5 Ways to Make Bulgaria a Much, Much Better Place

Novinite Insider » EDITORIAL | Author: Milena Hristova |December 5, 2011, Monday // 19:41| Views: | Comments: 12
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Bulgaria: 5 Ways to Make Bulgaria a Much, Much Better Place

Nothing may be more French than the conviction that the government can and should provide for the well-being of its citizens, the Time magazine wrote last week.

Nothing may be more Bulgarian than the conviction that the government can not or does not want to provide for the well-being of its citizens, I would counter back.

And with good reason.

Unlike Western Europe, Bulgarians did not have the chance to bask in the joys of the welfare state - extensive social spending, state protection and regulated capitalism, on which all French citizens, for example, can rely throughout their lives.

That's why when analysts call for austerity measures and warn that the debt crises, aging populations and slow economic growth could end Europe's "belle vie", they should not forget Bulgarians did not live to see exactly what "belle vie" stands for. It is like comparing incomparables.

This is in fact the shortest and most general justification that I can give to those of our readers, who accused me of populism and manipulation following my article "In Darwin Bulgarians (Do Not) Trust". I also want to thank those who raised the absolutely valid question about the lack of concrete suggestions for improvement.

Well, here are my five top reasons for arguing Bulgaria can be a much, much better place to live and work than it is now. These are in fact my thoughts on what should be rectified to make this dream come true.

1. The unwillingness of the government to clamp down on corruption, the fact that it let it thrive, turning Bulgaria into the most corrupt country in the European Union, is its most irresponsible act, which has not just dire but tragic consequences. It is corruption and hostile environment that make investors leave in droves. Pitted against this business climate, Bulgaria's low corporate tax – at 10%, the lowest in the EU - offers little solace.

2. "There is no money" – this is the mantra that the finance minister has been rattling off non-stop. No money? Really? Truth is that even though Bulgaria's gross domestic product is low in comparison with the developed European countries, it is also not shared out in the most efficient manner. Most of the money the authorities have to collect sink in the gray economy and organized crime circles, while those collected is just not used to create and improve the necessary conditions, which will translate into higher economic growth and higher competitiveness.

3. Stadiums or people? The investments the current government made in stadiums, highways and big sports halls are mind-boggling, given the misery plaguing the health and education systems. If you have to choose between buying a table and having your leg cut off because of a delay in treatment, what would you decide?

4. Authorities and journalists are well aware of the near monopoly on the media market. The pressure, both political and economic, leads to journalism's self-censorship. Those who are supposed to serve as a corrective of the government, are guided by fear. It is the journalists' obligation to speak up and serve their duty. Only in this way will they force the authorities to admit their links with pseudo publishers.

5. True, Bulgarians chose the austerity path after their shock from the 1996 economic crisis. But they have been going on this path for years and years, suffered a lot in the name of the so-called fiscal discipline, which led to a heavily stratified society. Bulgaria is not a prudent country, it is just a poor country. But there is a sanitary minimum, which should not be crossed, because it could lead to physical extinction. This is something the finance minister should not forget and find ways to make the economy produce more. After all the murder of a nation is a heavy crime, isn't it?

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spotty - 12 Dec 2011 // 14:32:24


The question here is whether the other EU countries are really less corrupt than Bulgaria.
At present Holland is blocking Bulgaria's entry into Schengen due to "corruption" and issues with judiciary system... Which sort of corruption are they talking about??? Holland is a country of criminals itself!!!
Its head of state, the Queen, is involved in international corruption and crime through her shareholdings.
It's own politicians are banned from entering other democratic EU member states due to their disregard for human rights.
The European Commission just doesn't issue reports on current Schengen members, that's all.
I want to see the European Commission enforce its laws and principles on its existing members and then talk about Bulgaria.
What is Greece doing in Schengen??? It cannot even monitor its own borders!!! Isn't that the minimum criteria of being a Schengen member???
And how exactly did Greece enter the euro-zone if not because of corruption of the euro-zone countries??? For 10 years they all closed their eyes and filled their pockets. The president of the European Commission is the most corrupt in there too. All he is doing now is trying to protect his other corrupt euro-zone members by pushing for euro-bonds. But hey, you don't dear about that from Bulgarian journalists.
When Barroso was in Sofia which journalist asked him about any of these issues??? None. Why? Are they afraid of him?
I don't see the Bulgarian press writing about that either. Only just writing nonsense.

SanjayA - 11 Dec 2011 // 02:05:15

Well writtten Milena. So true.
While I agree to what you have written, the typical conundrum in combating corruption by the govenment of any country is -
The government has the maximum beneficiary of the corruption.
The same government has all powers and has to reduce corruption.
Effectively, we are asking the government to strike the axe on its own feet !
The only thing people can do is to change the government. Unfortunately the alternative political party is no better, they maybe more corrupt.

Need to find a way out of this.

India had / has similar problem of corruption. Fortunately, private enterprise has grown very well in the last 15 years, Economic growth has become more important than politics.

