Thursday, May 19, 2016 - 15:03
Iliana Benovska: Mr. Donev, let's get straight to the point - who and on what grounds is able to rule Bulgaria? I think that ten days after it was proposed Delyan Peevski to be elected Chairman of the State Agency for National Security (SANS) the KRIB (Confederation of the Employers and Industrialists in Bulgaria) ...
Ognian Donev: The date of our Declaration was June 19th.
Iliana Benovska: OK, I am sorry, that means that five days later you came up with a declaration where you presented two requirements - immediate early elections and clarity on the issue who and on what grounds would run this country - this was the meaning of your question. What do you think one year later? Who and on what grounds is able to run Bulgaria?
Ognian Donev: I wouldn't say that we are satisfied that a year later everybody shares our opinion of the need of immediate elections. When I say immediate, I don't intend, of course, to debate whether the months of July or August are appropriate for such elections. Really, it's reasonable to think that it's more appropriate, and the elections would be more representative if carried out when people are able to vote with no harm to their holidays. Now I'm back to your question about business circles' expectations, these are very simple - good business environment.
Iliana Benovska: What's the good business environment, since - you've been probably informed - that yesterday Standard & Poor's lowered Bulgaria's credit rating to almost the lowest rate called 'junk'?
Ognian Donev: We're still far from the junk, Bulgaria still has potential, and credit rating lowering, as motivated by Standard & Poor's, was due first of all to the lowered economic growth. Also, Bulgaria couldn't take advantage of the uplift taking place in Europe and, on the other hand, this was due to the absolute political instability, something we warned about a year ago.
Iliana Benovska: Let me add that they mention three issues needing to be addressed efficiently - dealing with corruption, strengthening the rule of the law and resolving the demographic crisis.
Ognian Donev: I think that we've already got used to receiving same remarks from Brussels with respect to the legal system. This is an ulcer that makes Bulgaria to be treated permanently as a country subject to remarks.
Iliana Benovska: You say this with a sort of distanced from the issue. The country receives remarks, but what it could really do? Let me continue a bit more with the negative evaluations. This week we had an IMF mission's visit that also pointed out the internal political instability and its impacts on reforms as the main reason for Bulgaria's low economic growth, as you said as well. Let me quote part of Mission's report: "Bulgarian government seems to be on the verge of collapse after the poor results the Socialist Party received at European Parliament elections in May and the expected early parliamentary elections".
Ognian Donev: Thissentencecontains an ascertainment of the political instability in Bulgaria; we can't expect that a Government, supported by less than 20 %, as established from the polls, would take bold actions aimed at creating better business environment. Today I've listened to the morning block and it reminded me The Volunteers of Shipka. Listening to Mr. Kutev I was left with the impression that they had fought like the volunteers defending the mountain passage from Ottoman invaders' attacks (i.e. from all of us). OK, but what was the point of leading such a fierce battle since nothing happened during the past year? Indeed, this was a lost year for our economy!
Iliana Benovska: Just some minutes ago Mr. Gutsanov from the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) was fervently convincing me that they opened 40.000 jobs and furthermore they recovered and increased the fiscal reserve. I asked him the simple question "Then why the society does not approve of you?"
Ognian Donev: It's correct, but I'd say it a bit different. What do we have to look at? On the one hand, there was a policy of crushing the business again; large structures were attacked; everything was done for the so called small companies and for the man - once there was a joke that we knew the name of that man. Nobody accepted this as something normal. On the one hand, social policy can be made provided there is good government, able to increase the collection of taxes, duties, and excise duties etc. in order to create sufficient economic or financial resources for carrying out such policy. In our particular case there was rather a hindering or obstruction in doing big business without having much profit.
Iliana Benovska: How exactly, Mr. Donev, how were you repressed? Let's not forget to mention that Standard & Poor's said that there were, as they called them, some disturbing actions - i.e. the State Energy and Water Regulatory Commission (SEWRC) had initiated a procedure to revoke licenses of the foreign Power Distribution Companies (PDCs) - which, in their opinion, increased business insecurity and emitted strong negative signals to potential investors. How are you repressed by this government?
Ognian Donev: Speaking with you, I'm speaking on behalf of the entire Bulgarian business; this is something I would like to underline!
Iliana Benovska: Yes, you're speaking in your capacity of Chairman of the KRIB - the largest employers' organization.
