Bioprogramme Co. was founded almost 30 years ago and employs over 200 people.
During the yearlong pandemic, we did not receive any financial or other support from the government - mostly because the system for receiving government assistance is designed in a way that discourages its use for all but those who don’t have another chance for survival. All procedures are unreasonably and incredibly complicated; weighted down by a load of unnecessary requirements and leading to (sometimes) unsurmountable obstacles. For those who try to participate, there are two equally likely outcomes - to receive something or to be left empty-handed. In our case, receiving “something” means to have some of our money, already paid to the government through one of the mandatory monthly or yearly payments, returned back to us. And the chance for receiving “something” is based on an unjustified quantity of work such as spreadsheets, lists, forms and requirements for calculating all owed amounts to government and other agencies (over multiple months). This requires the accounting department to put in many extra hours of work. So, companies like us, see what this process takes, and conclude it is better to give up and not take advantage of the government’s “efforts” to help you. Because it is illogical, and even offensive, to have to submit monthly (or even weekly) paperwork, required by the government; to pay dozens of fees and taxes, again required by the government; to meet all additional expenses related to the pandemic; to react to your employees’ needs caused by the government’s restrictions and closures; and on top of it all, to have to prove to the government all over again that you do, in fact exists. So, many companies, like us, just choose not to bother to prove that they are operating, that they are alive - but just do it. And take care of company and employees’ needs on their own, as best they can.
Here is how the consequences to the Bulgarian economy look to me - during this odd time over the past year we call “the pandemic”.
The problems with the Bulgarian economy are many and have piled over the years, without any evidence that efforts are put forth for fixing even some of them. Once the Covid crisis began, the efforts to solve these problems were replaced with propaganda, aimed at ending the pandemic instead. In reality, the economic problems actually worsened. In broad terms, here are some things I see and notice in my everyday work.
In the financial sphere - the national debt continues to grow and there is no hope for reversal of this trend. Politicians and the society see the implementation of the Euro as a savior and a step in the right direction. But I think this issue should also be considered in the context of the loss of national sovereignty. Because implementing the Euro would limit our viable financial levers and therefore the government’s ability to affect the economy. This topic is not discussed or debated seriously and honestly. Instead, the hope is that the European financial system will solve all our problems and we will somehow be end up on top. The question is skewed only toward a discussion of whether individuals’ savings will be preserved and not whether there is a better solution for the economy of our country.
There is a serious demographic crisis, related the low education level of working-age population, that has become very evident during this period. Regardless of the high unemployment rate (which is reality, despite official statics), the lack of qualified workers—especially outside of the capital - has remained a problem andd even worsened. It was difficult to hire before, and it is difficult to hire now. Add to this the fact, that the education sector was the first and logical victim of the pandemic, and I don’t think the situation will change in the coming years.
When schools and kinder gardens closed, this created unsolvable problems for companies - it practically forced many employees to take time off or beg to work from home. Of course, this was possible for office jobs and for jobs related to technology and online services. This includes the country’s Administration, who were privileged to not be affected by the closures. But anyone working in manufacturing, manual labor or the industries producing material goods, was left without support.
Ongoing transport difficulties, resulting from the transportation problems in Europe and the global container crisis, make the already difficult export of Bulgarian goods even more complicated. Continuous lines of trucks at the border, delayed container dispatching (due to the lack of containers), cutting down of the volume and number of sea lines - these are all real problems that affect working companies.
The unprincipled handouts from the ruling party, and personally from the Prime minister, created a feeling of deep unfairness in people. It turns out the best way for a person/company/organization/faith group to have their problems solved, is to happen to be a point on the route of the Prime Minister’s SUV… and his “magic wand” will solve everything. There is no serious, evidence-based, fair approach for determining, prioritizing and solving economic, social and cultural problems. In the meantime, the media continues to hammer in the idea that problems are solved in passing, with just a look and a gestured, with a few jokes, as if this is the normal and natural way for running a government.
I could continue with topics about the one-sided development of the economy, the inflation processes and the heightened demand for real estate - for the purpose of safeguarding savings. Or the orienting of our country in full dependence of the decisions made by some dominant countries in the EU, which not only creates a feeling of subordination and obedience of Bulgarian institutions, but also points to the mediocrity of the governing bodies. Unfortunately, the list is long. But my goal is to work and to lead my company on the right path, despite the difficulties around us. And I hope to do this well for many years to come. /BGNES
Dessislav Dionissiev is one of the most successful businessmen in Bulgaria. He is the executive director of "Bioprogramma" - a company, which has been producing food, tea and honey for three decades.