Catch 22 or Bulgaria's Bonus War

Editorial |Author: Maria Guineva | March 5, 2012, Monday // 15:40|  views

Last Wednesday, Bulgarian Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, gave an ultimatum to senior officials to return or donate all bonuses they have received.

Borisov vowed to fire everyone who fails to comply, saying his "good" Deputy, Finance Minister, Simeon Djankov, will collect the money until the end of the workweek, while the "bad" Deputy, Interior Minister, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, will step forward Monday to implement "structural changes."

"The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly..." became the latest internet pun.

The move came on the heels of scandals with the Head of the National Health Insurance Fund, NZOK, Neli Nesheva and the CEO of the Registry Agency, Violeta Nikolova, parting with their posts after it emerged that they have received huge bonuses. There is also a raging war between Borisov's ruling GERB and the opposition over who has gotten more while in power.

The new week began with the PM's Chief of Staff boasting that everyone had returned the ill-fated bonuses and no one will be fired. The PM graciously extended the deadline to Wednesday, March 7.

The entire affair triggered heated debates if State servants should receive bonuses since it emerged that the system is severely crippled – those from the administration work for dismal pay, which often generates corruption, and then award themselves huge bonuses. Changes in how their wages are formed are pending.

So far so good. But there is something bad and ugly in this move coming on the backdrop of wide-spread poverty, a dangerously shrinking fiscal reserve, and upcoming general elections, prompting many to suspect a new bout of populism.

If Borisov, indeed, did not know until now anything about the notorious bonuses, then what kind of handle has he got on his administration? If he knew, why is he ready to sacrifice some of his own people?

Populism is not just Borisov's trademark though -  the opposition, especially the ethnic Turkish party and the Socialists, are the most vocal in crying foul and wanting sackings – as they haven't done the same and more only until two years ago... But political memory in Bulgaria is short.

In addition, the issue prompts a long list of questions:

Are we ever going to know who has gotten what and who has returned it; what is going to happen to those who failed to declare the bonuses and how are they going to return them; if Nesheva donated her money for charity should she be reinstated at the post or shouldn't everyone who has gotten large amounts and returned them follow her fate; if the bonuses are legal (and they are – they are based on texts from 50! Acts) why should beneficiaries return them now; if senior officials were to be fired, what would happen to the stability of the system and who would replace them, considering the already depleted staff capacity of GERB after several waves of dismissals and some missing college diplomas?

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in a mix with so many Catch(es) 22...

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Tags: Boyko Borisov, Prime Minister, registration, bonus payment, Registry Agency, trade register, Violeta Nikolova, Neli Nesheva, NZOK, pay, State servants, bonuses, GERB, donate, return, oppostion, Interior Minister, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, finance minister, Simeon Djankov


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