Ognian Donev: You are talking about the PDCs, but they're just the tip of the iceberg. Wasn't there a whole series of events that had to discipline the 'bad' banks? During the financial crisis, with no coordination with the commercial banks, measures were taken to prevent them to some extent from doing business. The PDCs are the second issue. The third issue is something that we've been explaining for at least two years; this is something going against Bulgarian economy interests; and this is the repression on the large retail chains. Although they don't want to recognize, the large retail chains were exactly the ones that brought to light a 4-billion turnover and paid at least 800-million VAT to the state budget. All these measures aren't shared by the main economic players in Bulgaria. We see that the Government does nothing in the economy except for showing persistency and stubbornness in implementing measures against doing business such as obstructions, restrictions and complications. By such actions the Government gives a very bad signal, which is quite visible. I just got back from a visit to Moldova; you know that Moldova and Georgia are the two countries that are going to endorse agreements for starting negotiations for association with the EU on the 27ths.
Iliana Benovska: Let me just add a piece of information, as President of the KRIB you're member of the Vienna Economic Forum.
Ognian Donev: Yes, it was a concurrent event, but the Vienna Economic Forum was in Moldova, where representatives of 18 countries met on the occasion of the forthcoming endorsing of the above-mentioned agreements with Moldova and Georgia on June 27th. The purpose was to support our colleagues from these two countries in their desire to be with us in Europe. There all foreigners asked me what's going on in Bulgaria.
Iliana Benovska: And what did you answer?
Ognian Donev: It's too complicated to explain. We have a Government that is concerned with ...
Iliana Benovska: Let me remind, Sergey Stanishev, Chairman of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and President of the Party of European Socialists (PES), said that this was a Government for salvation of Bulgaria. What did it save us from?
Ognian Donev: Mrs. Benovska, we may determine the prevailing trends for any Government; of course, every rule has its exceptions. We've always said that regardless of our attitude towards the Government, which is supported by less than 20 % of the Bulgarian citizens, we may find positive elements in its work. Let's take an example, Minister Hassan Ademov is a recognized professional, but if we look at his sector, we're going to see that he took a political decision for freezing the pension reform. This decision was aimed at pleasing people and attracting voters supporting such an approach to the issue. On the other hand, as an employer I must say that employers' problem is a bit different. Every time I have to sign retirement documents for an employee, who has turned the required age, the employee makes their best efforts to convince me to let them stay at work yet for a while. So, I'm confused and can't say whose interests are defended by this decision. Our social system is constructed as to discourage people to retire. Bulgarian pensioners do not retire to go and relax in Florida, or another nice place, but they retire and begin struggling to survive. Having this in mind, I consider the above-mentioned decision was a mistake.
Iliana Benovska: How much will it cost? How much does it cost you? Have you calculated the costs to be borne by the employers? I have to apologize, if you find the question is surprising.
Ognian Donev: We can provide such statements, but we have to first sit down and calculate precisely.
Iliana Benovska: Any percentage?
Ognian Donev: No, you must understand ... the problem concerns the National Social Security Institute (NSSI) and the pension system as a whole, since the latter depends increasingly on subsidies provided by the national budget. This means that the budget spends huge funds to support country's pension system, but we aren't happy with the results. I know that for a pensioner BGN 5 is a good sum, but I don't believe that increasing pensions by BGN 5 will make Bulgarian elderly citizens happy. And here again I return to my point: what is going to pull the nation and the state is a functioning and competitive economy. However, the bad thing is that the Government maintains practices, which instead of supporting competitive Bulgarian companies are rather aimed at creating special conditions for companies that are able to operate only in state-protected greenhouse environment. Of course, such companies aren't interested in enforcing real market conditions.
Iliana Benovska: OK, but eventually this is about the collision between two economic schools and two political philosophies.
Ognian Donev: Yes,if we go too far away from reality, we'd say that this is a fight between two major trends in the economic science. However, if we get back to practice, we've to say that the Bulgarian reality hardly shows a collision of two theories; the point is how the theories are applied in practice.
Iliana Benovska: What do you expect? You've said that there was no room for revanchism or triumph, but the business circles need clear regulation in order to operate normally, to live and make plans for the future. Do you think such regulation intentions must be stated clearly prior to the elections and bound by a document like a coalition agreement? You, the businessmen, are you going to issue another declaration saying to politicians something like that: "Well, guys, we expect you to create a platform, which may sound conditionally for the time being, since no one knows what the elections results will be, but if either party had majority of votes, please inform us what party you would collaborate with and on what basis".
