Ecology, the Eurozone, the Operating Program “Innovations and Competitiveness,” Fight against Crime & Corruption, Migration, Tourism, COVID-19 and Living Standards in Bulgaria
Recently the topic of Ecology has been paid a lot of attention. NOVA, one of the biggest news platforms in Bulgaria, reports that a container full of radioactive load has been detected in Varna, the biggest city on the Bulgarian coast. The radioactive substance was found during a routine check of a truck. According to the information that NOVA has, the radioactive rate does not represent a threat for the humans’ wellbeing. Yet, the Nuclear Regulatory Agency as well as Fire and Emergency Safety have been informed on the matter. Preliminary proceedings are taking place right now before the Prosecutor’s Office decides when and if the charge will be investigated.[i]
Furthermore, NOVA reports that the Minister of Environment carried out occasional checkup in a village near Silistra where he found unregulated waste site. “Nadin 22”, a company specialized in trading with hazardous waste, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, is held responsible. An injunction will be issued for cleaning up the area in short terms. Punitive measures will be undertaken as well.[ii]
Another topic that is recently on the news is pushing Bulgaria towards the Eurozone. Mediapool writes that the Bulgarian prime-minister, Boyko Borisov, is going to wait until a “full consensus” is achieved where the whole Bulgarian population is ready to accept the change. According to Mediapool, the prime-minister is afraid to take on more radical actionс before the elections next year. Borisov claims that there is no such country that entered the Eurozone and got worse off. People are just worried that the lifestyle will become more expensive.[iii]
On the other hand, the financier Lyubomir Datsov referred to a referendum for the Euro to be introduced to the country as a referendum for exiting the EU. It sends signals to investors that Bulgaria does not know what it’s doing. Datsov believes that Bulgaria will make the right decision when it enters the “waiting room” of ERM II and that the destiny of Bulgaria will not follow the one of Greece.[iv]
the Operating Program “Innovations and Competitiveness”
Investor.bg informs on the topic of the Operating Program “Innovations and Competitiveness”. The program is planning on 340 new projects granting 143 million levs for improving the production capacity in small and medium enterprises. The Deputy Minister of the Economy, Liliya Ivanova, says that with those funds Bulgarian companies will be able to purchase new machines and equipment in order to improve their activity as well as provide employment. The exporting potential of the firms is also expected to grow.[v]
Fight against crime
Half of the prisoners in Bulgaria are convicted of thefts. Since 2015 more and more of the people who ended up in prison are guilty of crimes in the field of transportation, such as driving under the influence, or driving without a license. All of them are repeat offenders, meaning that their first conviction has not been effective in changing their behavior. In addition to that the number of cases of inflicting body harm, drugs abuse and tax evasion is rapidly growing. In the beginning of February the Ministry of Crime suggested a strategy for improving the criminal policy of the country. One of the strategies is actualization and synchronization of the punishments. There are some heavy crimes that have been sanctioned too lightly. Secondly, the Ministry suggests dropping the administrative violations out of the Penal Code so that the Prosecutor’s Office can focus on more important things. Thirdly, the cases considered as a minor case should also be removed. Another strategy is connected to the quality of the legislation: the decisions should be optimal and not cancelled eventually. Unfortunately, according to Capital, this strategy is far from realistic. These projects are led by populist intention. A criminological analysis has not been done and they are entirely based on subjective claims.
