Iliana Benovska: You are listening to “On the Sixth Day”, the weekly review show of “Radio K2”; today, the 28th of June 2014;my name is Iliana Benovska. The major topic we are discussing today is: Who and on what grounds can govern Bulgaria? Withit, Isaygoodmorningtoourfirstpartner in the talk liveon “RadioK2”, Mr.Ognian Donev, DoctorofEconomics, ExecutiveDirector and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Sopharma AD, Chairman of the Management Board of the Confederation of Employers and Industrialists in Bulgaria (CEIB). Good Morning, Mr. Donev!
Ognian Donev: Good Morning, Mrs. Benovska!
Iliana Benovska: Mr. Donev, where do we find you?
Ognian Donev: Rightnow, I am in the centre of Madrid.
Iliana Benovska: What is going on there?
Ognian Donev: Theannualconferenceofthe European Generic Medicines Association. This is the forum of the companies that manufacture generic medicines worldwide, in this case, the European forum.
Iliana Benovska: AretheresuchdevelopmentsinMadridsimilartothesein Bulgaria from the past few days? Isupposeyouknowthatyesterdaythepoliticalforcesgatheredanddecidedtheearly parliamentary elections to be on the 5th of October 2014. Meanwhile, however, asecondbankfellintoaliquiditycrisis after 800 million leva were withdrawn from its vaults.
Ognian Donev: Ofcourse,Ifollowtheevents.Although I am not in Bulgaria, I am concerned that this is not good for Bulgarian economy. Atthesametime, weshouldknowthatthefinancialsystemisstableandthereshouldbenoconcern, butwhatishappeningdefinitely creates tension among people, and what we cannot predict is to what extent the real business will be affected. Themere factthatworried colleaguesarecalling meonthephonealldayaskingquestions, shows per se that there is some nervousness which is unnecessary and does not help the economic stability.
Iliana Benovska: Ijustwanttoaddsomethingwhichyouprobablydon’tknow.Ithappenedthismorning - beforeanofficeofUniCreditBulbankinShumen,ahomemadebombwasplaced. It didn’t cause much damage to the bank office but it created tension that something started with a third bank as well. Atthesametime, hereinSofiaawindowof an office of UniCredit Bulbank wasbroken.
Ognian Donev: No, that’swhatIwanttosay, thatespeciallyforthebankyouaretalkingrightknow,the fact that somebodythrewafirecrackerordidsomething, unfortunatelyabadjokeorsomethingsimilar, as well asallthis replication of photos, it looks like nothing has happened but the fact that it makes the titles in the media creates wrong ideas. Wegettheimpressionas if somebody really has interest this psychosis to intensify.
Iliana Benovska: OK, and what is the genesis of this tension, what does your analysis show? Thereareafewhypotheses,thatsomebodyhasbadcreditsand by this he aims at devaluating them and at least gain some time. Theotheroneisthatcertainpoliticalforcesaretryingtobring the currency board down; the third is that there are criminal acts involved.
Ognian Donev: Thereisnoneedtolistallpossibleversions. Itisclearthattherearesomeinterests involvedbutbringingdowntheboard, remission of credits, these are legends that are not possible. Ihave heard evenbeforethese rumours startedthattherearepeoplewhoowealotofmoneyinleva and are interested in devaluating the lev. Such statements have no economic value.
Iliana Benovska: Yes, but then immediately a scheme has been circulated that ...
Ognian Donev: Look, thebasicthingwhichcanbedrawnasaconclusionisthatpartofBulgarianeconomy, the BulgarianbusinessmeninvestedextremelylargefinancialresourcessothatBulgarianeconomy, theindustrycancovertheEuropeanstandards andreachasfastaspossiblethelevelsofEuropeanindustry, and at the same time some people in pursue of egoistic, private, personal goals and claiming concern about the prosperity of the nation, are pulling the country backwards because they pursue, as I said, not national but some private personal goals.And, ofcourse, thisdisappointsallthesepeoplewhoafterallthoughtthatwehadthestrengthtoroll up our sleeves and achieve something that is equivalent to the economic and industrial level in Europe. Speaking so, I personally feel a great deal of disappointment.