Ognian Donev: We've got traditions; of course, I may express personal opinion only because we still don't have a Management Board decision on how to proceed. KRIB is run by a collective body. I'm tired of repeating that this is not a creation of the past, where a company dominates the others. The Management Board consists of 27 large Bulgarian companies and their decision is going to be, at least for me, largely representative for Bulgarian national interest.
Iliana Benovska: Well, having in mind the conventional character of such agreement, I feel this is going to happen exactly because of the national interest. Thus, some minutes ago Tomislav Donchev said that if GERB (Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria) didn't have qualified majority to devise a Government, they would remain in opposition. Does it mean that we're going to have elections after elections, etc.?
Ognian Donev: I don't know how Bulgarian citizens would accept such words, but listening to politicians before elections, I prefer to consider their words through the filter of conditionality. Obviously, one can't expect a politician to make a statement that would impair their election result.
Iliana Benovska: Well, I ask you what you are going to do, because neither the business circles, nor the ordinary people, are interested in having an unstable state.
Ognian Donev: As usual, once the elections are scheduled, the Bulgarian business circles, I mean the 'white' and transparent businesses, are going to initiate consultations with all political parties.
Iliana Benovska: So, you intend to keep to the tradition.
Ognian Donev: Yes, certainly. So far we've always offered such consultations and I guess the decision of our Management Board will be in that direction. What I don't know is whether they will want to meet us. Recently, I've heard quite often saying that we don't represent anybody as well as that the Bulgarian big business-owners are bad people and they don't exist at all. Lately, there are so many organizations, each of them with 600.000 jobs, and I wonder if there is enough room for us.
Iliana Benovska: Every authority has its courtier organizations. Have you recognized any of them in the Tripartite Cooperation National Council (TCNC)?
Ognian Donev: I attended the first meeting that the Government had organized with all Bulgarian business-owners. I'd prefer not to share my impressions. Once again it was proven that there were businesses or parts of businesses that ... We heard businessmen assuring us that this was the best Bulgarian Government, that it was so professional and it should be given the opportunity to make its best, etc. These statements were reiterated and reiterated and at one time we're almost about to believe the truth was revealing itself to us.
Iliana Benovska: Will you excuse me for the association I'm going to do. I not only attended, but I couldn't refrain myself to participate actively at the wasteful and endless 'Putin-like' press conference that the Government gave together with the media - the so-called 'Open Government'. These two meetings were remarkably similar to each other with the abundance of courtiers' sugary vaunts and the lack of results.
Ognian Donev: It's unfair toward the Prime Minister and the colleagues, who are ministers now ...
Iliana Benovska: No, this isn't lack of respect; yesterday, I sent once again a reporter to ask respectfully a very nice question to the Prime Minister Oresharski; my question was 'Having in mind your excellent education, professional background, political experience, etc., why did you admit to be seduced and misused by the BSP (Bulgarian Socialist Party) and MRF (Movement for Rights and Freedoms)?'.
Ognian Donev: I'd asked another question 'When the Government invited Bulgarian businessmen, organized lavish event for 700 companies, etc., did Mr. Oresharski know that we'd be offered a pen labeled 'Government-and-Business National Meeting' and did he know that the Bulgarian businessmen need meatballs or something like that in the break?' It was a PR campaign that had to demonstrate that there were enough business organizations supporting the mandate of the BSP and the Government. There were no discussions on important issues. I can only say that on this forum some colleagues made the mistake to ask questions ... the event was aimed at showing that the participants represented a cohesive majority that ... even, if someone had offered to shut down the Bulgarian economy, they'd have been applauded by the participants ... I mean, nobody wanted to discuss real issues, which might have impaired the authority of the brilliant Bulgarian Government we're having. This reminded me some events carried out before 1989; yes, we're invited and we had to attend the event because of good manners, but I don't think it was a forum where something good for the Bulgarian economy was said.
Iliana Benovska: In the opinion of the Bulgarian businessmen, Mr. Donev, does the country need a coalition between the two strongest parties - at least for the time being, since the position of one of them is a little bit weakened - GERB and BSP?
