All is not gold in Romania following Olympic victories
Vienna — Romania's euphoria following its Olympic victories is now overshadowed by the approach of another winter of drastic power cuts and continuing food shortages. In the hardest-pressed households, attention was temporarily distracted from meatless markets by popular satisfaction this summer at this nation's bold decision to ignore the Soviet boycott of the Los Angeles games and by its sparkling performance there.
The Olympic performance was an even bigger boost for President Nicolae Ceausescu, coming at a time when his image as a ''wise leader'' was beginning to be tarnished by four years of deteriorating living standards.
Romania's living standards are indubitably the lowest in Eastern Europe and as autumn sets in, the problems that face the average consumer - constant scarcity of decent foodstuffs, unlit streets at night, and drastic curbs on domestic heating and lighting - are once more at hand.
Flour and a few other items are rationed. Meat is not, for the simple reason that ''if it were, there would have to be some meat in the shops to warrant it, '' a Western diplomat says. There rarely is.
The man in the street believes that much of the country's meat is exported to boost its trade surplus, which for several years now has been used to pay off some of Romania's heavy foreign debts.
Ceausescu denies food exports had been increased. Romanians, however, continue to take such denials skeptically.
''You get a schizophrenic impression here,'' the diplomat says. ''Every day people are ordered by the media and by Ceausescu to scrimp and save on everything, while at the same time the papers hold forth on the brilliant achievements of the 'Ceausescu epoch.' It worked with the Olympics decision and still more when the Romanians did so well. But that now is largely over.''
In the last three years, the nation's foreign debt has been trimmed back from and through drastic cuts in imports at the expense of consumers and industry.
Claims of substantial industrial growth are open to question. Industry is hampered by the persistent shortages of raw materials and severe limits on energy, and by the rigidly centralized system in which inefficiency is endemic.
The country's economic weaknesses have inevitably forced it into closer links with Comecon, the Soviet bloc's ''Common Market.'' (Western countries have been weighing further economic support against the Ceausescu regime's sorry record on such issues as human rights and emigration.) In 1980 Comecon absorbed 38.8 percent of Romanian trade. Last year it reached 53 percent.
Up to the mid-'70s, a self-sufficient Romania still exported oil products to the Soviet Union. When its heavy energy demand finally compelled Romania to shop for Soviet oil, the Russians drove a hard bargain, demanding payment at world price levels with high-quality export goods, mainly food.
Following a visit to Bucharest by Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko at the start of this year, the Russians came up with increased deliveries on somewhat easier terms.
But there seems little prospect for economic advance while Romania clings to over-ambitious industrial ambitions. Recently, it added to them with highly unrealistic crash programs for coal and steel.
Romania has managed to become a modest steel exporter but remains a net importer in terms of value.
A drive is on to double or even triple coal output over the next few years. On the basis of current performance, however, the coal targets are unlikely to be achieved, say on-the-spot experts.