DAY IN, DAY OUT

by Anthony Georgieff

The Bulgarian government continues to 'fight' the economic crisis with... more holidays

An increasing number of economists, as well as ordinary citizens, view the economic policies of Boyko Borisov's establishment as being, at the very least, "inconsistent." They claim that they are designed to keep the state coffers in order, while impoverishing the middle class and crushing whatever small and medium-sized businesses still survive the ongoing crisis. The latest example of the discrepancy between what this government says and what it does is a decision by the Council of Ministers, taken in the best traditions of Communist Bulgaria, to "consolidate" Bulgaria's bank holidays in 2012.

Consolidating days off is a peculiar Bulgarian phenomenon that exists nowhere else in Europe, so it needs a bit of explanation. In Bulgaria, if a bank holiday falls on a Thursday, the Friday is also declared a day off, so that people do not work from Wednesday afternoon, when they start preparing for the holiday, until Monday afternoon when they are sober enough to be able to do some work. Typically, the Friday not worked on in this way should be "compensated" for on the Saturday preceding or following the Thursday bank holiday. In reality, such a Saturday tends to be worked in a rather perfunctory fashion, if employees turn up for work at all.

The government claims that, in this way, it enables citizens to "relax more comprehensively." They probably do.

However, what the government fails to take into consideration is that, in the grip of the economic collapse, few businesses, especially small and medium-sized ones, can afford not to do anything for five or six days in a row. While their employees go to visit their relatives in the provinces, their managers have to worry about how to pay wages for work not done.

2012, the government decided, would be full of such long holidays. Come Easter 2012, Bulgarians and everyone else in this country will have four days off: from 13 April, Good Friday, until 16 April. Two weeks later, the whole country will again collectively go on holiday for another four days. 1 May, the Communist-era Labour Day bank holiday that is still celebrated in Bulgaria will, in fact, be four days off: from 28 April until 1 May (Saturday to Tuesday inclusive). 30 April will be "compensated" for on the previous Saturday, 21 April. Get that right.

Thankfully, 6 May 2012, St George's Day, falls on a Sunday, so just a weekend off then. But 24 May, the Day of the Slavonic Alphabet, will be a real feast: another four days in a row. Prepare not to do anything from 24 to 27 May inclusive. Theoretically, 25 May will be "worked" on the preceding Saturday, 19 May.

It's pretty straightforward from then on. Bulgarians will start going to the Black Sea coast for the summer months, and when they return to work they will have four days off for Unification Day: from 6 September to 9 September inclusive. For those who still subscribe to the "proverbial" Bulgarian work ethic, 7 September will be worked on Saturday 29 September.

The Christmas 2012 holidays will amount to five days in a row: from 22 December 2012, which is a Saturday, to Wednesday, 26 December. New Year 2013 will be marked by another four days in a row: from 29 December 2012 to 1 January 2013 inclusive.

For those eager to take some time off sooner than that, the government also has some good news. New Year 2012 will add another official day off, 2 January 2012. In this way, if you've survived the 2011 Bulgarian Christmas (just three days off), you will be able to go fishing from Saturday, 31 December 2011 to Tuesday 3 January 2012.

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