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BULGARIA


  
  

 

In-depth Business Intelligence

Key Economic Data 
 
  2002 2001 2000 Ranking(2002)
GDP
Millions of US $ 15,608 13,600 12,600 74
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 1,790 1,650 1,580 110
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Bulgaria

REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area(sq.k.m)
110,910

Population
7,537,929 

Capital
Sofia

Currency
Lev 

President 
Georgi Purvanov


Private sector
% of GDP
40%
 


  

Update No: 092 - (01/01/05)

Bright prospects
In 2001 Bulgaria did an unusual thing for a long-time communist country. It elected its former king as its premier, Simeon 11 of the Saxe-Coburg dynasty. He leads a coalition government.
Bulgaria is on track to join the EU in 2007 if key reforms continue. So far things are looking reasonably good; although the government, as in many countries in transition, is far from popular. It is likely to fare badly in parliamentary elections in mid-2005 against the Socialists.
Bulgaria's GDP is expected to increase by 5.6% this year on the previous one, while inflation is under control. Consumer prices have risen by 2.7% since last December 31st, the National Statistics Institute has said. The government has recently reported a budget surplus of leva (BGN) 1.2 billion. Unemployment has fallen to under 12% from over 18% over the past three years. 
"All this means a stable economy and a favourable business environment," Premier Simeon Saxe-Coburg recently said. He recalled that Standard & Poors and Fitch investors services have assigned to Bulgaria its first investment grade rating of BBB earlier this year.
Parliament has cut corporate tax to 15% from 19.5% as of January 1st and has passed a law entitling foreign businesses investing more than BGN100 million in Bulgaria to individual administrative service and state support in building their infrastructure.
Bulgaria is currently attracting 30% of foreign investment in Southeast Europe, Saxe-Coburg said. He said foreign investment in the Balkan country was expected to exceed $2 billion this year up from $1.4 billion a year ago.

Overture to Japan
Simeon wishes to leave something behind him of historic importance. An overture to the east is his current idea.
Bulgaria's prime minister has urged Japanese corporations to invest in his country, since it is expected to join the European Union in a couple of years. "I would like to stress that investment in Bulgaria today is investment in tomorrow's EU," Simeon Saxe-Coburg Gotha told a meeting of 100 business leaders during a visit to Japan, the first by a Bulgarian premier for the past 34 years. 
Bulgaria's government information service quoted Saxe-Coburg as saying that for his country "Japan is a priority equal in significance to co-operation with the EU and the United States. Now we bid to attract leading Japanese corporations with real interests in partnership with Bulgarian companies." 
Japan's Mitsui Corp. has said that it intended to bid in the forthcoming privatisation of three major coal-fired power plants in Bulgaria. Mitsui is already involved in an €226mn renovation of Bulgaria's largest coal-fired power station of Maritsa-East 2. Japan's International Co-operation Association is financing a $118-million enlargement of the Bulgarian Black Sea port of Burgas.

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ENERGY

CEZ enters Bulgarian market


CEZ offers the cheapest electricity in the Czech Republic and it plans to achieve the same in Bulgaria through broad investments, CEZ Executive Director, Martin Roman, said, the Bulgarian News Agency reported.
Roman took part in a ceremony of signing contracts on the sale of 67 per cent of the capital of the electricity distribution companies of Sofia City, Sofia Region and Pleven. Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister, Lydia Shuleva, said this was a successful completion of one of the biggest privatisation procedures and one of the best-organised deals in Bulgaria. Czech Industry and Trade Minister, Milan Urabn, said that the business environment in Bulgaria is comparable to the conditions offered in the EU member states. On July 29th, 2003, the Bulgarian parliament adopted a strategy on the privatisation of the electricity distribution companies. The privatisation procedure was launched on October 24th, 2003. CEZ won the bidding for the privatisation of the Western package of electricity distribution companies (Sofia City, Sofia Region and Pleven).

Bulgaria joins Europe's electricity network

Bulgaria's state electricity transmission company signed its first two contracts for electricity exports outside the Balkan area to supply the European networks, New Europe reported.
However, the energy ministry did not specify which countries would receive the said power. According to Sofia News Agency, under the contracts, Bulgarian National Electricity company would supply a total of 100 million watts per hour to the former first zone of the Union for Coordination of Transmission of Electricity, the association of transmission system operators in continental Europe, which serves about 450 million people. Bulgaria is the main electricity supplier in the Balkans, delivering about six billion kilowatt an hour.