Ognian Donev: I don't want to get involved in a discussion on which Bulgarian parties would agree on what issues or what the format would be ...
Iliana Benovska: It is not about such an agreement, but about what we would like.
Ognian Donev: If we follow the leading experience of countries that have proven to be much more competitive and much better functioning that we do, and if we take an example from the best European economy - I mean the German one - the conclusions come out quite naturally. Regardless any party differences, provided there is a coalition agreement, everyone can work with anyone as long as they take care of the national interest. The bad thing is that in Bulgaria the national interest is used only as a screen meant for hiding the fact that many other interests are being defended. Unfortunately, although I'm Bulgarian, I can't answer whose are those interests. Obviously, other things, that have nothing to do with the national interest, are accepted.
Iliana Benovska: However, if you, I mean the business-owners, undertook the effort to organized traditional meetings with representatives of political parties before the elections, and if you urged them to follow the leading German example in the name of the national interest, wouldn't the politicians get scared that the business circles are a much stronger power center than the political establishment? Wouldn't it trigger the hidden rivalry between politicians and businessmen that has two outputs usually - they shake hands and the businessmen drain funds and benefits and the politicians drain money from the funds they've entrusted to some businesses - e.g. to some banks?
Ognian Donev: First, it isn't correct to generalize. There is no such thing as 'the politicians', there are different people with different .... and on the other hand, there is no such thing as 'the businessmen' since these are not a uniform mass ...
Iliana Benovska: That's right!
Ognian Donev: Of course, we do not accept the concept that business-owners have any political ambitions or something like that. Yes, some businessmen have political ambitions; one of our members, the Vice-President of KRIB, has suspended his membership in KRIB and is currently a deputy in the National Assembly.
IlianaBenovska: Are you speaking of Petar Kanev?
Ognian Donev: Yes. This is the principle - every person is free to make their choice, but no one is permitted to sit on two chairs simultaneously. KRIB members have to opt for one of the two options - doing business, creating jobs and boosting the competitiveness of their company, or in case they believe they have achieved enough in the business, they may go and work for the benefit of the nation.
Iliana Benovska: Let's jump straight to the hot topic of the week. The Corporate Commercial Bank (CTB), headed and owned by Tsvetan Vassilev. According to the tradition, I mean all over the mandates of four different Governments, this person has been managing the vast majority of the money of the state companies and handles it skillfully.
Ognian Donev: You should have used past time!
OgnianDonev:Since the actual statements, the insufficient ...
IlianaBenovska:Mr. Donev, don't be naive!
Ognian Donev: The insufficient information we're given shows that ... the last figure I've read was not bigger than 18 % ...
Iliana Benovska: 22 %! I've initiated that question; don't be naive, I'm well informed on the issue. I'm going to explain it to you: 22 % of the total number - please pay attention - of the state-owned trade companies, but the most powerful ones in terms of finances. And then it is quite relative ... if we calculate the proportion of funds, the share hasn't been reduced.
Ognian Donev: Mrs. Benovska, I've always respected your desire to ...
Iliana Benovska: Clarify!
Ognian Donev: Not to clarify, but to urge and heckle, even to look distasteful to some people.
IlianaBenovska:Well, sometimes the things turn that way!
Ognian Donev: Yes, but as far as the journalism ... I'd allow myself to give you a piece of advice as a PhD in Economics ... rather than relay on 3-month old information, you'd better pay attention to the actual processes.
Iliana Benovska: Well, whatdo you know?
Ognian Donev: I know nothing, but I'm much interested in the issue and I'm going to read journalists such as you in order to understand better, thank God!
Iliana Benovska: I had a quite long discussion in the air with Borislav Gutsanov and he promised me that by the next Saturday he is going to obtain the entire and reliable information about the volumes of funds held by the CCB ... and I'm going to invite you to listen to and even to take part in the discussion ... in order to know if it is about 22 companies, or 22 % of the companies, or 22 % of the state-owned funds. This is an important issue, isn't it?
OgnianDonev:Yes, it is, but it isn't the most important one!
Iliana Benovska: So, what happens in CCB, the bank that was and still is close to any Government ... why does a man want to kill another man, why does the second man want to kill the first one ... I'm taking about the information that has been just spread by the Bulgarian News Agency (BNA) ... arrest of three people, suspected to have tried to organize the murder of Delyan Peevski - the unfortunate candidate for head of the SANS and also member of Bulgarian parliament on behalf of the MRF and member of the European parliament?
