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Country X, Has Y Parties, Needs Smart Govt

Novinite Insider » EXPERT VOICES | Author: Maxim Behar |May 6, 2013, Monday // 09:48
Bulgaria: Country X, Has Y Parties, Needs Smart Govt

This article was originally published at the "Unfiltered" column of the Bulgarian news agency BGNES.

Does anybody see any difference in the messages different parties send to Bulgarian voters prior to the crucial general elections on May 12? Even if you arm yourself with a powerful magnifying glass or consult analysts, you will not be able to find dramatic differences to weigh in favor of this or that program.

I am sure that at least a dozen political leaders are now ready to jump up and start explaining – in a forceful voice, accompanied by expressive hand gestures – how unique their pre-election program is, how only they can lead Bulgaria out of the crisis. In those monologues there is only one true thing – Bulgaria is in a crisis.

Even the best program, if not applied in practice, will be just a piece of paper and Bulgaria will continue to be in a crisis. Over the last 23 years Bulgaria achieved many things, which made the transition period irreversible. As Pole Leszek Balcerowicz used to say: "The most important thing is that you burn your bridges."

But one particular thing has been unanimously embraced as Bulgaria’s panacea and put on a pedestal. Though I am fully convinced that this mechanism has nothing to do with market economy, populist policies and generous unrealistic promises have made me believe that this particular thing is the only lifeline to Bulgaria’s economy. This is the Currency Board Arrangement.

Every freshman knows that if Bulgaria was not operating a currency board with a stable exchange rate, one euro would have been exchanged at some twenty Bulgarian levs and quite a few banks would have found themselves in hot waters, to put it mildly.

This is the reason why the programs of all political parties are so similar. This is the sole economic measure, which – although having nothing to do with market economy – provides stability and makes politicians’ messages – as far as the economy is concerned - so identical.

True, once and again, one can hear variations on this topic, but this is just a desperate attempt to be original and a sure bet not to be elected. Those calls range from promises for a minimum wage of 1,000 levs (a realistic goal, provided that the government does it job well), phasing out the currency board, new constitution and a ban on political parties.

In other words at one point the pre-election campaign in Bulgaria started to resemble the protests that swept the country in February. But the generous promises were streaming from the TV screen. And those promises are always the same, no matter the party – corruption combat, efficient judicial system, higher wages, help for the small and medium-sized enterprises…

Even the major parties got so worried they are running out of time that they began to formulate their goals in short lists – “first ... second ... last but not least ...". No matter the order and the lists, these are the same messages and the same promises. But nobody is taking the trouble to explain how and when these goals will be achieved.

Parties began popping up like mushrooms, sporting extravagant names, led by even more extravagant leaders, promoting blurry ideas. They all entered a fierce war of words, thinking that their pompous statements will win the hearts of voters.

Truth is that even today Europe, not to mention the other parts of the world, view Bulgaria as the country “X” – unknown, weird, not understood. Why? The answer to this question is a long story, produced by the blurry, difficult and unforgettable transition period.

The country “X” now has “Y” parties and “Z” messages – unknowns, which only confuse further foreign politicians and investors. No matter whether they come from the left or right-wing part of the political spectrum, all those parties have similar goals - no corruption, business friendly environment, strong SMEs. No one dares to propose changes in the currency board arrangement or in taxes, which continue to be the lowest in Europe.

The equation is full of unknowns, but what I know for sure is that the next government – whoever comes into power – should add under all circumstance the word ‘smart’ to it.

Bulgaria needs to be “smart”, this is the name of the party and leader Bulgarians – swinging between left and right, between one extreme and the other, between liberalism and conservatism, between real and insane ideas – need.

I am sure that that leader and that party exist.


Maxim Behar is a Bulgarian PR and media expert, founder and CEO of one of the leaders on the Bulgarian PR market, M3 Communications Group, Inc. As of January 2012, he is the Chairman of the Czech Republic Office of leading global corporation Hill+Knowlton Strategies. Behar is also the Treasurer and a Member of the Executive Board of the International Communication Consultancy Organization (ICCO), and a member of the Board of the global PR forum in Davos "Communication on Top".

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Tags: Elections 2013 Opinions, Elections 2013, Bulgaria, Maxim Behar

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