The Rise-Fall-Rise of Lidia Shuleva

People | February 21, 2005, Monday // 00:00
The Rise-Fall-Rise of Lidia Shuleva In very rare cases Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Lidia Shuleva could be seen disarmed of her smile. The news of her dismissal from the cabinet of Simeon Saxe-Coburg has apparently turned into her and premier's drama. Photo by Y.Nikolova (SNA)

By Ivelina Puhaleva

Lidia Shuleva plunged into the world of politics from the highest of business achievements and was seen as an embodiment of the "expert" outlook of Simeon Saxe-Coburg's cabinet.

Armed with feminine charm and disarming smile, she is well-known for being a true workaholic. The Velingrad-born lady, a widow and mother of a boy and a girl, has seen many joys and blows of fate, but always impressed with self-control and ambition.

Engineer by profession, Shuleva found herself in the swirl of big business in the dawn of Bulgaria's emerging economy, when most of state-owned companies entered privatisation procedures. Her business and management skills made her executive director of Albena Invest Holding, a leader in the country's tourism sector.

Shuleva's close relations with the so-called juridical lobby of Simeon Saxe-Coburg paved her the path towards the start of political career and she was appointed minister of labour and social policy in July 2001. It marked a precedent in the social portfolio, as this was the first time that a business figure - rather than a syndical one - took on the helm of social affairs.

Lidia Shuleva was quick to blow up any suspicions in her capacities proving that state institutions could produce good results the same way it is done in business. Functionaries of her ministry have been unanimous Shuleva was merciless so far as work and deadlines are concerned.

She ruled the social affairs in a managerial style showing off the best of business knowledge. When the UN awarded her for innovation approach in social policy, this was the top of it, kind of recognition for the reduced unemployment - from 18% to 14%, and the establishment of brand new social programs to reduce the social security burden.

Her removal to the helm of Economy Ministry in the summer of 2003 was seen by many as an award granted by the prime minister and a new challenging task for the ambitious lady, who received the grave heritage of stalled privatisations of two key industries - Bulgarian telecom BTC and tobacco monopoly Bulgartabac Holding.

The success in the first one made her public face smile even broader; the predestined failure of the second one cost her an unexpected - and to some extent undeserved - farewell. Shuleva apparently missed to assess correctly her rivals and their political experience and believed she could openly flex muscles with politicians who are mostly used to behind-the-curtains moves.

In fact the personality had to succumb to policy and accept the opportunity for a revanche.

With Lidia Shuleva now to be the mastermind of Simeon II National Movement's elections campaign, her political opponents of yesterday could hardly bid on forgiveness tomorrow, as she would be the one to draw out the political fate of the incumbents.

She can now learn how to swallow pride and make concessions where future advantages are more promising than the present options.

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