A ‘Pro-growth’ Budget or in Djankov’s Fashion minus Djankov

A ‘Pro-growth’ Budget or in Djankov’s Fashion minus Djankov

The Council of Ministers already adopted the Draft Budget of the Republic of Bulgaria, defining it even as ‘pro-growth’. In its provisions that concern me as a researcher at BAS and director of an institute within BAS with a history of over seventy years, I am taken aback by the reversion to the policies of the early long-ruling centre-right party GERB (Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria) and particularly, to the shadow of the former finance minister Simeon Djankov…

From the Budget Bill 2022 of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences it turns out that the increase compared to the previous year is by 1.7%, i.e. the processes of rising energy bills and inflation being on an upward trend have been ignored. Consequently, it is questionable whether an increase will be possible in the salaries of many BAS staff members working for the minimum pay, from BGN650 to BGN710. And if the employers should definitively raise the minimum salary of the ancillary staff, apparently the salaries of the researchers should be reduced to fit in with the financial year as it was in the period 2010/11, when asst. professors, assoc. professors and professors had to take unpaid leaves so that not to breach their employment contracts. All this, when the budgets of the universities saw a significant increase in 2021, while the money for the Academy did not suffice once again. This year there will be no increase in the budgets of the universities! Yet in the last decade, the money allotted to teachers is on the rise and in 2022 it will be by 12% or up to 125% of the average salary across the country. So, the minimum teacher’s salary in 2021 was higher that that of a professor at BAS. The National Statistical Institute reported that the minimum salary in the country in 2021 was BGN1543, while in Sofia it was BGN2073, and the average salary at BAS is by 55% lower than that in Sofia and by 40% lower that that in the country. The professors at the Academy are paid monthly BGN1246,78[1] on average, as if inflation concerns them not and they do not pay bills.

Against such a backdrop, the Minister of Education, Academician Nikolai Denkov said last week for the bTV: ‘Research funding is never enough …’ Adding that there will be enough funds under programmes, where scholars would apply for and win projects to make money, failing to note that the remunerations in the projects funded, for instance, by the Bulgarian National Science Fund, are only a minor percentage of the total. A researcher in a team of ten working three years on a project, where the maximum amount of funding is BGN120,000, receives about BGN1,000 per year. The rest of the money goes to acquire equipment, consumables, trips, publications, etc. Such a researcher ought to work on several projects to pay his/her heating bills, but only if using coal or wood. Working on several projects implicates monstrous bureaucratic red tape, where genuine science drowns, not to mention the freedom of choice of research areas, for trends are imposed administratively and in a European manner, rather than be determined by the scientific deontology and national interest. Even more complicated is the question as to whether or not conditions for corruption are created, where huge financial resources that have to be allocated fairly and objectively between various beneficiaries are concentrated in two ministries.

I owe my walk of life mostly to my teachers at the National High School for Classical Languages and Ancient. In the 1980s, such leading scholars as Georgi Bakalov, Hristo Matanov, Peter Angelov, Ilia Todev, etc., , who at the time, were assistant professors at the University of Sofia and BAS, were visiting lectures at the school. Teaching within the system of the secondary education, they both earned extra income and trained followers. Later they all became professors at the University of Sofia and BAS, continuing to raise quality historians within the system of the higher education. Led by this logic, I started a career of a teacher, dreaming of a career switch to science some day. So I did, still holding teaching in esteem: in Japan teachers are the only ones that do not have to bow before the emperor. University and BAS professors, teaching doctoral students, are also teachers, but at a higher level, because on the one hand they feed the educational system specialists, and on the other, impart knowledge and methods to this system through their publications. This is the reason why I believe it absurd that primary and secondary teachers at state schools should be paid more than their professors. I never was in Harvard, but I was in Princeton as a visiting scholar. Even in USA the professors at private universities are not paid less than the teachers at the private collages. This is why I do not buy into the draft budget 2022 for BAS and the universities as a ‘Western-style’ one or into any ‘change’ with regard to the genocide of the Bulgarian intelligentsia and culture unleashed twelve years ago. It’s not just digging the pyramid into the ground, but into the skies of insolence …

[1] Information from an open latter by the General Assembly of the Space Research and Technology Institute, BAS of 26 Jan. 2022.

Emmanuel Moutafov

Department of Fine Arts
Arts of the Medieval and the National Revival Periods research group
PhD, Assoc. Prof., Director

Byzantine Studies; Greek epigraphy; palaeography; Christian iconography; cults of saints; works on painting; cryptograms; Athonite art; Constantinople; Jerusalem; history of Balkan culture; lexicography, etc.
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