Sofia, January 19, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of The Sofia Globe
A record number of crises and the interaction between them are making the world unstable, but Bulgaria’s economy has good economic indicators in spite of this, head of state President Rossen Plevneliev said on January 19.
Bulgaria had economic growth of 2.8 per cent, a drastically reduced deficit to 2.6 per cent of GDP in 2015, the third-lowest debt in the EU, absorption of EU funds for the 2007/13 programming period of 96 per cent, Plevneliev said.
Plevneliev praised the policy being conducted by the government and said that the engine of growth was exports to the countries of the EU and the region.
“We are working for confidence. We do not build economic walls, we do not want to redraw borders in the Balkans, we want them to fall, and not to move.
Never have co-operation and good-neighbourly relations been such a decisive factor in positive development,” Plevneliev said.
He said that it was no coincidence that the newly-elected Greek president had made his first visit in the region to Bulgaria and it was no surprise that the newly-elected Turkish prime minister had chosen Bulgaria for his first official visit, he said. It was no accident that the presidents of Romania and Croatia had called the Bulgarian president to be the first to visit them after they came into office, according to Plevneliev.
“To me this is proof that the friendship that we share and the efforts that we make bear fruit,” he said.
Integration, connectivity and good neighbourly relations are the basis of economic development of the region and are a guarantee for its future, he said, noting that in recent years, trade with neighbouring countries has grown repeatedly.
Plevneliev described Germany and the countries of South Eastern Europe as engines of Bulgarian exports and economic growth.
In the past five years, exports to countries in the region hds increased by 50 per cent.
“Twenty years ago the countries of the region were isolated and today are increasingly interlinked”.
“We learned to work together. To develop economic cooperation and political friendship. People who were on both sides of the Iron Curtain, today work for a common future,” Plevneliev said.
He emphasised that successful drivers of economic growth were unprecedented growth of regional tourism and the emergence of cross border regional clusters, such as in the areas of automotive and information and communication technology.
“These clusters are also playing a big role in our economic development. The automotive cluster created more than 20 000 new jobs in the country, and in ICT, Bulgaria is a regional innovation hub. With the creation of the first innovation ecosystem in Bulgaria and the Balkans, Sofia Tech Park, Bulgaria already provides the best conditions for starting new companies and the implementation of innovative projects,” he said.
Plevneliev said that good internet connectivity, lower taxes, cheaper and quicker registration of new companies, as well as the presence of the best investment funds, are also prerequisites for attracting new investments.
“The message to the Bulgarian business is not limited to national ambitions but to think big, transnational and mostly regional. Be the engine of this region, we can lead in its development,” he said, addressing a business-government forum in Sofia.
The business environment in the region and in Bulgaria, however, could be much better, Plevneliev said. “Every day we are faced with an oligarchic model of the economy and shady structures built with dependencies and behind the scenes.”
He named urgent reforms as including a workable justice system, the introduction of electronic services for businesses and citizens, full transparency of public procurement and effective anti-corruption legislation.
Reforms are needed that would “answer the question whether we want to build a socially responsible or oligarchic economy,” Plevneliev said.
“The reforms are on the agenda and judicial reform is at the centre – without it nothing can be done.”
This reform of the Bulgarian justice system should be accelerated, possibly with consequent changes to the constitution in order to have a chance to regain the confidence of investors, he said.