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FOREIGN ECONOMIC RELATIONS

Chinese, Bulgarian leaders pledge to expand economic cooperation

China and Bulgaria will boost bilateral relations, especially in the economic and trade sectors, leaders of the two countries said recently, Xinhua News Agency reported.
In a meeting with Bulgarian President, Georgi Purvanov, Chinese Vice-Premier, Hui Liangyu, said the Chinese government attaches great importance to developing relations with Bulgaria and will boost them on the basis of the five principles of peaceful co-existence.
Purvanov said bilateral relations have developed in recent years, featuring broader cooperation in economy and trade. When meeting with Bulgarian Vice-Prime Minister and Economic Minister, Lidiya Shuleva, Hui said the Chinese government supports Chinese enterprises to develop business with their Bulgarian counterparts. Shuleva said boosting cooperation in this field will benefit both counties, and the Bulgarian government will provide favourable conditions for Chinese enterprises' investment in Bulgaria. 

Bulgaria, India mull business cooperation

An India-Bulgaria Joint Business Council meeting took place during a recent visit of a Bulgarian delegation to New Delhi, India. Led by Bulgarian Agriculture Minister, Nehmed Dikme, the Bulgarian businessmen discussed exports of Bulgarian wine to India. Sofia News Agency reported that during the talks the Indian businessmen said there are just two brands of wine offered at the local market, underlining it is still unexplored and offers major opportunities.
According to the Indian party, the Indian market shows a major demand for wine. The Bulgarian businessmen revealed that their Indian counterparts have shown a considerable interest in importing wine from Bulgaria.
Both parties called for a decrease of the customs taxes and the implementation of measures to bolster Bulgaria's exports to India.
Apart from exporting wine to India, Bulgaria is also enhancing relations with India in the information technology (IT) sector. Three Bulgarian IT companies are making software products for new BMW cars, said Bulgarian Deputy Minister of Transport and Telecommunications, Nedelcho Nedelchev.
The firms were subcontracted by Soft WAP which makes products for the car giant. The three Bulgarian firms were selected from among competing global producers for their cheap and high-quality products, according to Nedelchev. Bulgarian companies may be hired to build hydropower plants and reservoirs in the Himalayas. Bulgarian companies will make determined efforts to gain public procurements commissioned by India's government. Dikme elaborated that some of those companies have already taken part in such projects in Arab countries.

Moldovan president, Bulgarian Speaker discuss bilateral ties

The development of trade and economic relations between Bulgaria and Moldova and European integration were the main topics of the talks between the Bulgarian National Assembly Chairman, Ognyan Gerdzhikov, and Moldovan President, Vladimir Voronin, Gerdzhikov said recently, BTA web site reported.
Trade and economic relations are important as there is no sense in good political relations, if they are not followed by trade and economy, Gerdzhikov added. In 1997 the trade between the two countries exceeded US$100m, while currently it stood at some US$20m, which according to him is unacceptable. President Voronin expressed the categorical determination that Moldova will follow the steps of Bulgaria for integration in Europe, the National Assembly chairman said. Commenting on the request of the Bulgarian community in Moldova for a simplified Bulgarian citizenship procedure, Gerdzhikov said that experts are preparing documents on the exact formula for obtaining citizenship.
The Bulgarian ambassador to Moldova, Evgenii Ekov, said that the number of Bulgarian citizenship applications increased after Moldova amended its constitution and six laws to permit dual citizenship. A total of 820 applications have been received in 2004 so far, and half of them are from Bulgarians living in the Transdniestr, he added. According to him, 99 per cent of the candidates receive Bulgarian citizenship. 
Taraclia State University has been commissioned with the responsibility to develop cultural relations between the peoples of Bulgaria and Moldova, to build bridges not only between the territories of two friendly states, but between past and future as well, Gerdzhikov said, as he addressed the lecturers and students of the higher educational establishment.
More than 18,000 Bulgarians live in the Taraclia region. They are descendants of Bulgarians from northeastern Bulgaria who migrated there at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century. The living of more than half of the 90,000 Bulgarians in all who live in Moldova is related to agriculture. Mostly tobacco and vines are grown in Bulgarian villages. The Bulgarian parliamentary delegation also visited the Bulgarian village of Korten.