Ognian Donev: I guess I don't have any news for you.
IlianaBenovska:What is your analysis?
Ognian Donev: My analysis is like the one of any other Bulgarian citizen ... I read what is published on the issue, I make efforts to distinguish between the pure propaganda and the analyses ... you see, it is about processes that not a single politician wants to call by their real name ... One can't come up with a nomination, saying that this was most important ... on June 14 last year ...
Iliana Benovska: You are taking about Delyan Peevski. Let's give a few names, let's not talk so veiled!
Ognian Donev: Yes, of course, I'm talking about that issue as well as about our declaration ... and now we realize that out of 240 parliament members maybe no one knows him ...
Iliana Benovska: Wow! No one knows him ... indeed, he doesn't go to work, but this is a separate topic ... but everyone knows him.
Ognian Donev: I'm feeling still impressed by what Anton Kutev said on the TV ...
IlianaBenovska:What did he say?
OgnianDonev:Well, he said he didn't know him.
Iliana Benovska: For quite a long time I haven't laughed so sincerely.
Ognian Donev: This is not an issue to laugh at. If I say that never in my life I've met this man, and if you ask him, he'll confirm that never in our lives we've been physically closer than 100 meters from each other ... Even at a public place, given that I go to public events, while he doesn't ... otherwise, at least we'd have shaken hands at some event. If you asked me, I could say that I've no idea of his political aims.
Iliana Benovska: Who are you talking about?
Ognian Donev: Delyan Peevski. On the other hand, as far as my colleague Tsvetan Vassilev is concerned ... 4 years after me he graduated from the Economic Institute in the same specialty as I did ... so, I may say that I've attended some meetings of the Board of Trustees of the University of National and World Economy and know him personally. From this perspective, I'm concerned with ... well, how was the Bulgarian expression ... let's not throw the baby with the bath water ... for quite a long time we've been instructed not to speak against the banks, etc., since such speaking is able to impair country's financial stability. At the same time I see there are many things that I don't approve of as an economist - I mean precisely destroying an economic council by means of mere allegations. Now, I don't need to play the role of somebody's lawyer, especially of people, who'd never been KRIB members... We'd rather have a look at the facts. There is only one source releasing some information ... and then it's reiterated by all media ... I've been attacked exactly the same way.
Iliana Benovska: That's exactly what I was about to ask you. You're a victim of repression undertaken by the previous Government ... and I don't know whether the procedure has already been finalized ... lately I didn't ask you about this issue ...
Ognian Donev: No, it hasn't been finalized. In Bulgaria the things can't be finalized so easily. I only managed to win court lawsuits for taking back the guarantees, which otherwise I had to give.
Iliana Benovska: Are there still any proceedings against you?
Ognian Donev: You'd better ask my lawyers, I'm not so competent. The only thing I've learned from my lawyers is that in Bulgaria such procedures are finalized when the other party decides to finalize them.
Iliana Benovska: Let me use this modern term ... a man 'ordered' another man ... Who 'ordered' you?
Ognian Donev: I'm very interested in the answer to this question, but let's leave it to the history.
Iliana Benovska: Weren't these two friends?
Ognian Donev: First, I can't say to what extent their economic interests had always been parallel or went in one and the same direction. One the other hand, the things that happened became possible due to the full cooperation with country's authorities. So, the answer to this question is a little more complicated ... if we look only over the surface, then your statement may considered to be a 'draft version'.
Iliana Benovska: A while ago Tomislav Donchev said that it was the second time - and having in mind your case, I'm going to add that it was the third time - when the Prosecution Authority started working showy before elections - we had Kostinbrod case, now we have CCB case.
Ognian Donev: Kostinbrod case rather reminds me the 'expensive drugs campaign' - this campaign was for sure custom-made journalism, so that ...
Iliana Benovska: Mr. Donev, do you believe that only journalists have organized the campaign?
Ognian Donev: Well, I meant the external appearance we're seeing in the media and based on which we're receiving this information; I can't tell you what was behind it.
Iliana Benovska: Basically, the custom-made journalism is backed by an economic interest.
Ognian Donev: That's right and this is a problem in Bulgaria. Similarly, the politicians are afraid that somebody coming from the business ...
