Policy Performance


Economic Policies

Despite stabilizing budgetary conditions, Bulgaria receives comparatively low scores in international comparison (rank 33) with respect to economic policies. Its score on this measure has risen by 0.4 points relative to 2014.

After a short period of deterioration, the government has brought the budget back into balance, with growth forecasts consistently revised upward. Macroeconomic imbalances persist, but reflect the stresses of catching up with the more highly developed EU.

Unemployment rates have been dropping at an accelerating rate. Labor-market reforms increasing hiring flexibility in the agricultural sector and providing training for un- and underemployed may be bearing fruit. However, a long-term skills mismatch persists, with the overall employment rate remaining low.

The tax system is heavily VAT-based. Rising receipts have stabilized public finances, aided by improved collection mechanisms. Corporate taxes and the flat income tax are very low, but red tape is excessive. . Debt is low by EU standards. R&D spending is minimal, but is increasing in the private sector.

Social Policies

With significant gaps in its safety net, Bulgaria falls into the bottom ranks internationally (rank 40) in the area of social policies. Its score on this measure is unchanged relative to 2014.

Education quality is comparatively low, with significant geographical variance. Secondary and tertiary schools are not well aligned with labor-market demands. Income inequality is high and rising, and social exclusion substantial. The system has difficulties integrating minorities, foreigners and people with sub-secondary-level education.

The health care system is inclusive, but service quality is not high. Robust economic growth has improved the health care system’s financial stability. Public provision of child care is limited, though family support networks and parental-leave laws are strong.

Reforms have improved but not guaranteed the pension system’s sustainability. There is no comprehensive integration policy. Conditions for refugees have been very poor, with xenophobic attitudes and parties on the rise. Organized crime is a serious problem, and violence against migrants has increased.

Environmental Policies

Focused still on addressing socialist-era damage, Bulgaria falls into the upper-middle ranks internationally (rank 15) with regard to environmental policies. Its score in this area has improved by 0.1 point relative to its 2014 level.

While the reduction of inherited pollution has been a priority for two decades, current CO2 emissions are relatively moderate. A previously swift rise in the share of renewable energy has slowed following opposition to a subsidy policy that increased electricity prices.

The country lacks a coherent water-resources strategy. Forest and biodiversity protection are strengths. Conservation-focused groups are more influential than many other civil-society associations, although business interests continue to violate environmental policies, particularly in the mining and tourism sectors.

Bulgaria does not actively promote collective action on environmental issues, though it follows existing regimes.



Quality of Democracy

With a number of weak spots, Bulgaria scores comparatively poorly overall (rank 35) with regard to democracy quality. Its score on this measure has lost 0.1 point relative to 2014.

Voting has been made compulsory, although penalties are not severe. Despite limits on party financing, firms provide extra-legal contributions in exchange for patronage. Referendums are increasingly popular, but are binding only if voter turnout is high.

Many private media firms are owned by business groups with government contracts, with ownership structures often being non-transparent. However, the sector remains pluralistic overall, and independent online media are beginning to influence the political process.

A recent wave of street protests affirmed free-speech rights despite some police intimidation. The Roma minority is marginalized, and public discourse is increasingly xenophobic, fanned by hate speech propagated in media outlets. A judicial reform aims at reducing prosecutors’ capacity to influence judges. An effort to pass a comprehensive anti-corruption strategy failed.



Executive Capacity

With a relatively weak government office, Bulgaria falls into the bottom ranks (rank 36) in the area of executive capacity. Its score on this measure has fallen by 0.1 point relative to its 2014 level.

Strategic planning focuses on EU membership requirements. The government office plays a largely administrative role. The prime minister has little formal power over ministers, but a powerful PM can exert significant informal influence. Line ministries prepare proposals without significant central input. Informal coordination is vital under coalition governments, but enables influence by special interests.

The RIA system has been reformed, promising significant future improvements. Following a wave of protests, many agencies and regulatory bodies have opened their work to greater public scrutiny and public participation. EU accession has driven adaptation, but areas such as education, health care and social policy have proven resistant.

The government has successfully lowered deficits and improved EU-fund absorption. The prime minister often contradicts ministers or other coalition parties. A new decentralization strategy will be monitored by a specially created council.

Executive Accountability

With several notable gaps in monitoring effectiveness, Bulgaria scores relatively poorly overall (rank 31) in the area of executive accountability. Its score in this area has improved by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

While activist citizens and businesses tend to have a strong grasp of current policies within their areas of interest, policy knowledge throughout society as a whole is highly uneven. The media largely fails to provide reliable high-quality information, but online sources offer some promise of improved reporting.

Parliamentarians have very limited resources, and formal executive-oversight powers are not always respected in practice. After repeated reforms of the audit office that diminished its independence and credibility, it has returned to stable functioning. The ombudswoman is an activist but polarizing figure.

Political-party decision-making styles differ. Economic-interest associations have relatively strong capabilities, but do not work together well. Other interest organizations typically act as activists rather than analytically.
Back to Top