Bulgarian people must push for greater integration with EU - Eurozone, Schengen. Encourage Foreign Direct Investment, Companies & Businessmen to come-in (govenment will gain in this). But when this grows, it will pressure the government to reduce corruption, since there will more foreign companies and the EU commision will be watching...
Just an idea :)

spotty - 9 Dec 2011 // 18:32:22

How to make Bulgaria a better place

1. If you want to have less corruption, stop accepting corruption as standard practice. Corruption is eradicated when it is no longer tolerated by the people... not by the government! Look at what happened to King Roma - when the people turn against him, nothing can protect him nor save him. Learn from that.
If you want less corruption from government and politicians - stop accepting money and bribes from them in exchange of your vote... and your silence!!! Vote buying doesn't just happen in kind. Vote buying also happens by the Socialists (former Communists) in the form of promises and promises and promises... which they have no money for!!! Look at la belle vie in France - I mean, have a real close look at it.

2. If you want to have a higher GDP, there is only one way to achieve it - create it through work and innovation and creation. If you think there is any other way - you are dreaming!!! If you are too lazy for that - stop blaming others for your own laziness. You will not create higher GDP with Sment i Capelli

3. If you want foreign investment - build infrastructure for it. Look at China and India. One has built the infrastructure and foreign investors chose it above India any day of the week. Bulgaria has roads, rivers and ports. What it lacked thus far was mobility!!! The Socialists wanted to keep Bulgaria only connected to Russia via gas pipelines... the rest of the world didn't matter to them!!!

4. If you want to have better quality media be a better quality journalist!!! Stop writing nonsense and start writing about real issues and facts. Start informing your readers and giving them food for thought. Your job is to educate them and to engage them in debate.

5. A Nation is build or killed by its people. If you dream of any other way of nation building - please go to any one of those built by the great US of A - they are all living the American Nightmare there.

Those old enough of us who remember communism... also remember its cost = 80% tax and a whole day of waiting in a line hoping to buy oranges and bananas for New Year.
If you want that, please go to North Korea to live la belle vie of the welfare state.
You'll have a hard time living la belle vie in France now they have to pay off their debts from too much welfare state and not enough rigueur.

spotty - 9 Dec 2011 // 13:15:17

I know she is Bulgarian and lives in Bulgaria.
That doesn't prevent her from writing about comparing Bulgaria with other countries.
What I am saying is that if she wants to compare, she should give all the facts.
Otherwise, what is the point of comparing!?

There are no 5 ways for Bulgaria to be a better place.
There is only 1 way - for Bulgarians to stop complaining and start working. If you don't want to work - please go to France and see how they live like rats.
The good life in Western Europe - that's over! Now they need to repay their debts. Meanwhile Bulgaria has no such debts, but the Bulgarians need to stop dreaming of money falling from the sky and start working.

SuOcrack - 9 Dec 2011 // 09:58:06

Spotty, as far as I know the author of the Bulgarian article is Bulgarian and lives in Bulgaria.

spotty - 8 Dec 2011 // 18:06:52

This is getting really ridiculous!!!

Journalists in Bulgaria complain complain complain... without having any real understanding of reality.
In next article I suggest the author explain to us why Bulgaria is one of the very few EU member countries not in need of bail out from the IMF. And could the author explain what such bail out means.
In another article could the author please explain the corruption in other EU member states and how it compares with that of Bulgaria. Let's take Belgium and compare its corrupt political class and its judiciary system which is totally corrupt. Let's take its bankrupt economy and financial system. Let's take its high everything, which is a reflection of the total break down of its economy and politics.

The critic of an informed journalist is taken seriously. That of a yapping one is just plain annoying.

Sofianits - 7 Dec 2011 // 20:04:25

I agree that the author is right, except reducing the interior ministry budget would just make it easier for the fat cats to scrape the remaining scraps off the Bulgarian public carcass.

If you are right, and you have 5 Leva, you can get a coffee at Starbucks.

Harley - 7 Dec 2011 // 09:33:49

SuOcrack, i also agree with many of your points. First of all, let me reiterate that technology is the key to improving Bulgaria's corruption problem and improvement in living standards by significantly raising revenue for the state:

1. E-Government: If you look a the table of the top 20 countries in e-government readiness, they also tend to be among the least corrupt in Transparency International's tables.

2. Police: By reducing the subjectivity of the police and using technology such as cameras to photograph people speeding, talking on the phone, not yielding to pedestrians, not wearing seat belts, etc. the number of fines will increase exponentially and the money will flow to the State Budget not to the pocket of a street corner monkey with a stick. Fines also need to be increased drastically, the fines for speeding and other traffic violations are ridiculously low and need to be brought in line with the European average.

3. Vignettes: The government floated some time ago the introduction of electronic toll collection. This would be an excellent feature since people who drive the most would pay the most, people driving the least or not using highways would not pay anything. This would increase the money available for highway and road repairs, which anybody driving in Trakia highway for example can see that it has not been properly maintained in the last 20 years. The current system for vignettes is absolutely ridiculous and anachronistic.

All these changes would be a boost to Bulgaria's small but dynamic and growing IT sector. Instituting these changes would allow this industry to grow further and to attract even more foreign investment. This is another sector that should be an absolute focus of the Bulgarian government.

