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23 April, 2016

Bulgaria in the trap of neoliberalism

In 1989 the Berlin Wall fell and the so-called “transition period” for Central and Eastern Europe began. The goal pursued was a radical change of society at economic, political and social level. In relation to this, Bulgaria endorsed a variety of development programs, which were manipulated by the two supranational institutions – the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The country was quickly encompassed by a wide network of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) whose number amounts nowadays to 38,000. The UN agencies, supranational authorities and NGOs organized and coordinated Bulgaria’s transition through the same methods, ideas and language, which were being used for the Third World Countries by that time.

by Daniela Penkova

PART 6 - The Results

Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.” - Edward Abbey, „Desert Solitaire”

For 25 years of democratization the Bulgarian population has melted by over 1,600,000 – in 2013 the population was 7,245,677 people. Most capable of working citizens leave the country looking for jobs abroad. One of the biggest problems the country is facing is the brain drain – lots of university graduates emigrate to the West. Despite the strong emigration there are still 433,200 unemployed in Bulgaria – 13% according to the official data from 2013.

In 2013 the trade balance was negative by 4,794,578 dollars, as it has been negative through all the years since 1991. Yet, GDP has tripled reaching 7498 dollars per capita.

The number of hospital beds decreases, reaching 606.9 per 100,000 citizens. The restructuring of the health and education systems, carried out according to the conditions of the loans from the World Bank and the IMF, depicts extremely well the negative effect of the “aid” of the financial institutions on the social sector and the human resources working there. Even if we accept that they have been in the need to be improved and modernized, the radical changes in these sectors have totally devastated all the positive results achieved by that moment.

In addition, the personnel in these sectors consisting of 70-80% women was drastically reduced. In this case as well as in many other cases of restructuring and privatization, the reforms have had an extremely negative effect mostly on women. The international institutions and the national governments do not take into consideration the influence of the reforms on the human aspect.

In the years of the transition since 1989 the health status of the Bulgarian population has been worsening, the death rate has been increasing (especially among capable of working men because of cardiovascular diseases), the demographic growth has been diminishing (and now is negative, -0.8) and the social inequality has been deepening.

It is obvious that the neoliberal measures, imposed on the developing countries with catastrophic results, achieve the same effect of impoverishment in the countries of the former Socialist Block. But in this case it is impossible to put in motion the usual excuses for lacking industrialization, having in mind that it was very well developed in Bulgaria at the dawn of transition.

In Bulgaria’s case we are not talking about some “inherent” poverty, which the policies of development were unable to eradicate. We are talking here about a full dismantling of well functioning industry and social structures. Hunger and poverty have been brought by those neoliberal policies “of development” and now we should ask ourselves: Is it not high time to get rid of them already? And if so, what economic policies do we have to undertake?

Source and references:

[1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

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