2011 was awful but 2012 will be worse, Bulgarians think
Issue 65, February 2012
text and photography by Anthony Georgieff From bad to worse? According to a poll by Alpha Research published at the end of 2011, the majority of Bulgarians consider 2011 to have been "the worst" since the economic collapse of 1997. In that year, a Socialist government allowed a bunch of banks to go bust, three-digit hyperinflation ran wild, the overwhelming majority of Bulgarians lost their life savings and a few select "businessmen" made a fortune by borrowing in leva whilst repaying in hard currency. Those were the years of petrol smuggling into what was then Yugoslavia, of unbridled corruption in the customs service and of a general breakdown of law and order.
Coming back to 2011, just 10 percent of those polled consider it to have been "better" than the previous year, while 51 percent say it was significantly worse.
Against this pessimistic background, the majority of Bulgarians view 2012 with trepidation. They fear that the economic crisis will worsen, inflation and unemployment will go up, and incomes will drop further.
In Bulgaria's "boom years" of 2004-2008, a quarter of Bulgarians thought the country was moving in the right direction. After the 2009 general election, when Boyko Borisov's GERB assumed power, the number of optimists increased to 30 percent of those polled. At the end of 2011, however, their number has gone down to just 14 percent, according to Alpha Research.
Of those polled 65 percent say that the economic situation in Bulgaria is worsening, while 53 percent, or every second Bulgarian, considers his family's economic situation to have deteriorated in 2011.
The poll also indicates that the majority of Bulgarians are definitely not optimistic either about the likelihood of foreign investment increasing, or easier access to bank credits for the country's
Every second Bulgarian expects the crisis to get worse, with 45 percent anticipating delays or failures in the payment of their wages, pensions and social benefits. 40 percent fear higher inflation, 37 percent expect tax hikes, and 30 percent foresee interest rates increases.
Their pessimism has a direct impact on Bulgarians' spending habits as well. About 37 percent do not spend anything beyond what is absolutely necessary, while 47 percent try to spend as much as they can, fearing inflation will render any savings they have useless.
70 years ago, on 10 March 1943, Bulgaria's pro-Nazi government decided to defy Berlin and halt the deportation of Bulgaria's 50.000 Jews. This was down to the actions of one man - Dimitar Peshev. Just two years later he faced Communist justice and found himself on trial for his life. His niece Kaluda Kiradjieva remembers