Instead of moaning and complaining about how miserable things are, Bulgarians should channel all that negative energy into proposing, lobbying and changing the policies of government and achieve realistically attainable objectives in the short term. And we should look at the mirror objectively, the only reason our wages are the lowest in the EU is because our productivity is the lowest in the EU.

SuOcrack - 7 Dec 2011 // 00:31:32

I don’t think, Milena, that you are offering any solutions, just repeating the same old tired excuses for why Bulgaria is in the mess that it is.

Harley has some interesting ideas and I would agree with a lot of what they say, particularly point 1. Where I disagree is in point 2 (although they seem to contradict themselves with point 5). It is not a reduction in police that is needed but a cleaning of the shop, an increase in powers and, perhaps as an incentive, the provision of bonuses for identifying crime, the charging for offences and the issuing of fines. As far as vehicle-oriented offences are concerned, they could start with prosecuting for use of mobile phones while driving, not wearing seatbelts, failure to protect children and animals in a vehicle, parking on sidewalks (and in so many other unsafe locations), failure to stop at pedestrian crossings, owners of unregistered vehicles, uninsured vehicles, non-MOT’d vehicles, etc., etc.

I find the “monkeys in every corner” comment extremely offensive. Not only that, I doubt very much that they are “stopping everyone for no reason”. They aren’t stopping enough people.

The other thing is, why is the vignette price remaining at the same price again next year? They have already lost 1/12th of a year, a couple of years back, by changing the year end. They should have taken the opportunity to add on one month’s cost to the annual cost, at that time, and then continued at that price, if not increasing it.

Al - 6 Dec 2011 // 17:45:49

Sofianits, you wrote: "It is encouraging to read the youthful enthusiasm and idealism that is inherent in this article."

Whatever, please don't try to patronize.

The author is right.

I might have chosen to sharpen the guiding stars, which are more implicitly given by the article, but she's right!

Just my two stotinki

Sofianits - 6 Dec 2011 // 15:05:55

It is encouraging to read the youthful enthusiasm and idealism that is inherent in this
article. What the author fails to realize is that, under Capitalism, every society has a
Ruling Class, and in Bulgaria this is being established, but it's hold on the percieved
reality confronting Bulgarian citizens is still tenuous.

In the United States, which was founded in 1776 in order to perpetuate and legitimize
the rule of persons of property, these things are so well established that they have gone almost unnoticed until recently (e.g., the Occupy Movement). Old families of money dominate
the political and financial institutions of the US. This is accepted without question, and the superstructure that supports this edifice (lawyers, statesmen, "business leaders") is taken for granted.

In Bulgaria, the people that have established financial dominance (this is always done
by theft - how else?) are so vulgar, crude, incompetent, and in-your face, that they
incur public ire. But after a couple of generations, after they have sent their children to
the best Universities, and attained some refinement, they will be able to rule without
your noticing so much, or recognizing that they have stolen it all by "Preying on the
State", to quote the title of the book by the Bulgarian sociologist Venelin I. Ganev

Harley - 6 Dec 2011 // 13:58:02

Typical Bulgarian thinking, looking at the cause without identifying the effect. I'll give my 5 ways Bulgaria can be a much better place with more prosperous citizens:

1. Institute a complete E-Government system. By shifting all administrative functions to the online sphere corruption will be greatly reduced, bureaucracy and red-tape eliminated and the state will enjoy a surge in revenue. This worked wonders in Estonia.

2. Eliminate 50% of employees of the Ministry of the Interior. Bulgaria has more police per capita than any other country in Europe. Anybody driving around the country and seeing these monkeys in every corner with their Russian style sticks stopping everyone for no reason can understand that this is a massive corruption racket. By eliminating half of these bozos, the resulting savings can be used to buy the remaining "cleaner" bunch better uniforms, weapons, cars and training. And all additional savings should be shifted to the Ministry of Health and Education.

3. Double down the number of highways being built and actively explore giving highways on concession. This will generate more revenue for the state and by having all major highways built should give a 1-2% boost to Bulgaria's GDP on a yearly basis. The EU is paying 80% of the highways so this is the best deal Bulgaria is getting in its history.

4. Launch a strong marketing and advertising program on international television stations promoting Bulgaria as a business destination with low costs, 10% corporate tax and skilled workforce. Also promote Bulgarian wine and Bulgarian tourism, especially cultural. Our neighbors Romania and Macedonia constantly have advertisements on CNN, BBC, Al-Jazeera, Euronews, Discovery, etc. There's no reason why we can't too. The EU Operational Program on Regional Development covers this too.

5. Significantly raise municipal taxes while at the same time explaining through social media, and other online channels what will be done with the increased revenue such as resurfacing roads, improving touristic sights, etc. Municipal revenue can and should be increased by increasing enforcement of laws regarding many things. To avoid corruption of the enforcement personnel, they should earn a percentage of all fines they issue. This will lead to a strong revenue stream for the local government.

All these things are simple and could be done within 6 months. What is lacking in Bulgaria is always political will and the absolute general incompetence of the government sector that is more rooted in Zhivkov's train of thought than in modern European values and modern economic reality.

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