompres said the Cabinet had now decided to delay price rises for bread, meat, fish, dairy goods, sugar, cooking oil, eggs, potatoes, beans, children's items, stationery, medicines and medical care for a further five months.
The government gave no immediate explanation for the switch, but it appeared to be nervous about possible unrest during the anniversary of Romania's December revolution.
Some Romanians said the NSF feared that food price rises would spark riots that could lead to its overthrow.
President Ion Iliescu, in a Saturday television interview, accused opposition groups of threatening to topple the government by force.