Iliana Benovska: Letmeaskyouabitmoredirectly, letusspeakwiththe real names, basedonthefactthatonthe 19thofJune,aftertheparliamentaryelections,you came up with a declaration, I mean in 2013, that immediate early elections are necessary, as well as the resignation of this government. 10 daysago, youagain confirmedyoursharp positiontowardsthissamegovernment, so you maybe hint that the administration of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms lead us to this crisis, do you?
Ognian Donev: Whatthebackstageprocessesare, Ican’tknow, butitwasdefinitelyduringthisgovernment,whenwefoundourselvesinthe current situationto tell jokes such as, when they govern us, this and this happens. I think the mere fact that we are having this conversation today shows that we have been extremely provident a year ago, when we wanted the resignation of the government.
Iliana Benovska: Justasecond, Iwouldliketoclarify, becauseboth you and me wellknowtheissuesinquestion;when I said “you”, I had in mind CEIB which you preside, I meant its declarations.
Ognian Donev: Yes, thiswasadeclarationpreparedandvotedby65 Bulgarian companies and branch organisations. Then, thishadabitnegativeeffectonusbecausetheylookedonitinastrangemanner, asiftheywereoffended. But it’s always the case when someone predicts something that would happen and it differs from the views of the government, he becomes somehow inconvenient. ButIbelievethatwefoundcouragethentodosomethingof no benefit for us, to warn that there is such a threat. Fromtoday’sperspective, Ifeelsatisfiedthatwehavepredictedandseenthings ofwhichothersonly now,today, agree with us by consensus, and namely the necessity of early elections. Iamgladthatnowadatehasbeenscheduled.IappealtoalltheBulgarianpeopletousetheirrighttovoteandalltogethertakepartinelections, so that such a government can be elected that meets the demands of the people in the utmost degree and that enjoys their support. Only agovernmentwithgoodsupportbyvotersisabletocalm down the tension and create conditions for the economy to function.
Iliana Benovska: You, CEIB, bytradition,beforesucheventslikeearlyparliamentaryelections, approachinwriting, throughinvitations, thepoliticalpartiesonthestage, fordiscussions to specify the economic priorities, the policy priorities. We now have a fixed date, the 5th of October. When will your invitations begin?
Ognian Donev: Verysoon,Isuppose. Of course, we are surprised by the date.We should first gather and prepare the text of these letters, respectively, and to invite the politicians for discussions.
Iliana Benovska: Letmetellyouaboutsomethingthatyouprobablyshouldknow. Last Saturday, the president of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB), Plamen Dimitrov, spoke about the position of CITUB and about the documents they were preparing with regard to the requirements to the next government. Hereinthestudio, wedecidedtoinviteyouandtherestofthemedia, sothatthefollowingcanhappen: first, toperformdebatesontheprioritieswhichbothyou, theemployers, andtheunionistswillpropose; and secondly, to try to have the politicians sign this time a document that if they come to power, they will observe such and such norms of behaviour in economics, politics and in the political life as a whole.
Ognian Donev: Mrs.Benovska, letmeinterruptyou;theproblemwith politicians is not that they will not sign anything.
Iliana Benovska: Letmejust finish, secondly, wewanttoexercisecontroloverthem; employers, unionistsandmediatouniteandtoexercise control over them; this time not only the elections to be the control.
Ognian Donev: Look, inthetripartite dialogue, Idaresay, wewillfindcommon language withtheunionsbecause they are also interested in a stable economy. Theegoismofpoliticiansiswhatconcernsme, since they put their personal interest over the interest of the employees, as well as of the Bulgarian employers. Ithinktheeventsfromthepastfewdayshappening so fast, only prove this statement of mine.
Iliana Benovska: OK, butdoyouacceptmyinvitation? I address it to you in public.
Ognian Donev: Yes, ofcourse, everybeneficialthingthatwilldirect the energy of society, as well as of politicians in the right direction is something to admire.
Iliana Benovska: Wewillinformyouby letteronMondayaboutstartingtheprocedureonagreeing, you, theemployersandunionists, andwe, themedia, tosupportyouwiththefuturegovernment regarding the relevant parameters of that government and to specify some forms of control, do you accept?
Ognian Donev: Yes, of course!
