As the population shrinks, the bureaucracy grows

The planning of new regions in Bulgaria will lead to the creation of new administrative positions, without removing the old ones. Another bizarre new proposal is also being considered at the moment – that NGOs should become state structures.

The story about the population collapse in Bulgaria in the future comes hand in hand with other interesting news from the present. Bulgarians may be decreasing in number but officials in Bulgaria are increasing. Recently it turned out that the new planning regions which the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works is developing, will also lead to the creation of new jobs for bureaucrats in the administration. But without removing the old positions.

The municipalities will remain the same, the districts too, but new administrative regions will be formed along with the appropriate management structures. Curiously enough, similar administrative planning structures actually already exist – but without administration.

The Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works published the options they had prepared for the planned division in January, and then launched public discussions on the subject. These have already taken place in Vratsa, Stara Zagora and Varna. The news that a new administrative apparatus is being set up came from these discussions.

Minister Denitsa Nikolova, who is responsible for this project, has reported everywhere that “regional structures will be set up to be responsible for selecting specific measures on the ground”. In reality, “measures” means European funds. Planning areas are being developed with a view to EU funding – after 2020, the focus will be on ‘integrated territorial investment’. Money will be distributed territorially, and each planning region will be able to apply for funds. Applications require the availability of relevant staff to deal with them.

At the discussions, it became clear that one of the options was to administer the entire process using a national agency. This would mean having one common structure in charge of all the regions. Imagine the NRA (National Revenue Agency) or the Customs Agency – this would be the new apparatus that would enrich the Bulgarian administration! Another option, according to Nikolova, is that every region would have its own similar agency.

And the third option is the most interesting one – NGOs would form “management units” on the ground to spend European money. No, there is no mistake – MRDPW experts explained in the discussions that NGOs could become state structures as they have experience in such activities. That they have experience is undisputed, but it is easy to guess that only NGOs which are close to the government will be allocated the freshly created bureaucratic jobs.

Apart from all that, at the moment it is clear that the country will be divided into four districts – the Danube, including Vidin, Montana, Vratsa, Pleven, Lovech, Gabrovo, Veliko Tarnovo, Ruse, Razgrad, Silistra and Targovishte; the Black Sea – Bourgas, Dobrich, Shumen, Sliven and Yambol; the Southwest, with Sofia, Pernik, Kyustendil and Blagoevgrad; and the rest to be included in the Thracian-Rhodopean area. The other options provided for more areas, so the good news is that at least there will only be four new administrations.

The question remains whether the currently existing administrations could have coped with the matter of distributing European funds. Apparently not – the people are disappearing, but the bureaucrats remain. The most resilient species of all.

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