WE CONVINCED OURSELVES THAT WE'RE THE BEST
Roumen Ovcharov, Deputy Chairman of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, to the BANKER weeklyMr. Ovcharov, the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) presented the ruling agenda that it intends to follow in case of winning the elections. Which are the major points in it?- The BSP presented some major parametres of its agenda and that is slightly different from presenting the agenda. The parametres reveal the philosophy and the directions in which the social and economic policy of the government and the state will change. Still, they do not represent concrete solutions in each specific direction. Which are the main points? First, I would highlight the change in the ruling philosophy. If in the past fifteen years the social policy in Bulgaria has been a function of the economic policy, we are firm that the social policy cannot be ignored. The market economy is an instrument that helps people live better, it is not an objective itself. As Paul Rasmussen said not so long ago, market economy is a servant, not a master. The market economy and its results should mainly serve for increasing the prosperity of the Bulgarian people. The main accents of the agenda point in that direction. I'm talking about income, education, healthcare reform. Of course, measures for economic development are provided. We do not think that the situation in the recent years is normal for a country like Bulgaria which is altogether in a grave economic situation. Affording a 3.5-4% budget surplus at the end of the year which we spend on Christmas presents is nothing but a crime. On the other hand, we keep repeating that we have no money and have public sectors suffering permanent deficit. I already mentioned the education and healthcare. The same is valid for the culture and science. The state must have its well defined priorities. The funds for them must be accurately planned and spent early in the year instead of being saved for expensive presents at year-end. This is also a merely economic problem. You probably know that the deficit on the current account was 3.9% by October 2004 and became 7.5% in two months - November and December - questioning the integral macroeconomic condition of the country. Who needs this exercise? It only serves to make Milen Velchev happy of the role of Santa Claus who is able to pay five, ten or fifteen millions for a present in any moment. That may be convenient for him or for the Prime Minister, but as far as Bulgaria is concerned such policy is unwise and unacceptable. Of course, when we talk about the state addressing the social problems of the people we are aware of the fact that this could not happen without an economic growth as the resources come from the economy. That's why we are planning some purposeful actions.What kind of actions?- First, exempting investment from tax on profit. Investments that really provide money for the growth of the economy will be given preference. Second, we rely on a much better planned state involvement in the solution of infrastructural problems. But we do not count on a state that invests money and does nothing more. We expect to see the state trying to solve key problems as a partner of the entrepreneurs. For example, we expect it to solve the problem with the pensioners' investment fund while solving the problem with a certain highway. It is not logical to guarantee a 15% return to foreign banks and not guarantee the same return to our own pensioners. Another investment stimulating initiative included in our plans is the actual involvement of the Bulgarian business. The agreement with the business that we have been loudly popularizing is an extremely important issue. We want to provide the Bulgarian business with real, equal participation in the growth of the economy. For example, Advent company is accepted as a strategic investor and some Bulgarian companies are not. Both of them will provide financing from one and the same resource - western banks (as it happens with the Trakya highway), won't they? Are the Portuguese companies bringing their money with themselves? Not at all! But the Bulgarian state will pay the interests on it and will ensure the payment. Therefore, Bulgarian business will be provided with really equal terms of being a partner of the state.How exactly do you intend to achieve the ambitious 6% growth?- By using incentives like these. On one hand, we'll stimulate investments in Bulgaria and will attract foreign investments through partnerships between the state and the business by ensuring equal terms. By guaranteeing discipline and solution of the problems in the customs, tax, and judicial systems. Although not directly, these systems have influence on the business. These problems will be solved by the state in a short term and we are ambitious to solve them with responsibility and without considering anybody's personal interests.You have prepared your election lists. But it turned out that there were not so many young people and not so many women in them as you promised earlier...- I would hardly agree with that... To summarize, BSP has done its homework - it prepared its lists and its ruling agenda and announced its candidate for the prime minister post. To put it roughly, we convinced ourselves that we are the best and we are prepared...But you still have to convince the public...- Yes, we do. We intend to use the remaining two months and a half for this purpose. Considering the situation of our political opponents, we are not going to have so much difficulty in convincing the public that there is simply no other serious party applying for authority.But the Chairman of the BSP warned several times that you should not become undisciplined...- The Chairman is right and we'll keep working as we have so far. As to the lists, look at Sofia, for example - there is not one but two women among the first eight positions and there are also several young candidates. What is important is not being a slave to the numbers but finding some candidates of really high quality. A man could be silly when he is twenty years old but he could also be silly at sixty. Taken alone, youth is not a quality and experience is not a disadvantage. The important thing is to find people of quality so that we can combine youth and enthusiasm, on one hand, with experience and proven professional skills, on the other.Sergey Stanishev said that he would be the prime minister if the left wing won the majority of votes. What are the alternatives?- Since the Chairman of the party said that he took the responsibility, discussing alternatives... Consider this problem solved for the present.Was the voting of the election law bargained with the National Movement Simeon II?- No, it wasn't bargained. There might have been such statements, but we had our own ideas and we defended them. We said that the drama about the integral bulletin is not our problem.And what about the ombudsman and the rest of the state mandate posts?- No. You'll see that we are not involved in many of these commissions and staff solutions which in my opinion is absolutely unacceptable. I think that rulers themselves will lose from the enforcement of candidatures. Because I find it quite frivolous to eliminate the next ruling party from involvement in the Audit Office or the Discrimination Commission for the whole period of its mandate. That will inevitably cause tension. They will not last forever, their mandate is expiring in two months.Is BSP ready to rule actually?- There is no standard that allows you to say - yes, it is ready or no, it is not. Moreover, readiness is not a single act but a process. You are ready today, but you have to be ready tomorrow, the day after tomorrow and so on - until the moment you enter the authority. And after that, too. I think that considering the formal preparation there is no other party in Bulgaria that is more prepared than we are. In a month you will have the lists, the agenda, the prime minister and the rest of the people - not just the ministers but a greater number of experts who will be involved in the executive power. But the question is different - we were ready in 2001, too, we announced a large number of experts, we prepared the legislative program, etc. But only 17% of the voters supported us. Therefore, the question about whether or not the party is prepared is answered by the people's votes. That's why I'm saying that so far we've done our homework. We ended the first stage - we convinced ourselves and put an end to the internal interactions. From now on, we have to complete the second stage - we have to convince the people that we are good and must rule.