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FOREIGN INVESTMENT

Bulgarian premier, EBRD officials discuss investments

Bulgarian Prime Minister, Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, discussed Bulgaria's cooperation with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the bank's programmes in this country with Olivier Descamps, EBRD Business Group director for Southern and Eastern Europe and the Caucasus, the Government Information Office said, BTA web site reported.
The EBRD Country Director for Bulgaria, John Chomel-Doe, also attended the meeting.
"The international financial institution gives high marks to this country. The EBRD's trust is evidenced by the amount of its investments here, which reached 1bn euro recently. Three contracts with the Maritsa East II Thermoelectric Power Plant, the United Bulgarian Bank and the DSK Bank have been signed," the Government Information Office said.

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FOREIGN RELATIONS

South African, Bulgarian vice-presidents discuss bilateral relations

Bulgarian Vice-President, Angel Marin, met recently with his counterpart from the Republic of South Africa (RSA), Jacob Zuma, the president's Press Secretariat said, BTA web site reported. 
The good relations between the two countries, based on Bulgaria's support for the South African peoples' fight against the apartheid, should be further promoted with a view to the ever more important role of RSA in Africa and Bulgaria's upcoming integration into EU. This was the unanimous view of Marin and Zuma voiced during their one-to-one talk. Marin was on a three-day official visit to RSA at Zuma's invitation.
Stressing the RSA's leading role on the continent, Marin appealed for the country's support for a fair settlement of the case of the five Bulgarian nurses sentenced to death by a Libyan court.
The two presidents took part in plenary talks between the two countries' delegations. Restriction of the trade in arms in troubled regions, the application of a multilateral approach for overcoming of global problems, such as poverty and terrorism, forgiving [writing-off] the debts of the poorest countries and the restoration of the UN leading role in the settlement of the conflicts in the Middle East and Iraq topped the agenda of the discussions. Marin and Zuma dwelled on the possibilities to promote commodity exchange and investments between Bulgaria and RSA. The two vice presidents exchanged notes on the implementation of the bilateral agreement on avoidance of double taxation. An Agreement on Cooperation in Arts and Culture and an Agreement on Police Cooperation were signed in their presence. An Agreement on Cooperation in Health Care and Medical Science was signed in Johannesburg.
The Bulgarian vice president conveyed a message by President Georgi Purvanov to RSA President Thabo Mbeki to visit Bulgaria. Marin also conferred with Western Cape Prime Minister, Ibrahim Rasul, Cape Town Executive Mayor, Nomaindia Mfeketo, and representatives of the Bulgarian community in Cape Town.

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TELECOMMUNICATIONS

CableTel opens first Triple-Play service in Bulgaria

CableTel, the Bulgarian cable TV provider, launched a campaign recently for a triple-play voice, data and video service in competition for household and corporate customers between one-time telecom monopoly BTC and new telecom start-ups. The promotion of Triple-Play, offering at the same time cable TV, Internet and phone services, started in some residential suburbs of Sofia, Sofia News Agency reported.
In operation for the last decade, CableTel is Bulgaria's largest cable operator and has coverage in 20 towns. In 2003 the company started construction of an optic cable ring around Sofia to use it for high-speed data transfer. The total investments for the period 2003-2004 are projected to reach €100m. The call charges offered by CableTel are 20-70 per cent below the respective BTC tariffs, depending on the type of call. 
SNET, the former Eurotur SAT, is the only other local company marketing a service similar to the CableTel triple-play. Cable operator Eurocom Cable is awaiting a telephone service licence to complete the package. CableTel is the only local telco competing with BTC, which operates its own infrastructure. The cable operator has built a 1,800km nationwide fibre-optic backbone and has an interconnectivity agreement with Greek telecom giant OTE for mutual connectivity of their network, CableTel Managing Director, Dimitar Radev, said.
The company will pursue similar connectivity deals with operators in the direction of Germany with the view to providing international datacasting connectivity, the official said at the campaign presentation. BTC also has a digital TV licence but has yet to outline any concrete business plans in that area. 

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TOURISM

Bulgaria moves to promote spa tourism

The creation of a National Association for Spa Tourism was announced at a news conference on November 13th, the Bulgarian News Agency reported. Seven hotels are the first members of the association. The founders of the association said one of its aims is to draw a clear border between balneology, meant for people with medical problems, and spa tourism, targeting healthy people who want to get rid of stress and improve their health.
Among the first tasks of the association is to train spa hotel staff and define the standards for spa tourism, which in Bulgaria is non-existent, Chairman of the managing board of the National Association for Spa Tourism, Staminir Stankov, said. Another aim of the association is to create a unique Bulgarian tourist product before this country's entry in the European Union, scheduled for the year 2007. Bulgaria not only has a beautiful scenery but also historical architectural and historical monuments, which is a rare phenomenon.

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