How the government woos Bulgarian pensioners

Prime Minister Boyko Borissov: "Everyone is delighted" with the raise in pensions

Photos: BGNES

The elderly people in Bulgaria most often live with the sensation that they are the abandoned part of society. Their daily life, in the majority of cases, is characterized by difficult living conditions and deprivation, health-related suffering and the loneliness connected to the third age.

Measures to improve the living conditions of older people in Bulgaria are becoming more noticeable against the backdrop of a growing economy. 1,276,200 pensioners will receive a Christmas allowance of EUR 20 above their pension.

The good thing is that the government is now providing retirement benefits, Christmas bonuses. That's good, but the administration has to be cut short, because a lot of money is being swallowed up there, getting wasted. And it is high time that we see this e-government we are talking about. It must finally happen,” Dimitar Dianov, a pensioner from Botevgrad, says.

Data shows that the number of pensioners is about 2,154,800 and the average pension amounts to 197 euros. Even in Bulgaria, where the prices of some goods and services are well below the average levels in Europe and the purchasing power parity of Bulgarians is 50% of that of citizens in the more developed European countries, such a pension does not at all cover all necessary costs of living. It is too close to the € 178 poverty line. But there will be an increase also here in 2020 – it will be raised to 186 euros.

The government's new social policy measures on retirees also include 100,000 free flu vaccines for people above 65 years of age. Against the backdrop of more than 2 million retirees, this seems as quite an insufficient amount and reality comes as proof of this as the media is full of complaints from GPs and elderly patients that there are not enough vaccines. The authorities have responded to these criticisms with a promise that within the next 2 years one fourth of retirees will receive flu vaccines.

The authorities have given promises for increased attention to the problems of older people in Bulgaria in the coming year. The minimum pension is expected to become 128 euros as of July 1 next year, as of this date too all pensions in the country are planned to rise by 6.7% after their increase by 5.7% this year. As Prime Minister Boyko Borisov put it, "everyone is delighted". These words, however, sound quite exaggerated but show that the government is making some efforts to make the lives of seniors slightly better. As the former social minister and director of the Balkan Institute of Social Policy Ivan Neykov commented, "the planned increase of pensions by 6.7% will not bring a tangible change in the standard of living of people who rely only on pensions, because the expected average annual inflation of 3% will quickly melt the difference. "

"Both the Christmas allowance and free flu shots for retirees are a good thing, yet this is not enough and will not solve the main problem - it is necessary to re-calculate pensions in line with the new economic realities”, says Teodora Golgocheva, a 70-year-old retiree from Sofia. “I can't live like a normal person on a 120 euro pension, prices go up all the time, my medication alone costs over 50 euro a month. The state is constantly stating how good the economy is developing and is spending huge amounts of money on airplanes, on highways, on police, etc. And they remember about us from time to time and throw us peanuts”.

Retired people in Bulgaria are allowed to work and to receive a salary together with their pension. Data shows that over 60% of the pensioners in the country continue to work in order to raise their insufficient incomes.

Everyone in Bulgaria is aware that the nation is aging and retirees are becoming a growing part of society, even though the country has the lowest life expectancy in Europe. However, the growing number of senior citizens also means an increase in the resources spent on pensions, which will exceed EUR 5 billion next year, which is an increase of EUR 373 million compared to this year and thus the average pension will reach 211 euro.

English Rossitsa Petcova

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