HEALTH SINCE 1945: INSTITUTIONALIZATION PERIOD
The Bulgarian transition to economic priorities and institutions, based on the Soviet pattern, was essentially complete by the end of the 1950s. It was on this basis that economic development /i.e., modern growth supported by structural change/ was under way for the first time in Bulgarian history. The concentration of investment capital, and, the arrival of factory labour from a newly collectivized agricultural sector were the key structural changes that sustained rapid growth of heavy industry and modern technology. Bulgarian economic development derived in part from a larger commitment to foreign trade, than, that of the Soviet Union or of any other Eastern European country. Since 1960, moreover, the making of Bulgarian economic policy has been marked by virtually unbroken discussion - about, how to improve the productivity of labour and capital. The discussion has prompted recurring reforms in the initial Soviet system of central planning and ministerial control. More attention was paid to statistical turning-points. Increasingly less attention was paid to discrepancies, between, planned and actual growth; they became less glaring after 1960 and virtually disappear after 1980.
Comparisons across the entire post-war period suggest another important change under way in the Bulgarian economy from about 1960 onward. This has been the transition from extensive to intensive growth, more precisely, from growth based on increased inputs to growth based on greater productivity per input. For labour, the transition was fuelled by massive injections of new fixed capital, and, proceeded more rapidly than anywhere else in Eastern Europe. For capital and other inputs, the growth of productivity has been sporadic and remains illusive. Management and technology have not improved consistently enough to increase the efficiency with which capital, in particular, is used. The concentration of more and more inputs into modern industrial production, however, has continued to be the principal source of structural change in the economy.
Characteristically, the overall rate of Bulgarian economic growth has itself declined. The productivity of capital has failed to keep up, with, that of labour. Raw materials have become more expensive, as they have everywhere in the world. Yet the record of growth remains a remarkable one, particularly, when compared to economies of similar size in Wastern and Eastern Europe. If there was no economic miracle for Bulgaria in the 1960s, neither, was there a serious setback during the 1970s.
Political continuity provides part of the explanation for this relatively stable performance. By the early 1960s, as spelled out earlier, Todor Zhivkov had consolidated his position as party "First Secretary" and had become Prime Minister. In 1971, he exchanged the latter position for the Presidency of the new State Council. Under this reorganization, Zhivkov has retained authority over the Council of Ministers, although, he is no longer its chairman. He was therefore head of state, as well as, head of the party. The collective leadership of Politburo of the party's Central Committee, and, 27 members of the slightly larger Council of Ministers have none the less come to play the wider role in making decisions - whatever, equivalent bodies do in the Soviet Union. Enough younger members have entered the Politburo to lower the average age to below 60, which, was significantly younger than a Soviet figure.
No independently powerful figure, or, likely successor to Zhivkov emerged /N.B. His daughter Liudmila, though a member of Politburo, was never considered his probable successor nor equal; she was none the less widely mourned at her early death in 1981/. His leadership, until November 1989, constitutes the longest period of unbroken political stability under a single authority in modern Bulgarian history. Among a population whose historical memory of the 20th century was dominated by uncertainty and impermanence, by brief triumphs and enduring defeats, this recent continuity must be of significance. In the rest of Eastern Europe, only Hungary has had a comparable experience.
/to be continued/.