[page-number of print edition: 312]

Vyara Gancheva, Sofia

1. Introduction

The focus of the present article is on the „Beautiful Bulgaria" project, which is the first large-scale effort for job creation after the financial stabilisation of 1997. The aim of the analysis is to assess the effectiveness of the project. The intention is to implement the assessment by comparing the initial and the achieved goals. Another subject for assessment is the contribution of the programme to the job creation in the municipalities as well as the comparison of the short-term and long-term, the direct and indirect effects of the programme1.

The analysis of the project and its results is based on the conceptual model of partnership building. „Partnership" here stands for the mutually favourable and sustainable exchange of resources, including skills, knowledge and experience among others. The principle of partnership here means that the project is supported by all the partners and they take part in it in accordance with their positions and goals.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is the main executor of the project and an active mediator, who links the potential partners and facilitates the dialogue among them. The goal of UNDP is to start the partnership, to strengthen and support it, respecting the principle requirements for openness, equal worth and mutual profit.

The founding elements of the partnership model are:

  • clear goals and expectations;
  • co-operative planning and problem resolution;
  • flexible programmes designed according to the choices of the participants;

[page-number of print edition: 313]

  • education, consulting-methodical help and follow-ups;
  • development and realisation of the mediator’s skills to facilitate problem resolution among the partners;
  • provision of support by the whole system.

The partnership is built upon the basis of two major prerequisites. First, it is assumed that actions which aim at change through partnership are more successful than actions which aim at change through other methods of intervention. Second, it is also assumed that actions where the agent of change is directly engaged are more successful than efforts for change where the agent is not engaged with participation in the process (Walters, 1998).

2. General Characteristics and Time Span of the Project

According to the memorandum for agreement between the Commission of the European Union and UNDP, the immediate goal of the project is to provide financial support for job creation and for vocational training in the course of renewing the infrastructure in several selected municipalities. An amount of nearly 4 million ECU (80 per cent of which is a contribution of EU and UNDP, and 20 percent of the municipalities) has been allocated in sub-projects for the renovation of the town infrastructure and the historical sites in Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna, Rousse and Veliko Tarnovo. With few exceptions the projects have started in May 1998 and have been completed by the end of October, 1998.

The Job Creation Component (JCC) is part of the second Emergency Social Assistance Programme (ESAP II) for Bulgaria. For this programme the European Commission (the PHARE Programme) granted Bulgaria a funding of 20 million ECU, 16 million of which for the Social Assistance Component and 3.3 million for the Job Creation Component. The financial contribution of UNDP is nearly $ 415,000, that of the municipalities is $ 590, 000.

[page-number of print edition: 314]

3. Institutional Framework of the „Beautiful Bulgaria" Project

  • On the governmental level - EU PHARE (Birks Sinclair & Associates) is the main contracting side with the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy (MLSP), which is the representative of the Bulgarian government.
  • On the national level - the National Employment Service is the partner of UNDP which is the initiator and organising party of the project.
  • On the municipal level - the partners are the regional employment services, the regional offices of UNDP, and the local authorities (mayors).

Apart from that, the National Institute for Cultural Monuments together with its local subdivisions, the contractors - public and private firms, and the unemployed as a target group are also participants in the project.

Thus, a number of considerable results have been achieved through the established partnership system.

- Around 800 institutions have worked on the project in the five towns. This has created unique institutional ties. The co-ordination among the three institutions, bearing the basic responsibilities for the project in different ways (the EU Commission, the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, and UNDP) have been especially complex. All of them admit difficulties, misunderstandings and tensions on the basic level.

- Various forms of horizontal co-operation have been established in the course of the implementation of the „Beautiful Bulgaria" project. They include co-operation between international institutions - EU and UNDP, and among national institutions - Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, the National Employment Service, the National Institute of Cultural Monuments, and the national media. Regional inter-institutional co-operation on the horizontal level can also be observed, e. g. among the regional

[page-number of print edition: 315]

employment services, the local media and the public and private firms, who were contractors for the project in the municipalities.

    Vertical forms of partnership have also been established among international and national institutions (EU/PHARE-UNDP-MLSP), or among national and regional institutions (UNDP central office and UNDP regional offices, MLSP and the regional employment services). These partnerships have been established in order to serve the interests of the beneficiaries - the unemployed enrolled in vocational training courses and in programmes for temporary employment in the five big towns.

