Bulgaria catches up slowly with developed Western European countries

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Has Bulgaria caught up with or lagged behind the highly developed European countries. One of the latest researches of the Open Society Foundation funded by American billionaire George Soros named the Catch-Up Index is trying to answer that question. The results of the survey were published last week. The research measures and grades the achievements of 35 European countries (EU member states and applicant countries) under 47 indicators divided in 4 categories- economy, democracy, quality of life and governance. Bulgaria places 29th in that ranking in the company of other Balkan EU member states or applicant countries. Denmark, Sweden, Luxembourg and the Netherlands top the ranking followed at a short distance by Finland, Island, Germany, Austria, Ireland and Great Britain.

It is worth seeing how Bulgaria performs in all four categories and what are the biggest problems of this country? Although Bulgaria is the poorest EU member state, it performs relatively well in terms of its economic indicators. This country ranks 27th in the economy category and 3rd in the whole EU in terms of the GDP/foreign debt ratio. This was so, because in 2016 Bulgaria registered a 3% economic growth. Moreover, the country’s sensible budget policy and the restriction of the spending resulted in a debt/GDP ratio of below 30% which does not pose a threat to the country’s finance whatsoever.

Bulgaria placed 29th in terms of quality of life and governance indicators. In other words, things in those two spheres have not been going quite well, since Bulgaria is at the bottom of these rankings. In fact, these results are no surprise, because this is the daily round for most Bulgarians when we speak of wealth, health services, education, transport infrastructure and energy infrastructure.

No wonder why Bulgaria is at the bottom of the world happiness ranking. The Bulgarians are quite pessimistic people, but at the same time those people receive the lowest salaries in the whole EU. Education and healthcare are in a very poor condition and the state of Bulgarian roads and motorways equals the state of the European roads of the late 1960’s. However, we should not neglect the fact that wages in Bulgaria have been increasing at the highest rate in the whole of Europe, the number of the middle class members has gone up and lifestyle and purchasing power of those people are similar to the lifestyle and purchasing power of the middle class in other European countries. Bulgaria ranks 34th in the ranking in terms of life expectancy, 33rd in terms of corruption and 30th in terms of freedom of media and trust in people.

The comparison between the Bulgarian people and other European citizens may seem joyless, but at least this country has started to climb gradually most rankings. The growth of the country’s gross domestic product is steady, life expectancy has increased slightly, education and healthcare have been going under some reforms and the citizens and the judicial system have started to oppose more to corruption in the public sector. It is still too early to say whether Bulgaria can soon compare with some Western European countries in terms of quality of life and development, because in the past this country has lagged behind too much and cannot overcome those differences in such a short period of time.

English version: Kostadin Atanasov


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