2020: Little did they know what would come instead
Socio-political prognosis have always been a risky matter, even if we try to predict the course of development in the relatively near horizon. In BG everything is possible, including people with allegedly authoritative positions to practice predictions as a "continuation of PR with other means". Recently, however, there has been a "crisis in the genre". We almost lack serious, professional attempts which outline the immediate threats and opportunities facing our society or, more precisely, they cannot force their way into public space.
If you do a quick Google search, you'll find out that the keywords "2020 prognosis" open mostly clairvoyant predictions, rarely other (but necessarily sensational). For instance, we learned that the "Vitosha volcano" was about to erupt or that we were expecting a "baby boom" and a massive wave of wishing to return to Bulgaria highly educated, honored and willing to help BG children. Much more cautious are meteorologists who prefer the evasive wording "around the clock". We can excuse them - the question of when and how much it is going to rain is very intricate after it became clear at least 500,000 Bulgarians are threatened by water regime.
If we talk about Bulgarian politics and the governance of our country, it is really difficult to foresee something surprising (in the good sense of the word). As they say we are sinking as planned. The governing bodies and their court analysts say everything is fine and will be even better. The opposition says nothing is OK but it will be if it comes to power. Critically-minded experts warn of deepening problems but no one listens to them. In this line of thinking , a friend likes to joke about the latest changes to the Austro-Hungarian Empire anthem, proposed and approved by the emperor in order to raise the morale of the army and the population in the course of the going bad (for the Central Powers) World War I . The new version includes, figuratively speaking, an optimistic prediction - the emperor "will enjoy the supreme prosperity of his land and his people." The problem is, a few months later the empire ceased to exist, let alone prosper.
Predictions should not be a source of madcap optimism or apocalyptic sensations, but simply a means of knowledge and socio-political practice. Consequently, institutions should also deal with forecasts apart from political researches - in order to try to predict the likely curves of the processes and prepare the public for them. This activity must be approached responsibly, realistically and competently, overcoming the temptation to utter the desired, pleasant things only and not say the truth. It is much more reasonable to look at the forecast as a warning rather than a wish, especially if it is an act of an institution.
So, let's go back (five years) and remind you what our country should have been like in 2020 according to the National Development Program of Bulgaria 2020 - the "flagship strategic and program document" (by the modest definition in its introduction), which "embodies the state's longing to choose a national path to progress." According to the vision formulated in the first lines of the document, "By 2020, Bulgaria is a country with a competitive economy, providing the conditions for full social, creative and professional realization of the individual through intelligent, inclusive and territorially balanced economic growth." So as to avoid any doubts or ambiguities, it is further stressed that the implementation of the planned interventions will lead to enhanced quality of human capital in BG in 2020, improved quality of education, reduced poverty, sustainable integrated regional development, improved environment and so on and so forth.
The end of the period of the National Development Program of Bulgaria 2020 has come. The reader has the opportunity and the right to judge whether we live in a country that provides conditions for "full realization of the personality of every Bulgarian citizen". The question is rhetorical - what kind of "full realization" is it about since the state cannot provide drinking water to half a million Bulgarians.
Bulgaria will look absolutely different in the new 2020 - we will continue to fall ill, die, and run from areas “in decline” to major cities, and especially abroad. PISA research will announce our next bottom in education and it is likely the next President of the National Assembly will spell the word "BrexiD" not with one but with two or three spelling mistakes.
However, let's not be so critical to the “Bulgaria 2020” document –isn’t “Europe 2020” strategy a smaller failure since it didn’t foresee not a single coming trouble, incl. Brexit. Something else is more important - what is the point of making predictions, or "programming documents", since after they are drafted, it is clear no one will bother to execute them? And most importantly - no consequences would result from their failure to those officially responsible. Out of the 283 pages of the cited National Program, only 2 (two) are dedicated to the "management, monitoring, control and reporting" mechanism. But no one has read or heard a meaningful implementation report so far, let alone mention the responsible bodies for why Bulgaria depicted in the document has nothing to do with Bulgaria in reality. Just as we have not seen a line from the (non-existent) report on the implementation of the mandated government program for the period 2017-2021.
One of the main reasons for the deepening problems of Bulgarian society is that the authorities do not comply with the evaluations and recommendations of the competent people. The authorities also do not account for and bear no responsibility to citizens for the fulfillment of their commitments, including those recorded in their own decisions. As this goes on with impunity, the forecasts will be pessimistic, and our society will increasingly look like the characters in Hieronymus Bosch’s famous "Ship of Fools".
If we still want to sum up the expectations for the new year, we must emphasize on a powerful and especially dangerous for Bulgaria (as a fully degraded country) trend. National and international politics have re-oriented themselves - if we refer to the classical theory of Vilfredo Pareto - from the coordinate system of "foxes" to that of "lions". Every country and nation, big or small, member or non-member of the EU - mobilizes to stand firm in its interests, including with the help of alliances and coalitions. The time of neoliberal ideological mantras is over, the opportunities to fold and sneak up to one of the "powerful" are disappearing. The Brussels “deep state” has run out of indulgences.
Bulgaria and most of all our country as well as those responsible for managing it are absolutely unprepared for the new rules of the game. A much more complex and hostile external environment is added to domestic atrocities and lack of the faintest idea. Shortly speaking, the only optimistic prognosis we can make is that in 2020 Bulgaria will be better than in 2021.