Iliana Benovska: You've been 'ordered' twice - firstly for Trud and 24 hours newspapers and secondly for the medicines and Sopharma business as a whole.
Ognian Donev: The things for the business were very clear and the attack didn't have impact on us since our drug prices are either the lowest or equal to the lowest market prices. Therefore, one can't convince a patient to go the pharmacy and ask for a cheaper drug since such cheaper drug doesn't exist. So, having this in mind, the campaign was a bit meaningless, but repeating such allegations in the public domain - of course - had some negative impact on our image. And maybe this was the purpose.
Iliana Benovska: So the Kostinbrod case reminds you of the medicines and what does the CTB case remind you? Does it remind you Trud and 24 hours newspapers?
OgnianDonev: No, I wouldn't say so.
Iliana Benovska: Is it different?
Ognian Donev: It is different. Here I'd like to address ... since asking this question you demonstrated such contentment.
Iliana Benovska: What contentment?
Ognian Donev: In the sense that the CCB was the tip of the iceberg.
Iliana Benovska: Indeed!
Ognian Donev: No, no, I might have used a wrong expression. I mean, the CCB might be a tip, but not the tip of the iceberg.
Iliana Benovska: It might be the visible part, but not the base ... well, the genesis is interesting ... How actually emerge such tips - let's use this comparison - as the CCB?
Ognian Donev: You should ask that question to the last three prime ministers or finance ministers; they must have the knowledge to answer this question; I'm just an observer and therefore unable to answer. I'm much more interested in how the Government of Boyko Borissov, which had more than 70 % support during the first year of its term and had the opportunity to make reforms, but it did not undertaken them ... Then we had a Government that ...
Iliana Benovska: ... also offered benefits to Tsvetan Vassilev... this is another topic we discuss at our Radio ... and then dismissed the lawsuits against the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company (BTC) owned by Vassilev.
Ognian Donev: No, I didn't want to address that issue ... I'd rather want to emphasize that you pay more attention to the news of the day ...
Iliana Benovska: No, I'm analyzing!
Ognian Donev: When analyzing we have to see that this largely supported Government did not undertook reforms and it's a pity ... The present Government didn't have such support and as a result of this it did nothing for the pension system, educational reform and health system reform. In theory there is a consensus on the issues, but nobody addresses really the problems.
Iliana Benovska: Well, this morning the new politician Barekov was largely promising such reforms - in the air of Radio K2 and elsewhere.
Ognian Donev: I respect your sense of humor, Mrs. Benovska, and as usual I'll refrain myself from arguing with this new Bulgarian politician.
Iliana Benovska: Yes, you have a story with him.
Ognian Donev: I've always say that the education is something it is worth investing in; one should use their life to learn new things and train themselves, since the life and everything around us is constantly changing ... life is going on and if one stops educating themselves, they'll fall behind ... on the other hand, if one doesn't want to get knowledge, this is other people's waste of time to attempt educating such a person ... generally speaking. Bulgaria needs to be ruled by a solid parliamentary majority, I think it is quite clear; you asked me about the business environment - any anti-market actions should be discontinued. Sometimes I get confused ... to become an EU-member state Bulgaria had to prove that it had a market economy, with all the conventions of this statement ... the way the country behaves, or listens to other country's opinions, or way the country discusses opinions ... all these don't suggest that we've a market economy, that we're a EU-member state, that we're NATO- member state ... Bulgaria has adopted some principles and has accepted to keep in line with them ... I mean unnecessary disputes are carried out; emphasis is put on some nostalgic feelings by asking wrong questions; moods are created to destroy country's international rating, which isn't so high and for cause; all these things are seen by my colleagues abroad and are part of the analysis that the decisions on whether to invest in our country.
Iliana Benovska: You are so clear and direct in expressing business-owners' positions and requirements toward the authorities ... I'd like to go back to my previous question ... Don't you fear that the politicians will gain a sense of inferiority as compared to the business circles and therefore every authority would try to either make use of you or to suppress you?
Ognian Donev: Both approaches have been undertaken toward the Bulgarian business. Over the years of transition, the Bulgarian business-owners have proven that they concentrated their efforts on creating new jobs and improving competitiveness. They don't rely on state support, but operate on the free market, as long as such free market exists. Bulgarian business-owners must strengthen their free-market behavior instead of looking for benefits provided by some political party. I've always insisted that that this isn't a sustainable development model. And let me say a kind of news: no Bulgarian Prime Minister has missed KRIB annual meeting and has still been Prime Minister next year. Yes, this is a kind of a joke, but we like tell it in the KRIB. I'm confident that any Bulgarian political party, which might rule the country, if it actually strives at creating jobs, it must at least maintain working dialogue ...