Insinerator is a municipal corporation and its main activity is disposal of hospital waste. The Chairman of the Advisory Group, Evelin Paraskov, says: “Millions of levs have plunged in the mysterious Insinerator. The money was spent without any publicity. A year ago 50 000 levs were credited to the corporation and the advisors never received any recordings how the money was spent and now the corporation asks for another 40 000levs.” ₇
Insinerator started as a project financed by Switzerland 12 years ago with its main goal being protection of the environment from hazardous waste. Maritsa writes that meanwhile, the corporation was negotiating for two bank loans – one for 2 million and the other one for 6 million levs so that the corporation could increase its activity and start disposing old automobile tires. So far, it is unclear what happened to the grants as well as to the credits taken from the municipal budget. However, it is clear that the money was never recovered. Evelin Paraskov insists to be given information on the spendings and requires more transparency on behalf of Insinerator. ⁸
The focus of the day is the topics of migration and tourism having in mind the threat of COVID-19. BTV News reports on the communication between the Bulgarian Prime-Minister, Boyko Borisov, and the French President, Emmanuel Macron. France will give its contribution in protecting the European borders. Macron shows his supports towards Bulgaria and Greece in managing the migration wave coming from Syria. Fast measures must be considered so that Europe can avoid the upcoming humanitarian and migration crisis. Borisov will turn to Erdogan and Turkey, in order to handle the situation with shared efforts.
Furthermore, Dnevnik.bg published an article about Boyko Borisov saying: “The country won’t pay for the quarantine of travelling people with no discipline.” The Bulgarian government suggests that people who are coming back from countries where COVID-19 cases have been registered, should stay at home for a period of 14 days even if they do not have symptoms of being sick. The question is: on what basis? Initially the employers refused to let their employees to take a sick-leave with no reason. But on the 26th of February the deputies guaranteed that a sick-leave will be issued for the ones put under quarantine.
As it comes to tourism, iNews.bg reports that the income from tourism in Bulgaria in 2019 is equal to 3.7 billion levs. The number of foreign tourists has grown by 0.4% since 2018. During the holidays in December 2019 statistics show that the income is by 10% higher than in December 2018. The Minister of Tourism, Nikolina Angelkova, comments on the positive results: “This growth suggests that together – the country, the local authorities and the businesses, we can overcome the competition in the Balkan region.” What is more, Bulgaria’s government approved a project of Program for joint actions with the Ministry of Tourism in Greece. The program is based on cooperation in development of different types of tourism which have big potential for attracting tourists, as well as in the field of investments, qualification of employees, common initiatives, establishment of international organizations in the sphere of tourism, etc. Data shows that Greece takes second place for number of tourists coming to Bulgaria as the number keeps growing.
Mass Cultural Events are Cancelled in the Whole Country
Econ.bg reports on the epidemic situation in Bulgaria. COVID-19 was confirmed in Bulgaria on the 8th of March. Four of the people tested were tested positive with Coronavirus in the towns of Pleven and Gabrovo. Due to that fact the government is taking all sorts of preventive measures to stop the spread. All mass events for children are cancelled. Sports events will take place without an audience. All public events that were supposed to take place indoors are also cancelled. Highschools and universities have ceased their activity.
The hospitals in Gabrovo and Pleven are taking good care of the ill patients. In Gabrovo the staff is supplied with masks and safety uniforms. The hospital is under quarantine and only patients who are in life-threatening condition will be hospitalized.
In Pleven the situation is similar. Cinema and theatre salons are closed, as well as gyms and kindergartens. The public transport is supposed to be disinfected. The administrative centers should also be disinfected and cleaned properly at least three times a day and soups, hand sanitizers and masks should be provided. Foreigners are under surveillance.
Low Living Standard in Bulgaria
The level of the living standard in Bulgaria is only one third of the living standard in the EU, says Duma.bg. The statistics is based on GDP per person and purchasing power. Three of our six regions are among the poorest ones in the European Union. The poorest part of the EU is Mayotte Island due to demographic reasons: most of its population is under 15 years old. The next three poorest regions are in Bulgaria: the Northwest, North Central and South Central. There the GDP is between 34-36% of the average GDP for the EU. Bulgaria’s richest region, the Southwest, where the capital is located, has a GDO of 83% of the average for the EU. This figure is still two times less than in Prague, for instance.
