Wirtschaftsblatt: Bulgaria's Self-Inflicted Problems

Views on BG | September 1, 2015, Tuesday // 11:41
Bulgaria: Wirtschaftsblatt: Bulgaria's Self-Inflicted Problems The government headquarters in Sofia, Bulgaria. Photo by BGNES

Bulgaria is not developing particularly well at the moment, and its problems are being overshadowed in the media by Central and Southeastern Europe's migrant crisis, Austrian daily Das Wirtschaftsblatt reads.

"The economy doesn't grow. Governments change and the judiciary doesn't always manage to crack down on wrongdoing," Eva Konzett explains in an article posted on the newspaper's website.

The article goes on to remind that Bulgaria built a fence along its green border with Turkey to halt migrant influx well before Hungary did, but that was not completely successful, with numbers of asylum seekers having doubled over the first four months of 2015 compared to the same period of 2014.

Structural problems "of economic nature," unlike the externally caused migrant flow issues, are "self-inflicted, with meagre GDP growth of only 1% on average since 2009.

"In the opinion of Brussels [EU Commission] officials nothing will change about this in the near future," the author warns, having in mind the the Commission's annual country report from which sluggish growth data was taken.

Deflation and political instability, added to the turbulence in the banking sector (Corporate Commercial Bank, back then Bulgaria's fourth-largest lender, collapsed in June 2014), have helped ruin the Commission's trust in Bulgaria and have pointed to serious weaknesses in governance.

The author also quotes former Finance Minister Simeon Djankov as saying that the country's financial system is largely "in the hands of alliances of the one-time Communist services."

State expenditure is mounting with revenues failing to make up for this and with a 2.9% deficit projected for 2015, a trend aided by the "loopholes" in the Bulgarian tax system, Konzett points out, though she does not elaborate.  

"Neither Brussels nor Washington could change what a high-ranking employee of the US Embassy in Sofia said," the author explains referring to Roderick W Moore, the US Embassy's Charg? d'Affaires ad interim since the beginning of August.

Mr Moore, who has previously had rich experience related to Bulgarian domestic affairs, is quoted as saying: "The problem is that in Bulgaria some people are standing above the law." The Wirtschaftsblatt article also reports about him reminding (apparently in an interview he gave for private NOVA TV station) that back in the 2000s, during his previous appointment here as Deputy Head of Mission, he asked people how many high-ranking politicians had been sentenced and respondents replied by laughing. "Today I am receiving the same answer."

The piece concludes with an opinion that by strengthening the rule of law predictability and economic ties (with other countries) would improve. A sign of hope can be found here as the author reminds of August's court ruling which placed former spy chief Gen Kircho Kirov behind bars for ten years, a sentence described as "unprecedented" in the Bulgarian legal world.

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Tags: Simeon Djankov, Roderick Moore, Moore, Kircho Kirov
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