4. Juxtaposing Goals and Results

The goal of the project is the provision of temporary employment for 18, 000 man/months in the five towns. By the end of November 1998 the project has provided 16,410 man/months. An amount of 2,183 man/months have been indirectly provided by employment of experts and professionals. Thus the total employment provided by the project is 18,593 man/months (Beautiful Bulgaria Project, 1997).

Another goal of the project is to develop the capability of the central and local administration to run projects of the type under scrutiny. From the point of view of partnership, the participating institutions have been stimulated to build new institutional links and to improve the already existing ones. In all cases, respecting the founding principles of partnership has been the main goal. Nevertheless, they have not been respected in an equal degree for all the partners and at all stages of the project. Weak points have been detected in the joint planning and problem resolution, as well as regarding the opportunities for flexible programmes based on participant choice. For example, the local authorities have not participated in the preparation of the project. That is why the employment programme has not been co-ordinated with the investment programmes of the municipalities. The main

[page-number of print edition: 316]

reason for this was the lack of time, because job creation is a part of a programme for emergency assistance. However, the achievements are encouraging. The experience shared by the experts from EU-PHARE and UNDP with the partners on the central and local level has considerably enhanced their knowledge and skills, and thus improved their opportunities for work on projects with international financing. Nearly 86% of the contracts have been signed after tenders with small and medium-size private firms, which has improved the co-operation of the municipalities with the private sector. The course of the project has been given publicity in the media with a vast scope and variety of materials. The relations between the participating institutions and the public have been strengthened by means of special audio- and video-materials, a film, thousands of articles, interviews in the local and national media, 100 000 leaflets, and 5 000 posters.

5. From Support to Development - the Evolution of the Project

In the beginning the, „Beautiful Bulgaria" project was a UNDP initiative. Its prototype is the „Beautiful Sofia" project, realised by Sofia Great Municipality, MLSP and UNDP in 1997. The main goal of „Beautiful Bulgaria" is the renovation and the improvements of the central city part of several Bulgarian towns. Only after this initial idea, a new component was added, namely the creation of short-term employment. ESAP is a programme for emergency assistance, therefore sustainability of the created employment is not sought for. The main criterion for the selection of the five municipalities - Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna, Rousse and Veliko Tarnovo - is their significance from the point of view of architecture and tourism (esthetisation and reconstruction of buildings) and only later the job-creation component was added. Thus, towns with low level of unemployment and alternative employment opportunities have been selected. At the start of the programme in 1997, 6,5 % of the Plovdiv residents in working

[page-number of print edition: 317]

age were actually unemployed (while the general unemployment in the country was 14%). In Sofia this figure was 4%, in Varna - 7,4%, in Rousse 11,5%, and in Veliko Tarnovo - 17,8%.

Due to the selection of towns with a relatively low unemployment rate, the possibility for long-term hiring of unemployed has been to a certain extent discredited. The programme proves to be highly effective mainly regarding short-term employment, and in this sense the goals have been achieved. Its effectiveness is most visible in Veliko Tarnovo, where the unemployment rate is the highest among the five towns. Moreover, Veliko Tarnovo is the town with the greatest share of unemployed, enrolled in the programme - over 15% of the unemployed. In Sofia - which is the town with the lowest unemployment - the programme has its lowest effectiveness in terms of the share of participants from the total number of unemployed.

The conclusion drawn reads that the higher the unemployment rate, the more effective the programme. Conclusively, the local unemployment rate should be the basic criterion in forthcoming programmes of the same type.

In the case of the „Beautiful Bulgaria" project, a "creaming" effect can be observed. That is the way the selection which affects the results of the employment programmes is called by the researchers of the labour market. The aim of UNDP for a "visible" effect (beautification of buildings) is in contradiction with the goal for achieving an „invisible" effect (job-creation), because the big towns with interesting historical sites and desolate buildings are usually characterised by low unemployment rates. In other cases the source of the "creaming" effect are the research procedures of the programme co-ordinators who select better qualified participants for the employment programmes. The small number of young unemployed, enrolled in the project, does not correspond to the large number of young unemployed registered at the employment services.

[page-number of print edition: 318]

In order to avoid such selections, it is recommendable to use procedures with control groups (juxtaposition of participants and non-participants in the employment programmes). Comparisons between participating towns with similar, though not participating ones, are also possible. The balance between the „visible" and the „invisible" sides has to be embedded in the selection of control towns, and the "creaming" must also be taken into consideration.

