The deterioration of the epidemiological situation and the rapid spread of the coronavirus pandemic resulted to a new partial lockdown in Bulgaria, starting Monday 30 November. The decision on the new curfew and employment restrictions naturally led to new measures to support the economy, enterprises and society, but also to health measures that will save both businesses and citizens.
With the introduction of the new restrictive measures, employees in companies that have suspended their activities in certain sectors and are insured for 8 hours of daily work, will be able to receive 12 euros per day. The total value of the “Save me” program amounts to almost 26 million euros. Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donchev has promised to announce a new 87 million-euro plan to support the economy in the coming days. Last week, it was revealed that the European Commission had allocated 511m euros to address the crisis in Bulgaria.
This significant financial support includes working capital grants for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, capital investments and loan guarantees, according to the European Commission. Measures 60:40 and 80:20 continue to apply, with the aim of maintaining jobs through state-covered payment of a portion of the wages for employees in enterprises facing difficulties.
Economy Minister Lachezar Borissov announced that the state is redirecting 80m euros from the Business Innovation and Competitiveness Program to support businesses.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism Marianna Nikolova announced that the companies in the -rather tormented by the crisis- sector will be funded with the amount of 26 million euros in the form of aid.
The government intends to allocate 179 to 204 million euros from the budget to save the economy. All of this should support businesses affected by the crisis caused by the pandemic in the field of transport, hotels, restaurants, entertainment, farmers, retailers, etc. Prime Minister Boyko Borissov described the measures as “balanced”.
With regard to the purely health aspects of the crisis, the authorities have made and continue to make significant efforts to strengthen and improve the Health System’s capacity to deal with the pandemic. When it comes to logistics, things are looking good. There are several hospitals, equipment, medicines, but also many organizational and bureaucratic obstacles.
The government has announced that the future vaccine will be voluntary and free-of-charge for citizens. At present, however, the significant problem of fatigue and inadequacy of doctor and other medical staff remains unresolved. For this reason, the monthly additional payment of 500 euros to those fighting in the front line continues. In fact, from January 1, there will be a new increase in their salaries.
The opposition, on the other hand, believes the state should take over the salaries and insurance contributions of closed companies, pay their overheads, provide them with easier access to new loans and debt repayments, and set interest-free periods for their debts to the state and much more. At present, however, no prolongation and extension of the loan moratorium is expected, introduced in June and set to expire at the end of the year, which the affected companies have so far praised.
It is estimated that an additional 200 million euros will have to be invested to support the economy. In the most pessimistic scenario, GDP losses will reach the amount of 500 million euros, yet this, the government claims, can be offset.
The government’s attempt to strike a difficult balance between freedom of economic life and austerity is obvious. Maybe, in the end, it turns out that the horrible “People or the economy” dilemma is false. /ibna