Minister Loukarsky: North-Western Bulgaria to become a priority of our economic policy

Minister Loukarsky: North-Western Bulgaria to become a priority of our economic policy

Any investor will have a personal project manager from Invest Bulgaria Agency to be assisted in the administration

Measures to narrow the North-Western Bulgaria economic backwardness were presented by Minister of Economy Bojidar Loukarsky today in Montana. He met with business representatives of the North-West region. The meeting was arranged by the Reformist Bloc MP Assoc. Prof. Borislav Velkov, who called on the participants within the regions of Vidin, Montana and Vratsa to be an area for special attention by the executive and the legislature. The meeting was attended by GERB MP Desislava Atanasova, the Mayor of Montana Zlatko Zhivkov, the District Governor Ivaylo Petrov, as well as and MPs of all political parties in the region.

Minister Loukarsky said that the status of the North-West Bulgaria has been discussed on several occasions with the MPs, Mayors and District Governors from the region. “We set the North-West region as a priority whist we, in the Reformist Bloc, as well as the colleagues from GERB were developing the key focuses in the government programme,” Minister Loukarsky noted.

He specified the economic priorities of the government focusing on boosting the economic growth in the North-West district and overcoming the regional imbalances. They will be drawn up as a specific strategy for targeted support of North-West region and will be presented to the National Assembly. “Our first task is to elaborate an analysis and assessment of the region opportunities,” Minister Loukarsky said. As a next step the Minister proposed a further expert committee, including members of the local authorities, businesses and MPs from the region to be set up with a task to prepare particular legislative changes. An analysis must define the strategic objectives and priorities for the region which implementation will be reflected in annual reports.

Minister Loukarsky stated the InvestBulgaria Agency (IBA) team will pay a particular attention to the region. ” The idea of providing any investor with the IBA project manager to assist in dealing with state institutions and local authorities up to the project completion is being discussed,” the Minister of Economy said.

According to Loukarsky, the Operational Programme “Competitiveness and Innovation” is an important tool for the economic development of the region. “The EU Partnership Agreement sets out a territorial approach aimed at targeted support of the North- West region,” the Minister said. “The programme envisages encouraging innovation activity – stimulating industries that develop innovative technology and production, as well as support for energy and resource-efficient measures for enterprises and production facilities.It could be particularly beneficial to business in the region with an energy-intensive production, ” the Minister stressed. He explained that the prices of industrial electricity and gas in the country are among the highest in Europe and it is therefore important to reduce these costs. The projects for the Northwest region under the OP will have the possibility to obtain additional points. “A single scheme for projects in the region could be developed allowing allocation 10% of the budget provided for a particular measure, for example,” Minister Loukarky said. He promised the North-Western Bulgaria will be the first where the Programme will be presented following its approval.

The third priority of the Ministry in terms of North-Western Bulgaria is attracting new investment. First of all, the National Company Industrial Zones (NCIZ), and in particular Free Zone Vidin, enables these opportunities. As an example he pointed the municipality of Plovdiv where the mayors created a private industrial zone, which is currently attracting many investors due to the fact that taxes and the cost of labor are lower.

Deputy Minister Lyuben Petrov compared the NCIZ to “ a white swallow” for the area, which may result in major business development. He said that sales representatives will work to promote the region. “Currently, our sales representatives are assigned to give us complete information about the region’s competitive areas. If we require to have a competitive environment, we must provide equal or better conditions from Romania, Serbia, Macedonia, ” Deputy Minister Petrov said. He announced that there will be legislative initiatives to ensure competitive conditions relative to other countries. “We have to work together because there no political stripes in the economy,” Deputy Minister Petrov explicitly stated. He informed the Council for Economic Development renamed as the National Economic Council will resume its activities enrolling the National Assembly Committees representatives and the business in order to find specific and prompt solutions.

The Mayor of Montana Zlatko Zhivkov said this is the first time he has seen so many MPs, ministers, deputy ministers being engaged with specific support for the region. “We want particular activities and selective impact,” he said.

Atanas Nenov, Executive Director of the NCIZ, made a brief multimedia presentation on Vidin Industrial Zone and promoted the area opportunities to attract investment in the region. The area is 308 hectares, located nearby the border with Serbia, Romania, Danube Bridge 2 and there is a developed infrastructure, electricity supply, water supply, petrol stations. In addition to the leasing areas, the zone proposes loading and unloading services, transportation, assisting the investors in preparing the documents. 17 contracts have been concluded up to now.

In response to the business’s question for the lack of credit resources, Minister Loukarsky said that co-financing is an existing problem not only for North-West region. Banks in Bulgaria do not want to take illconsidered risks and, therefore, we held a meeting with representatives of all the leading European banks, which operate in Bulgaria. It was clarified there that the main problem is that banks do not want to grant risky loans, the minister said. He pointed out that he held a meeting with the American Citibank, which is committed to work on the financing of small and medium-sized enterprises, beneficiaries under OPIC.JEREMIE Programme ensures interest –reduced and easy instrument. There is money in the fund, which will be appropriated easily, at least it will be fast, I hope to be low-interested as well,” the Minister said. However, he warned that Europe reduces money allocated under grant schemes. The ​​EU intends investing money from the banks using opportunities under Jeremy fund and the Juncker Plan. Time of the EU grants slowly dies. “Operational Programmes are recent shouts in that direction,” said Minister Loukarky. According to him, banks have realized that simply granting secured loans without any risk on their part is not good for the banking system.