Bulgarians - Down, but Not Out
Bulgarian leaders are enjoying a quietish August. But the autumn will bring storms.
At least this is what trade unions and opposition forecast. Social tensions will escalate and break out into the street after the dizzily lazy summer is over, doomsayers warn.
Though I share their fear of an even grislier economic gloom, I am not inclined to believe we are merely witnessing the calm before the storm. In social terms, I mean. In economic terms the storm has been here for quite a while.
Analysts and ministers are now nibbling at their fingernails as they ponder the state of the economy, which is struggling to survive another difficult year.
What we can expect is that it will mark an anemic growth at best.
Levels of exports and industrial production are tumbling as the economy feels the chill from the euro zone. The financial results of major public companies are worsening.
Domestic demand remains subdued due to a rising unemployment rate and a drop in investments. The construction sector is sliding ever more firmly into negative territory for the fourth year in a row with little hope for revival in the short term.
The retail market continues to be on a downward trend.
The only hopes have been pinned on the tourism and agriculture sectors, which performed well in June, but they would hardly be able to push economic growth up to 1%.
Meanwhile the government continues to adhere to fiscal prudence. But what about the human cost?
No one who reads Bulgaria's financial figures and lives in Bulgaria can be left in any doubt at the shallow and superficial interpretations of the high-paid clerks in banks and in Brussels, who persistently praise the country's fiscal prudence.
I would like to invite them to Bulgaria later this year and show them the human cost.
Even those who do have a home and a job will tell them how tough life is.
Still despite the deterioration in living standards, there is a widespread lack of political consequences and social unrest. This is an amazing phenomenon and I would single out three factors at work for that.
First, the omnipresent apathy, which is not conducive to social activism. Second, the decline of trade unions that could harness the opposition of the people. And last, but not least comes the lifeline that migrants' remittances represent.
Wise people say that the real threat to democracy lies in a growing public impatience with the torpor and banality of its practitioners.
Paradoxically in Bulgaria, the real threat to democracy lies in a growing public patience with the torpor and banality of its practitioners.
The apathy mentioned in the article is not as a result of 'not caring'. The apathy is a sense of futility, (i.e. "what's the point"), and fear, in the knowledge that the country is run and controlled by powerful criminal 'businessmen', and with so called 'laws' not enforced, there is a feeling that anyone who steps out of line will experience the fear of retribution by the controlling criminal classes.
Wise people will say that an effective legal system, the enforcement of laws, and steps to reduce the cash economy (associated with tourism in particular) are key steps to be taken on the road to recovery.
Agree that protest rallies are desirable, if not essential, to bring the problem of organised crime into the public's awareness.