Another media, Trud.bg, reports that only 11,7% of the Bulgarian population has income of over 805lv. The National Statistical Institute has calculated that around 820 000 Bulgarians have the income equal to buying a middle-class fridge a month. According to the last official data of NSI the average annual income per person is 6031lv, which makes 501lv per month. The average salary has reached 1349lv, however, when the income of the employed people is divided among all the members of the household (children, pensioners, etc.) the average sum per person drastically decreases. NSI has created 10 groups of households starting with the lowest income of 205lv per month per person and the highest being over 805lv. Unfortunately around 50% of the population manages to live with less than 430lv per month. The citizens who are part of those 11.7% with high income are estimated to receive average annual income of 13 634lv. This situation occurs if the family has two kids and lives separately from the grandparents.
[i] “Засякоха контейнер с радиоактивен товар във Варна“, NOVA TV, February the 18th, 2020, https://nova.bg/news/view/2020/02/18/278425/%D0%B7%D0%B0%D1%81%D1%8F%D0%BA%D0%BE%D1%85%D0%B0-%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%BD%D1%82%D0%B5%D0%B9%D0%BD%D0%B5%D1%80-%D1%81-%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%B4%D0%B8%D0%BE%D0%B0%D0%BA%D1%82%D0%B8%D0%B2%D0%B5%D0%BD-%D1%82%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%B0%D1%80-%D0%B2%D1%8A%D0%B2-%D0%B2%D0%B0%D1%80%D0%BD%D0%B0/
[ii] “Откриха нерегламентирана площадка за отпадъци край Силистра“, NOVA TV, February the 16th, 2020, https://nova.bg/news/view/2020/02/16/278241/%D0%BE%D1%82%D0%BA%D1%80%D0%B8%D1%85%D0%B0-%D0%BD%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%B5%D0%B3%D0%BB%D0%B0%D0%BC%D0%B5%D0%BD%D1%82%D0%B8%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%B0-%D0%BF%D0%BB%D0%BE%D1%89%D0%B0%D0%B4%D0%BA%D0%B0-%D0%B7%D0%B0-%D0%BE%D1%82%D0%BF%D0%B0%D0%B4%D1%8A%D1%86%D0%B8-%D0%BA%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%B9-%D1%81%D0%B8%D0%BB%D0%B8%D1%81%D1%82%D1%80%D0%B0/
[iii] “Борисов спира България за еврозоната, чака “абсолютен консенсус“, Mediapool.bg, February the 18th, 2020, https://www.mediapool.bg/borisov-spira-bulgaria-za-evrozonata-chaka-absolyuten-konsensus-news303597.html
[iv] “Любомир Дацов: Референдум за еврото е референдум за излизане от ЕС“, Mediapool.bg, February the 18th, 2020, https://www.mediapool.bg/lyubomir-datsov-referendum-za-evroto-e-referendum-za-izlizane-ot-es-news303638.html
[v] “С нови 340 проекта продължава ОПИК за български фирми“, Investor.bg, February the 18th, 2020, https://www.investor.bg/ikonomika-i-politika/332/a/s-novi-340-proekta-prodyljava-opik-za-bylgarski-firmi-298849/
