The New York Times, November 11, 1999, Thursday, Late Edition - Final 

In Bulgaria, 10 Years of Misery 

By Blagovesta Doncheva; Blagovesta Doncheva is a translator. 

SOFIA, Bulgaria 

We here in Bulgaria have had democracy since 1989. What has happened during
these last 10 years? 

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are successfully
devouring Bulgarian industry. They have insisted on the privatization of
Bulgaria's plants and factories. In many cases, the Bulgarian government,
which diligently follows the I.M.F.'s advice, sold these factories to
powerful foreign corporations. And these corporations often liquidated the
businesses (a new way to fight the competition!). 

What is the result? Hordes of unemployed workers, beggars in the streets,
old people digging in rubbish containers for some rag or moldy piece of
bread. 

Our social fabric is falling apart. Before 1989, Bulgaria was a socialist
state: free medical care and education for everyone. Mothers and the
elderly received other aid and privileges. Now, since the fall of
Communism, I see more and more children who have dropped out of public
school. Their parents cannot provide them with shoes and clothes, never
mind textbooks and paper. 

Things are no better for the elderly. In 1989, my friend's mother's pension
had been about 105 leva a month. Now it is 46 leva a month, a little more
than $24. 

There are many people, especially those who are older than 30, who are not
working. Nobody needs them; nobody offers work to them. The job offers in
the newspapers repeatedly demand that applicants be no more than 30 years
old. And even if you are under 30, what do you get? You have the chance to
slave for 12 hours for next to nothing for a newly hatched business. 

In January, the last remnants of our socialized state will be taken away.
The government will no longer subsidize train tickets for students, the
elderly and mothers with children. This means that people will be forced to
stay either in the towns or in the villages, which will hurt active
pensioners and the unemployed. Now, they add to their meager family incomes
through some occasional jobs in the towns, or they go to the village and
grow vegetables and fruit for the winter in their fathers' gardens. It made
economic sense when they were traveling by train at half price. After the
new year, it will be senseless. 

We are undergoing untold hardships, yet George Soros, the financier, eggs
us on, telling us to open our boundaries, make ourselves an open society.
But we in Bulgaria have learned the hard way what those pretty slogans
mean. It means killing the industry that is managing to stay alive in
Bulgaria. Turkish imports are flooding the market. Socks made in Bulgaria
are selling for 1 leva; I have seen Turkish socks, selling for half a leva.
So soon we will have only Turkish socks, and no jobs. 

Lots of low-quality food products and other goods flow freely into
Bulgaria, undermining the efforts of local producers. I have a cousin who
has a small farm with four cows. He hasn't been able to sell his calves for
two successive years. He is crushed. The companies that buy veal explain
that they prefer to work with the frozen meat imported from Greece at low
prices, ready to be stuffed and turned into salami or sausages. 

What is the West offering us in return for this misery? What is the great
attraction for a foreign corporation in a devastated country? The cheap
labor and national resources! 

So much for open boundaries. So much for an open society. I personally live
in misery, but I can still manage. It is the sight of the old men and women
digging into the rubbish containers that is breaking my heart. 

Before the fall of Communism, I and many others believed that the Communist
government was lying about the United States of America. We thought all its
warnings about America were simply propaganda. 

And from 1989 to 1993, I was a democratic activist. That was before I
understood the true work of the I.M.F. or the World Bank or the
transnational corporations and their policy of expansion. We fell for the
seductive talk about democracy and openness. Now 10 years later, I wish we
hadn't.

Copyrightę 1999, LEXIS-NEXIS, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All Rights
Reserved. 


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