More Complex than you Think: Spotlight on the Intricacies of State Capture Mechanisms and Processes in Bulgaria

State capture is a complex concept based on the idea that public institutions could be instrumentalized by, even become hostage to, private interests. Stemming from American analyses of administrative organization and practices, it requires adaptation to Eastern European realities. It typically starts with the assumption of an independent from the state strong private sector (business, corporations, etc.), with enormous resources that may seriously pressure the regulatory power of the state and even "capture" it.
Eastern Europe adds some complications to this clear-cut picture. In countries such as Bulgaria the existence of a strong independent from the state private sector cannot be readily assumed, as the state itself has been an active participant in the creation of the private sector through the processes of privatization of state assets and public procurement. Under such conditions the symbiosis between public and private runs deeper than in the cases of established democracies and market economies.
The question "who captures whom?" is not easy to answer. Our point of departure is the understanding that public-private symbioses in contemporary societies with both weak states and weak private sectors run much deeper than the habitual and already standard study of the government and the core executive as the only presumed targets for capture reveal.
Traditional policy suggestions that the executive should clean up its act will not do. Even if there is a new government committed to reforms, integrity and transparency, its hands might be tied by judicial bodies, independent agencies, the nature of the political process with its media coverage and financial capital, ready for political actions. These constraints over the executive may ultimately prove stronger than the political will of a new government. If this hypothesis is right, in order to meaningfully address the problem of state capture, it will be necessary to engage in far-reaching, very ambitious reforms, concerning sectors of public life quite remote from the typical foci of attention on a small set of the competencies of the executive.
What is more, the public understanding of processes of state capture is very limited. Not only the public at large, but very often policy makers and civil society actors subsume state capture under the broader concept of "corruption" and treat it with standard measures like transparency, more detailed legislation, etc. It is our belief that successful policies tackling state capture will be possible if there is broader societal understanding of the specific nature of the problem among politicians, policy makers, students and journalists. Therefore, the goal of this project is twofold: first, to accumulate relevant knowledge of state capture in Bulgaria; second, to raise the level of awareness of the problem among key target groups.

Period: January 2015 - January 2017
Coordinators: Georgy Ganev, Daniel Smilov
Financing Organisations: Think Tank Fund - Open Society Foundations
Political Studies Rule of Law Economic Perspectives