Bulgarians Astonished by Minister's OK for Black Economy *Views on BG | May 12, 2011, Thursday // 11:41| views
Traikov’s statement raised a lot of question marks as many Bulgarians found it inappropriate for a government minister to sound so lax about the black economy. Photo by BGNES
Bulgaria's Economy Minister Traicho Traikov said on public television that for his country, it was "better to have a black economy than none". The comment triggered astonishment nationwide not because of its substance, but due to the fact that it came from a government minister.
Speaking on national channel bTV, Traikov, who is also energy minister, said that "black or not, the economy exists and creates gross domestic product".
The minister was initially asked to comment on recent research conducted by the Bulgarian Industrial Capital Association, an employers' organisation, according to which over 40% of the Bulgarian economy pertains to the black sector.
In Bulgarian, the 'black economy' is called the 'grey economy', a euphemism indicating tolerance vis-?-vis the phenomenon. Indeed, many foreigners familiar with Bulgaria wonder how people with an average salary of some ?300 per month, the lowest in the EU, often lead lavish lifestyles.
Traikov said the figure from the research was exaggerated. He added that according to the government's estimations, the black economy in the country amounted to 25-30% of GDP.
The minister also said that the black economy ran on tax fraud, tax evasion, fiddled accounting and smuggling. Indeed, many recent scandals in Bulgaria, none of which led to sentences, were linked to the country's customs system.
In one of these, Boyko Borissov, the prime minister, was caught speaking of the need to "protect" a controversial businessman from customs checks.
Traikov's statements triggered a wave of comments. On Dnevnik's website, 242 people had commented under the article within six hours of its publication. No-one appeared to be surprised by the figures, and some readers congratulated Traikov for having the courage to say out loud what appeared to be common knowledge already. However, others found it inappropriate for a government minister to sound so lax about the black economy.
Dnevnik writes in the same edition that according that the country's National Statistical Institute, over the last two years the number of people paying their social security contributions had dropped by 260,000.
During the transition years that followed the fall of communism, for many years Bulgarians avoided paying any social security contributions. The trend was recently reversed but current results from the Statistics Office appear to indicate a return to past practices.
The Statistics Office also reveals that the number of employed people is in decline, which appears to confirm the results of a recent census indicating an alarming decline in the population, largely due to high immigration rates.
The number of employed people in Bulgaria dropped by 64,000 in the first quarter of 2010 alone, the institute reveals.
*The title of the article has been changed by the Editorial Staff of Novinite.com
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