6. Problems and Disadvantages of Providing Temporary Employment

  • In the period May-November 1998 when the project was realised, the level of unemployment was lower in comparison with the previous years. In the municipality of Varna it practically reached a zero-level in the summer. There, and also in other places, the problem was solved by gathering unemployed from the neighbouring municipalities thus increasing the costs of the project.
  • A disadvantage of the programme are the fixed payment rates which are too low for the type of work. From another point of view, though, it is equal for all activities and for all the employed. The payment for unqualified labour in the construction industry is several times higher than the one fixed in the project. According to the researchers who have conducted the monitoring on the „Beautiful Bulgaria" project, the low payments have limited the incentives for participation in the programme. Due to its voluntary character, some people have preferred to work on the „black" labour market, or not to work at all. Besides, it is legally incorrect to give payments which are not differentiated according to the type of activity.
  • A ratio of 4:1 of unqualified to qualified workers has been imposed. Because of this fact some of the skilled workers have been denied participation. Although this has rarely oc-

    [page-number of print edition: 319]

    curred; according to the experts from the Institute for Market Economy the result is a specific decrease of the immediate effect of the programme.

  • A ratio of 28:72 price of materials to price of labour has been imposed. This, together with the 1:4 ratio for the workers, has negatively influenced the price and the quality of the work done.

The conclusion is that the creation of temporary workplaces in emergency conditions, as it is the case with the „Beautiful Bulgaria" project, is a big challenge.. It requires quick and effective decisions. The results of the project read about a state policy about unemployment, which is fragmented and ineffective, which actually stimulates the development of the secondary labour market.

7. Creation of Long-term Employment

There is no data about the long-term effect on employment of the „Beautiful Bulgaria" programme. The experts form the Institute for Market Economy estimate that the relative number of unemployed who have continued working with the same firms after the end of the project is 4% of the participants. According to data from UNDP, 25% of the unemployed participating in the project have been offered long-term employment.

Whatever the reasons for these differences in the data, the discrepancies between the necessities of the labour market and the offered job creation programme are obvious. These discrepancies are due to the fact that the qualification courses have been run before the tenders for sub-contractors. For that reason, the requirements of the sub-contracting companies about the qualification of the future employees have been unknown at the moment of training. This has lead to random ratios of the number of participants in the various courses. This is also the reason why the training programme has not affected long-term employment. That is why there are no direct achievements, such as entering

[page-number of print edition: 320]

the official labour market and establishing of communication among the unemployed. However, the programme served as a pilot experiment for other similar projects.

8. Training and Re-training Courses

One of the goals of the project is to train 1,500 unqualified workers in basic skills, used in building and construction. There are 2,173 unemployed trained in the course of the project, that is to say, 673 more than the initially planned. Apart from the courses in building and construction, courses on „How to establish a private business" have also been organised.

A delay of the financing, though, has curtailed the time for training and the courses have proved to be too short (one month). Due to this reason, the participants have not managed to get the necessary qualification and skills for doing specialised work. That is why the unemployed are not given specialised work, although they have completed qualification courses. According to the Institute for Market Economy, only 61% of the participants in the qualification courses have worked on the project.

According to the experts, the disadvantages of the training courses have a negative impact on job creation in a long-term perspective for several reasons:

First, the participants do not comprehend that the qualification and experience gained would be a competitive advantage in their further job-seeking.

Second, training courses on subjects with limited demand for labour have been offered, for these branches are in a continual stagnation.

The conclusion is that the emergency conditions have left their stamp over the training and re-training courses. The expert advice suggests to organise and realise courses with a duration of three months in the future, after which the participants would get diplomas in accordance with the Bulgarian legislation. It is

[page-number of print edition: 321]

also advisable to chose the institutions who will realise the training by tenders.

9. Non-material and Side-effects

According to experts from the Institute for Market Economy, the following side-effects have been detected:

First, as a result of the „Beautiful Bulgaria" programme, the uninstitutionalised labour market has been limited.

Second, the unqualified groups of unemployed have been psychologically influenced.

Both effects are positive and interrelated.

Another side-effect is the additional incomes for the National Insurance Institute (in the State Pensions Fund) which amount up to 311.3 million Levs (290.5 million from the employer firms and 20.8 million from the workers). This sum equals 6,200 average monthly pensions.

An indirect effect from the project is the capacity-building on behalf of the central and local administrations for the generation and realisation of similar projects. A positive effect is realised through the partnerships between the Bulgarian Government and the various international donors. The project is an example of a working model of inter-institutional partnerships on different levels - international, national and regional. Perhaps the successful combination of resources from various sources is the most considerable result which has led to the synergetic effects of the project and which characterises its stability.

Another indirect effect is the integration of over 50% of minority representatives, which has led to a change in their attitudes towards labour, and to a change in the attitudes of the employers towards hiring minority representatives.

