Bulgaria's PM: FinMin Says Right Things But in American

Domestic | December 2, 2011, Friday // 11:18|  views

Bulgaria's Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, says the syndicates are "pulling the devil's tail too much" with the large-scale protest rallies they are organizing. Photo by BGNES

Bulgaria's Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, declares that mistakes in the retirement system in the country are 20-year-old.

In a second for Friday morning TV interview for TV7, the PM said that money from the State treasure is used to fill the gap of the budget of the National Security Institute (NOI), depriving other sectors from much needed funding.

In his earlier appearance before the Bulgarian National Television, BNT, Borisov revealed that the sudden upping of the country's retirement age with one whole year starting January 2012 – a move that stirred great turmoil and a wave of protests, was his idea.

"Money for daycare centers, infrastructure - all goes for social security; this is why Bulgaria is forced to count on EU financing with only 20% State co-financing to build them. If our highways were already finished, we could slate funds for innovations, for an administrative reform," the PM told TV7.

Regarding protest rallies all over Bulgaria, the PM pointed out he was counting that the syndicates would abstain from "pulling the devil's tail too much" because tensions will escalate and they won't be able to control the situation.

"The labor unions act like a small child whose mother is taking them to the doctor to have some shots – the child pulls away and cries because he or she is afraid of the pain, but the mother knows that the shots will prevent a serious illness 20 years later," said Borisov.

According to the country's leader, there isn't any party Head, in their right mind, who would want to rule the country in such crisis. He reiterated that if the protests topple his cabinet there would be no alternative, no one better to elect.

Tens of thousands of people from across Bulgaria gathered Wednesday in front of the parliament in downtown Sofia in protest against planned changes in the retirement system.

Later Wednesday, Borisov's ruling center-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria party, GERB, retracted this plan and proposed a gradual retirement age upping with four months each year until 2014 for all employees.

Commenting on the large-scale protest rallies of grain producers, who are blocking roads with farming equipment, Borisov stressed they were the only ones to come to them before the elections "to twist the government's arms." He explained that the cabinet's answer had been farmers would get more money if there would be such option because agriculture is a priority and this is way both the Deputy PM and Finance Minister, Simeon Djankov, and the PM himself have signed the agreement.

He stressed that the most important part of the text in the agreement was that "funding would be slated only within the frame of the possibility to secure national subsidies," and vehemently denied that the agreement was sealed before the elections with the goal of political gains.

Borisov reiterated earlier statements that the huge share of the subsidies goes to 7-8 millionaires in the sector, who are driving Bentleys.

"Now we cannot stop this vicious practice, but I asked Brussels and we will be able to do so in 2014. What I saw on all news were protesting farmers around barbecues, eating pork chops, dancing folk dances under the sounds of orchestras – as they are celebrating something like Christmas. These 7-8 firms are sponsoring all this – they are sending the food like some social assistance, to keep up the good mood. And all this while they are getting more money than last year – the notification from Brussels came yesterday – we got the green light with BGN 70 M to give them vouchers so that they would not pay excise duty on fuels," he stressed.

When asked to comment on the demonstrators threat they will bring their tractors to Sofia and block the already heavily-congested capital, the PM said that they were welcome; wished them a safe trip, but appealed to them to keep in mind that 2 million people live in the city and for this reason - arrive after 8 pm.

Bulgarian farmers are staging nation-wide protests for the fifth consecutive day.

Each year farmers receive EU subsidy, which is determined by the size of their land. The amount slated for 2012 is over BGN 830 M. There are also BGN 110 M in the State budget for grain producers, BGN 71 M for animal keepers and BGN 73 M for tobacco growers.

Grain producers, however, demand another BGN 230 M in the national treasury. The discontent escalated after the passing in the Parliament, at first reading, the draft 2012 budget, where the amount was lower than what was promised by these BGN 230 M. A month before the October 23 local and presidential elections, the cabinet and the farming associations signed a financial frame, which included BGN 570 M for the farming sector.

The farmers accuse Djankov, of suffering from amnesia and discarding his own signature. They say the Finance Minister and Agriculture Minister, Miroslav Naydenov, are misleading Borisov.

The PM was, however, firm that Djankov is doing a great job and noted his sharp remarks as the only negative.

"What he says is absolutely right, but he must use a calmer, more normal tone. He tells the truth, but sharply, in an American way," according to Borisov.

Regarding the termless strike at the heavily-indebted Stat Railways BDZ Holding, which started on November 24, the PM reiterated that workers there should have been on strike years ago, when it was already evident the company was poorly managed.

"We are facing a very difficult problem now – the creditors could ask for their money and this will bankrupt the entire sector – it is obvious that someone wants this, but it is not us; we want to have layoffs and optimize the BDZ staff so that we can get a loan from the World Bank, and privatize part of the company," Borisov explained, concluding there would be no more compromise over the protests.

The labor unions are staging an effective, mass, termless strike after the recent notice of the BDZ management that it intended to lay off 2 000 workers, and reduce the number of trains in operation by 150 (later scaled down to 138) by January 2012. In addition, ticket prices along state-subsidized routes will be increased by 9% as of January 1, 2012, and those of "business trains", i.e. the handful of profitable railway routes in Bulgaria – by 15% as December 1, 2011.

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Tags: Simeon Djankov, farmers, machines, protest, Strike, budget, subsidy, grain producers, animal keepers, tobacco growers, cross-border checkpoints, thoroughfares, block, Podkrepa, state railways, trains, BDZ, syndicates, railway strike, KNSB, Ivaylo Moskovski, Bulgarian State Railways, BDZ, trade union, Strike, Transport Minister, Transport Ministry, layoff, layoffs, protest, railway workers, Bulgarian State Railways, Strike, BDZ, GERB, NOI, Boyko Borisov, retirement reform


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