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BULGARIA


  
  

 

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Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 19,859 15,608 13,600 69
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 2,130 1,790 1,650 106
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

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Update No: 124 - (28/09/07)

Everyone in Bulgaria has been living a nightmare for years - thanks to a particularly unpleasant man, who goes by the name of Colonel Gaddafi. He has perpetrated more than one terrorist act against the West. He got it into his head several years ago that six Bulgarian medics had deliberately infected Libyan children with HIV. Only a mountebank like him would believe such nonsense for a minute. They were imprisoned and put on trial, found guilty and sentenced to death. 

Thanks to the EU maintaining pressure, as well it must be said the US, and individually most right thinking countries (and even on the final day Madame Sarkozy, wife of the French president), they were released and returned to Bulgaria. President Bush, who was given an acclamation on his recent visit to Sofia, a rare enough welcome for him these days, cabled his congratulations.

That nightmare is over. But the medics did not suffer their incarceration in vain. Everyone that matters was sympathetic to their plight. Bulgaria's wider problems are evident to them. President Sarkozy and his wife are due in Sofia on October 4th, where they are assured of a rapturous acclaim. People are particularly concerned about those to whom they have been kind. The friendship of Sarkozy, the new mover and shaker on the European scene, is an acquisition indeed.

Events such as this one do matter because they put a country on the map. It acquires a human context which attracts global publicity. One just has to think of what is going on in Burma right now. The world is riveted. 

Teachers on strike
If doctors and nurses always demand high respect in Bulgaria, as in other countries, so do teachers, the mentors of the next generation. Communism had many failings, but it did educate people. Bulgarian fourteen year-olds are still more numerate and literate than their equivalents in Germany or France, let alone the UK. Bulgaria is in the vanguard of the internet revolution. 

But the teachers, like the nurses, are appallingly badly paid.
Nurses for natural reasons do not like to go on strike. But teachers can without risk to life. Teachers have done so just as the new school year begins. They are demanding a 100% pay increase from next year.

In the seaport, Burgas, they are even on hunger strike. The whole affair is enormously embarrassing for the ruling Socialists, traditionally the friends of public service workers. 

Bulgaria's problems abound. But one of the most important is the prevalence of corruption.

Corruption Perception Index
This year's global Corruption Perception Index shows most Balkan countries have improved in the international league table, but they remain among the more corrupt states. 
The latest survey by the corruption watchdog, Transparency International, TI, shows Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Romania, and Serbia climbing up in the rankings, while Bulgaria has fallen back.

Although Bulgaria has dropped down from 57th to 64th place out of 179, it remains the Balkan nation whose corruption perception is 'the least worst'.

Coming local elections are crucial 
Campaigning for Bulgaria's local elections on October 28th got underway on September 27th, with the governing Socialists facing a challenge from the Sofia mayor's party. 

There is a new departure in local government, in an attempt to galvanise Bulgarian democracy anew. For the first time citizens of the biggest Bulgarian cities - Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna will vote directly for a mayor of the district they live in - up to now the district mayors were appointed by the city mayors.

The elections are, indeed, attracting great public interest. There is a record number of candidates in many localities. The official start to the campaign saw 88 parties and coalitions participating in elections that will choose mayors and councils in 262 municipalities.

Opinion polls put Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev's Socialists and a relative newcomer, the centre-right GERB party of the Sofia mayor, Boyko Borisov, ahead of the rest of the field. GERB, Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria, formed in 2006, won this year's European elections, and it has nominated candidates in almost all municipalities. Borisov is topping the opinion polls and is expected to be re-elected, despite a populist challenge from a local tycoon of right-wing credentials. 

"The ruling Socialists are expected to lose some of their positions", political analyst Anthony Galabov told Balkan Insight.

Reports say that various business interests are running their own candidates to benefit from funds made available since Bulgaria joined the EU on January 1."It is the intention of all kinds of business interests, non-legitimate also, to attempt to place their representatives in the local authorities because this is the way to access European financial resources", Galabanov said.

Bulgaria at the extremes
As everyone knows, weather is becoming increasingly important. After having a torrid, parched summer with forest fires, heavy rains are due to pour over Bulgaria in the first ten days of October and snow will cover the country until the end of November, the National Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology has reported.

The downpours will fall mainly over the northern parts of the country in the beginning of October. The month of December is expected to be colder than last year with maximum temperatures between 30C and 80C.

Snow will cover the ground in Bulgaria in the last days of November due to the Atlantic winds, which will pass over the Balkans in this period. The thickness of the snow blanket in the mountains is predicted to reach up to 70 centimeters.

Forecasters warn Bulgarians should be ready for a really severe winter, as cold weather will stay at least until the beginning of February.

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