10. General Conclusions

The positive effects of the project can be summarised in the following way:

[page-number of print edition: 322]

First, „Beautiful Bulgaria" is the first wide-range programme for job creation. Its most significant result is the achievement of good organisation and co-ordination of over 800 institutions on different hierarchical levels. "Beautiful Bulgaria" can be considered as a successful project for the establishment of inter-institutional partnerships on several levels - international, national and regional.

Second, the programme is very effective regarding short-term employment. The greatest effectiveness is reached in Veliko Tarnovo, where the unemployment percentage was the highest. A total of 3,922 unemployed have participated in the programme, covering 18,593 man/months. They have achieved a certain level of qualification and skills in the sphere of planting and grassing, paving, and dyeing. The skills gained through the programme can be used for other initiatives for job-creation.

Third, the centres of the towns have been renovated, improved and have become more attractive. A total of 216 buildings, architectural sites and parks have been reconstructed in the five towns. A considerable change has been registered in the public attitude towards the urban environment and their opportunities to actively participate in its improvement.

Fourth, paying for any work is a better economic and social strategy than allocating social aids. Thus, the job creation component has partially compensated the demobilising influence of social aids.

Fifth, although long-term effects have not been envisioned at the beginning of the project, and in spite of its seasonal character, it has marked a slight, but nevertheless recognisable positive long-term effect. Around 160 unemployed who have participated in the project have signed long-term contracts with the firms who have employed them for the project.

Sixth, „Beautiful Bulgaria" is a large-scale example for joint financing and information exchange, for commitment of the mediator (UNDP) and for co-operation among the participants.

[page-number of print edition: 323]

References to the experience, gained in the course of the Programme is an advantageous condition for the success of future initiatives for job-creation.

Negative points from the experience with partnership-building:

  • the municipalities have not been included in the preparation and design of the Programme. That is why some logistic failures have occurred - delays and interruptions of the technological processes and problems with the inter-institutional links;
  • due to inadequate co-ordination and lack of return link with the consumers, the ordering procedures have stayed underdeveloped and have hindered the implementation of optimal strategies;
  • the insufficient co-ordination between MLSP and UNDP has left part of the huge amount of work done by the regional employment services in anonymity, and MLSP has not received the necessary publicity (EU Emergency Social Assistance Programme, 1998).

11. Suggestions

First, specific research and practical actions for motivating the partners are necessary. Preliminary and current studies of the participants in partnership projects are recommended.

Second, any similar project should be a joint venture of the certain ministry, of the co-ordinator of the programme respectively, of the local employment agencies, of the non-governmental organisations and of the sponsor.

Third, a culture of co-operation should be developed by all partners. Otherwise certain discrepancies might occur, which would negatively influence all parties concerned and the results of the project as a whole.

Fourth, a training programme for all the potential partners in partnership-building and formation of communication skills is necessary.

[page-number of print edition: 324]

Fifth, the job-creation programme should be continued, but not in the emergency conditions 2.

Sixth, programmes of the „Beautiful Bulgaria" type should be implemented through market mechanisms, and not through preliminary determined administrative frameworks. This, by the way, means that the firms should be able to select their future employees directly from the local employment agencies.


1 The materials used in the present study stem from the monitoring researches on the „Beautiful Sofia" and „Beautiful Bulgaria" projects, conducted by the non-governmental organisations „Economy 2 000" and „Institute for Market Economy", as well as from documents kindly provided by UNDP, the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy and the Delegation of EU. The author would like to thank all of them for their kind co-operation.

2 In the course of the preparation of this article it was announced that the „Beautiful Bulgaria" project is going to continue in 1999 in 6 more towns - Vidin, Vratsa, Razgrad, Silistra, Stara Zagora and Yambol. The towns are selected because of the existence of historical sites and the high levels of unemployment. The expected funding is around 7 million ECU.


ASSESSMENT OF THE „JOB CREATION COMPONENT" of the Emergency Social Aid Programme (ESAP II) of the PHARE Programme. Final Report (1998) Sofia: Institute for Market Economy.

EU PROGRAMME FOR EMERGENCY SOCIAL AID and Job-Creation. Final Report (1998) Sofia: MLSP, Special Project Management Group

BEAUTFUL BULGARIA PROJECT. External Evaluation Report (1997) UNDP.

WALTERS, Peggy (1998) Characteristics of Successful Organizational Development. Sofia: Democracy Network Programme

© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition fes-library | Februar 2000

Previous Page TOC