Eva Neykova April 28th, 2017

Meeting with Simeon Djankov

The Bulgarian Professionals Club in Washington DC hosted an event at the International Finance Corporation (IFC) on 27 April 2016. Our special guest was Simeon Djankov, a renowned economist, founder of the World Bank’s Doing Business report and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of Bulgaria between 2009 and 2013. Prior to his cabinet appointment, Mr. Djankov was a chief economist of the finance and private sector vice-presidency of the World Bank, an editor of the Journal of Comparative Economics, and a chairman of the board of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
At the event Mr. Djankov presented his new book After the Wall: The Transition in Eastern Europe and shared his views on the political, social and economic environment in Bulgaria and its future within the European Union. He noted that one of the major stumbling blocks for Bulgaria and its development is the extremely high level of corruption. Mr. Djankov drew a comparison between Bulgaria and several Eastern European counties, such as Romania, Latvia and Lithuania, and identified the lack of true political ideology as one of the major differences and weakness in Bulgaria. A constant carousel of ruling parties and a lack of political education have presented major challenges to the achievement of progressive transition in a climate of weak firm political ideology especially among the parliamentary representatives since the fall of the Berlin Wall. For instance, Bulgaria was the only post-communist country that reelected the communist party – by then rebranded as the Bulgarian Socialist Party – after the events of 1989. In the years of transition that followed, the lack of independent media and the stagnant loyalty to the old ways from before 1989 have interplayed to create a highly corrupted and stale political and economic environment in Bulgaria.
Mr. Djankov discussed the reliability and strength of the European and American institutions in the context of global politics and economics. He argued that that the IFC, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are still the most reliable institutions, with the most credibility and resources. He pointed out that the European institutions are not yet well equipped to perform detailed analysis of the global political and economic scene and impact the decision making process of foreign governments. Recent challenges, such as the European crisis, the Greek crisis and the current immigration crisis have exposed the lack of experience in the European institutions. The enormous pressure imposed by these events has shifted the focus away from important topics, such as the fight against corruption.
Mr. Djankov is convinced that positive political and economic changes are possible in Bulgaria in the near future. He emphasized the need for new cadres in politics and economics, with international education and exposure, who are willing to make a change. Mr. Djankov argued the future of Bulgaria lies in robust regional development. There has been an upcoming trend of electing young mayors, with international experience, with knowledge of foreign languages and systems. He believes this is key in attracting more projects and funding from the European Union.