Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov praised former finance minister Simeon Dyankov for keeping sound fiscal discipline and keeping Bulgaria’s government spending in check, but said that a series of Dyankov’s failures prompted the decision to replace him as finance minister with less than five months left before scheduled parliamentary elections.
Speaking on February 19, a day after Dyankov’s sacking was announced, Borissov gave the first official explanation for the most high-profile ministerial departure since his Cabinet took office in July 2009. (An email from the public relations office of Borissov’s party, GERB, sent by mistake to media instead of MPs on February 18, contained instructions to praise Dyankov’s accomplishments but no guidance on explaining his departure).
Borissov said that Dyankov played “a very important role” and was a key reason why Bulgaria’s fiscal discipline was praised by foreign partners. However, as deputy prime minister in charge of the economy, Dyankov did not do enough to stimulate economic growth, nor to develop electronic government.
Personal reasons, too, played a role – Dyankov never built good communication with fellow Cabinet ministers and his only constant supporter was Borissov himself. “He had only my support because austerity and keeping fiscal discipline are measures that no one likes, neither Cabinet ministers, nor the people,” Borissov said.
To meet Dyankov, other Cabinet ministers had to go to Borissov, he said. Dyankov also often was out of the country – his family lives in the US – and that sometimes resulted in delayed decision-making.
But the immediate reason for the decision appears to be Dyankov’s refusal to pay EU subsidies to farmers until the funds arrived from Brussels. Borissov, who told protesting farmers that the money would be paid by the end of the month, wanted the subsidies paid in advance.
This appears to confirm a report that appeared in the print edition of mass-circulation daily Trud, just hours before Dyankov’s resignation was announced, which said that the subsidies dispute had significantly weakened Dyankov’s position and he barely kept his job last week.
Other speculation in Bulgarian media in the immediate aftermath of the announcement said that Dyankov was sacrificed to placate protesters rallying against high electricity bills and Government policies – as the main architect and biggest supporter of austerity measures, Dyankov had become a favourite target of criticism and his public approval ratings have been consistently low after the heights scaled early in the current Cabinet’s term, when his rating nearly rivalled that of Borissov.
Another line of speculation was that Dyankov was the main opponent of a camp in the Cabinet that favoured increased government spending ahead of the parliamentary elections due in summer. EU Funds Minister Tomislav Donchev and Regional Development Minister Lilyana Pavlova, who are set to replace Dyankov as finance minister and deputy prime minister in charge of the economy, respectively, were said to both be in that camp.
Answering a question from the media about speculation that Dyankov was fired because of corruption practices, Borissov said that he had no indication that there was any truth to such allegations.
(Simeon Dyankov photo by Finance Ministry)