On 19 May 2010 the Center for the Study of Democracy presented the results of the IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2010. The Center for the Study of Democracy is official partner for Bulgaria of the World Competitiveness Center at IMD (International Institute for Management Development). The previous four issues of the Yearbook had a direct impact on Bulgarian competitiveness policy-making, and were quoted in strategic policy documents of the Bulgarian government. International investors monitor very closely the IMD competitiveness ranking, which makes its 2010 results even more important for the countries involved against the background of the continuing crisis in Europe. The IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2010 assesses Bulgaria’s competitiveness in comparison to 58 leading national and regional economies.
Dr. Ognian Shentov, Chairman of the Center for the Study of Democracy, opened the discussion stressing on the idea that political pledges and their consistent implementation are essential to improving national competitiveness. Therefore, assertions about the political will of the government ought to be backed by concrete action plans, tangible results, and public accounts of the effects of the implemented policies.
Mr. Martin Dimitrov, Chairman of the Economic Policy, Energy and Tourism Committee to the National Assembly, stressed on the importance of having a realistic perspective about the country’s competitiveness on the global market, especially in the context of the current economic crisis and the unrealistic expectations of the government. Some of the successful governmental measures for increasing national competitiveness include the elimination of obstacles to the establishment and development of businesses (ease of entry), as well as simplifying and speeding up bankruptcy procedures for businesses that are no longer in operation (ease of exit). Mr. Dimitrov identified as a major shortcoming the lack of assessment of the impact of governmental policies and adopted laws on Bulgarian competitiveness, and stressed on the need for a change in order for the country to become an effective EU competitor.
Mr. Ruslan Stefanov, Director of the Economic Program at the Center for the Study of Democracy, presented the results of the IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2010, which ranks Bulgaria as 53rd out of 58 leading national and regional economies in terms of market competitiveness. Among the challenges remaining for Bulgaria were: strengthening law enforcement to improve the business environment in the country; developing and effectively communicating a mid- and long-term plan for innovation and ICT policy; as well as increasing the capacity and efficiency of the public administration’s management of EU funds.
Mr. Evgeni Angelov, Deputy Minister of Economy, Energy and Tourism, indicated some of the positive developments in the country during the past year, such as a two-and-a-half times growth in GDP and a small increase in exports. Yet, the structure of the economy has not changed substantially from previous years, with manufacturing and IT services comprising over 90% of Bulgaria’s exports. Furthermore, Bulgaria’s industries rely heavily on natural resources and cheap labor, rather than innovation and capital investments.
As next steps on the Bulgarian government’s agenda, Mr. Angelov pointed out the following: increasing government investment in R&D and creating stimuli for private investment in R&D; increasing access to capital for small and mid-sized businesses; developing a regulatory framework for innovation and building relations of cooperation in this area; creating and sustaining an infrastructure (both physical and human); and a shift from industries based on cheap labor and natural resources to industries based on innovations.
As a representative of the private sector, Mr. Ognian Trayanov, President of Technologica EOOD, pointed to the lack of communication and cooperation between political and business leaders as major obstacle to innovation processes in Bulgaria. Moreover, this lack of communication from the leaders creates a lack of trust and understanding from the public. Mr. Ognian Trayanov stressed on the importance of information technologies development. In his opinion, the new technologies and information systems can increase the efficiency of large project management. The focus of each initiative and project should be on the increase of its added value to the economy. Mr. Trayanov also pointed out that the private sector needs a stable and predictable environment to work in.
Mr. Purvan Rusinov, Deputy Minister of Transport, Information Technology and Communications, confirmed that the information and communication technologies (ICT) provide the most added value and contribute to all others sectors in the economy. He highlighted the fact that ICT have proved to be an important factor in the Bulgarian economy. They also significantly facilitate the reduction of the administrative burden and improve the collaboration with the civil society. The Ministry of Transport, Information Technology and Communications is currently working in four main areas: a) improving the regulatory framework so that it encourages business investment in ICT; b) building up infrastructure; c) establishment of electronic government, and d) initiatives to support the participation of the Bulgarian business in European projects related to ICT.