IlianaBenovska:Waitfor a while. How many times did Boyko Borissov attend your meetings?
Ognian Donev: If you remember, the last time he was in Washington and couldn't attend our meeting.
Iliana Benovska: Well, you say that there is no one who didn't come to your meeting and then continued to be Prime Minister ...
Ognian Donev: Correct! And this can be checked for the period of the last four governments ... If the Prime Minister doesn't come to the meeting, next year he is no longer Prime Minister!
Iliana Benovska: Well, let's go the news! So, you are waiting for determining the date of the early elections and you'll send immediately invitations to the political parties?
Ognian Donev: Absolutely!
Iliana Benovska: Based on what criteria? Age you going to invite the Ataka?
Ognian Donev: Basically, we write letters to the parties we believe they would have parliament members ... we can't meet all parties ... I even don't know the number of Bulgarian political parties.
Iliana Benovska: There are N number political parties. How do you decide which are the important ones?
Ognian Donev: We make appointments with those parties that have declared their support for the market economy, Bulgaria's EU-membership and NATO- membership.
Iliana Benovska: Did the BSP announce such things?
Ognian Donev: Yes, of course. Under which term did Bulgaria become EU-member state?
Iliana Benovska: OK, I agree, that's nice. But what about the market economy?
Ognian Donev: Themarket economy ... if Bulgaria didn't have it, it should not be EU-member state. Mr. Stanishev couldn't be President of the PES, if he thought that the market economy was a bad thing.
Iliana Benovska: Well. This was a nice answer, full of delicacy.
Ognian Donev: But it is clear.
Iliana Benovska: Will you invite Barekov?
Ognian Donev: I'll leave this decision to my colleagues, although I have a personal opinion on the matter. As I've said, such decisions are taken by our Management Board through majority of votes. That's how we practice.
Iliana Benovska: So, if next week the Consulting Council for National Security (CCNS) reaches a consensus on early elections date, you are on the move?
Ognian Donev: Yes, I'll have to see when the date of our Management Board meeting is. It'll decide and then we'll write letters to the political parties.
Iliana Benovska: Are you going to make the meetings accessible to the public, like you did in the past? We love broadcasting them.
Ognian Donev: We do not organize meetings in cafes. Usually we propose meetings both ways - either they come to our headquarters or we go to their premises. In case any party chairman invites us, we pay a visit to them. Depending on the level of representation ... well, it is interesting to see whether a party's leader decide to meets us or they send a mail-registry department clerk to speak with us. These things are part of the protocol, but we never make appointments in late hours or at secret places. In any cases we're going to announce such appointments. On the other hand, we don't make appointments depending on political party importance or positions. We send all letters simultaneously and expect them to either accept proposed dates or suggest other dates they consider appropriate. As I've said our Management Board consists of 27 companies. This enables us guarantee the presence of at least 10 Management Board members, or as many of them are in Sofia, at the respective meeting.
Iliana Benovska: Well, thank you very much for this conversation. We'll follow the further developments. I wish you a nice day!
Ognian Donev: Thank you!
Iliana Benovska: We've talked with Mr. Ognian Donev, PhD in Economics, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Sopharma AD, Chairman of KRIB Management Board.
Interview of Mr. Ognian Donev for Radio K2, June 14, 2014.
Popular poem written by the Bulgarian poet and novelist Ivan Vazov. It describes an epic and desperate battle of crucial importance for the go of the Russian-Turkish War (1877-1878). For Bulgarians this battle is the symbol of the ultimate ever possible heroism and self-sacrifice. For Bulgaria the most important outcome of the war was that the country regained its independency after a five-century Ottoman occupation - translator's note.
Reference is made to a popular anecdote dating as back as country's communist period. A wide-spread slogan claimed that communist party's best efforts were aimed at 'ensuring man's prosperity'. Rumors said that the ordinary people even knew that man's name (i.e. Todor Zhivkov - then Communist Party Secretary General). Over the considered period such anecdote-tellers ran the risk of getting imprisoned for years - translator's note.