₇ „Борбата с престъпността, каквато можеше да бъде“, Capital, February 21st, 2020, https://www.capital.bg/politika_i_ikonomika/bulgaria/2020/02/21/4032476_borbata_s_prestupnostta_kakvato_mojeshe_da_bude/
⁸ „Евелин Парасков: Милиони левове потънаха в мистериозния Инсинератор“, Maritsa, February 23rd, 2020, https://www.marica.bg/plovdiv/politika/evelin-paraskov-milioni-levove-potanaha-v-misteriozniq-insinerator
“Макрон към Борисов: Трябва да се действа бързо и заедно, за да се избегне миграционна криза“, BTV.bg, 2nd of March, 2020, https://btvnovinite.bg/bulgaria/makron-kam-borisov-trjabva-da-se-dejstva-barzo-i-zaedno-za-da-se-izbegne-migracionna-kriza.html
“Борисов: Държавата няма да плаща карантината на хора без дисциплина, които пътуват”, Dnevnik.bg, 26th of February, 2020, https://www.dnevnik.bg/bulgaria/2020/02/26/4034396_borisov_durjavata_niama_da_plashta_karantinata_na_hora/
“Задълбочаваме сътрудничеството си с Гърция в туризма”, iNews.bg, 23th of Jan., 2020, https://inews.bg/%D0%A2%D1%83%D1%80%D0%B8%D0%B7%D1%8A%D0%BC/%D0%97%D0%B0%D0%B4%D1%8A%D0%BB%D0%B1%D0%BE%D1%87%D0%B0%D0%B2%D0%B0%D0%BC%D0%B5-%D1%81%D1%8A%D1%82%D1%80%D1%83%D0%B4%D0%BD%D0%B8%D1%87%D0%B5%D1%81%D1%82%D0%B2%D0%BE%D1%82%D0%BE-%D1%81%D0%B8-%D1%81-%D0%93%D1%8A%D1%80%D1%86%D0%B8%D1%8F-%D0%B2-%D1%82%D1%83%D1%80%D0%B8%D0%B7%D0%BC%D0%B0_l.a_c.362_i.641151.html
“€3,7 млрд. са приходите от международен туризъм в България през 2019 г.”, iNews.bg, 19th of February, 2020, https://inews.bg/%D0%A2%D1%83%D1%80%D0%B8%D0%B7%D1%8A%D0%BC/-3-7-%D0%BC%D0%BB%D1%80%D0%B4-%D1%81%D0%B0-%D0%BF%D1%80%D0%B8%D1%85%D0%BE%D0%B4%D0%B8%D1%82%D0%B5-%D0%BE%D1%82-%D0%BC%D0%B5%D0%B6%D0%B4%D1%83%D0%BD%D0%B0%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%B4%D0%B5%D0%BD-%D1%82%D1%83%D1%80%D0%B8%D0%B7%D1%8A%D0%BC-%D0%B2-%D0%91%D1%8A%D0%BB%D0%B3%D0%B0%D1%80%D0%B8%D1%8F-%D0%BF%D1%80%D0%B5%D0%B7-2019-%D0%B3-_l.a_c.362_i.642864.html
“Отменени са масовите културни събития в цялата страна”, Econ.bg, 9th of March, 2020, https://econ.bg/%D0%9D%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%B8%D0%BD%D0%B8/%D0%9E%D1%82%D0%BC%D0%B5%D0%BD%D0%B5%D0%BD%D0%B8-%D1%81%D0%B0-%D0%BC%D0%B0%D1%81%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%B8%D1%82%D0%B5-%D0%BA%D1%83%D0%BB%D1%82%D1%83%D1%80%D0%BD%D0%B8-%D1%81%D1%8A%D0%B1%D0%B8%D1%82%D0%B8%D1%8F-%D0%B2-%D1%86%D1%8F%D0%BB%D0%B0%D1%82%D0%B0-%D1%81%D1%82%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%B0_l.a_i.779273_at.1.html
“Стандартът у нас три пъти по-нисък от европейския”, Duma.bg, 9th of March, 2020, https://duma.bg/standartat-u-nas-tri-pati-po-nisak-ot-evropeyskiya-n210409
“Само 11.7% от българите имат доходи на 805 лева“, Trud.bg, 9th of March, 2020, https://trud.bg/%d1%81%d0%b0%d0%bc%d0%be-117-%d0%be%d1%82-%d0%b1%d1%8a%d0%bb%d0%b3%d0%b0%d1%80%d0%b8%d1%82%d0%b5-%d0%b8%d0%bc%d0%b0%d1%82-%d0%b4%d0%be%d1%85%d0%be%d0%b4%d0%b8-%d0%bd%d0%b0%d0%b4-805-%d0%bb%d0%b2/