Iliana Benovska: Good, BoikoBorisovproposedtheInternationalMonetaryFundtocomehereandpreparethenextbudgetofthecountry, aswellastolookforrefinancing for banks, that’s how he put it, at least for 5 milliards.Your position regarding that?
Ognian Donev: Look, Idon’twanttocommenton Bulgarianpoliticians;allkindsofexoticpropositionsareyettobemade, electionsarecoming, the bad thing is that exotic claims are born in the political sector, and we, employers and unionists are the ones who are going to be most affected by their ideas. Bulgarianeedspeace right now, so that it can follow the trend in Europe of some uplift. Yousee, weare nowansweringquestionssuch as whether there is money in this or that ATM. Themajor nationalpropertywasafterallthefinancialstability. Idon’tknowwhy, andhereIhopetheauthoritieswhosejobthisis,would not to come out with legends, and would actually reveal to the public what is going on.
Iliana Benovska: Oneofthebankers’ hypothesesisfirst, thatthefinancialstabilitydidnothappen, andyousaythatasaconfederation, it did not happen with this government. On the opposite, it was disrupted, but one of the hypothesis is that what is happening with banks is due to the changes in the Law on Banks and Credit Activity which this government made and created the impression that bad bankers amass billions on account of unfortunate depositors. What do you think about this?
Ognian Donev: Look, first, this is not true.
Iliana Benovska: Which one?
Ognian Donev: Bad bankers – there is no such a thing. ExactlyweinCEIBhavesaidthatanypolicyagainstbankers, againstownersofchainstores, againstmanufacturersofthisorthatgoods, is populist and foolish per se and has nothing to do with reality. Why do we always put some common denominator?
Iliana Benovska: But what are the consequences?
Ognian Donev: Thereisbankingsupervision, therearecompetentpeopleandlettheysayand openly acquaint society about the situation. We are all aware that on the whole the banking system is stable. I, personally, asamanagerofacompany, workwith10 banksandhaveno remarks on their liquidity, stability and so on.
Iliana Benovska: What are the consequenceshowever of such populist and, as you called them, foolish statements?
Ognian Donev: Thisisthedesiretoobtainmorevotes, peoplegot nervous inthissituation; whenpoliticiansrespondtothisnervousness in a way that has nothing to do with economic logic only to obtain votes on the elections, nothing useful actually happens.
Iliana Benovska: What is the damage this government has caused, Mr. Donev? It should be quantified.
Ognian Donev: First, themeansshouldbegeneratedbywhichthesocialpolicywillbeimplemented, andnottotakehugeloansout oflovetopeople; some “social policy” should be implemented and stability of economy should actually be developed.
Iliana Benovska: Onelastquestionbefore the end. YesterdayIaskedBoikoBorisovduring abriefingintheNationalAssemblywhetherthisgovernmentshouldbear criminalresponsibilityfor the caused damages. He said yes, maybe it should. You, in the capacity of an industrialist, do you share the idea that accountability should be sought in numbers and facts?
Ognian Donev: Iwouldsaythatdisclosureoftheabsolutetruthisimportant, and as far as responsibility is concerned, I am not the person who is to say who bears what responsibility.Politiciansshould not be trusted when they say that responsibility should be sought. We’ve been hearing that for 20 years now and it has never happened yet.
Iliana Benovska: Andthelastquestion. What is, according to you, the role of the prosecution, of the judicial authorities and of the Ministry of Interior regarding the things happening with banks?
Ognian Donev: Rightnowwehaveasituationwecanuseasa litmus and it can answer us the question which of all hypotheses you launch is correct. Personally, Iamcuriousto find out what will the outcome of this litmus test be. Rightnow, namelyfromthebehaviouroftheprosecutionwecananswer ourselves which of the theories launched in the public space is correct. Ipersonallycountonthe prosecution todoitsjobandtogivesatisfactory answer to society about what is happening.
Iliana Benovska: OK, let’shopethisistrue. Thank youvery much for this conversation. Have a nice and productive day in Spain at the congress of the Association of Generic Medicines Manufacturers. Thank you very much!
Ognian Donev: Thank you, good luck to you too!
Iliana Benovska: Thankyou! WespokewithOgnian Donev, DoctorofEconomics, ExecutiveDirector andChairmanoftheBoardofDirectorsofSopharmaAD, Chairman of the Management Board of CEIB.