Inflation halved in the period of the caretaker cabinet government. This is stated in the report on the activities of the Ministry of Economy and Industry under the leadership of Nikola Stojanov. When the government took over in August last year, inflation in the country had reached record highs, comparable only to those of 1998. The official data for May are still awaited as the forecast of the Ministry of Economy is that the measured inflation will be below 10%, which will mean a double drop compared to the levels under the previous regular government.
For these 10 months, a drop in fuel prices of more than 25% was recorded. In August 2022, Bulgarians were paying similar prices for a litre of fuel as in Germany and France. Today Bulgaria has the lowest prices in Europe. Against this backdrop, for the first time in decades Lukoil started paying taxes in our country, and so far nearly BGN 179 million have been paid into the state budget.
A series of measures have also been taken on food prices, with first positive signs on the market. An information system has been set up, which brings together the information collected by the institutions and in which every citizen can make a reference to each stage of product pricing. 1,500 inspections were carried out by the CCP and 860 violations were found. A Food Surcharges Act has also been drafted, the public consultation on which ends on 10 June. If the new government is willing, it can be immediately adopted by the National Assembly, which would stimulate the cheapening of basic goods for the people.
During these months, the dialogue with business has been restored and upgraded. When the interim Minister of Economy and Industry Nikola Stojanov took over, meetings were initiated with all trade unions and employers’ organisations. A number of sectoral and sub-sectoral councils under the Ministry were found not to be functioning and had not been convened for years. During these months, constant contact has been maintained with the business community, joint working groups have been formed on a number of priority areas and the work of all sectoral councils of the Ministry of Economy has been restored.
A National Concept for Dual Training was also developed to give greater visibility and representation to this form of training. It envisages a much more active involvement of state-owned public enterprises in the process and aims at a sustainable solution to one of the biggest problems for companies in Bulgaria — the shortage of staff.
A direct link was established with the representatives of the foreign business in Bulgaria, and every month Minister Nikola Stojanov held meetings in the format ‘breakfast for investors’. A number of foreign embassies and chambers of commerce in Bulgaria joined the initiative. These forums have established themselves as a platform for discussing in an informal setting the problems faced by foreign companies in Bulgaria and their plans for development.
The organisation of the work of the Trade and Economic Affairs Offices has been completely changed. Clear reporting criteria, training programmes and requirements for Bulgaria’s commercial attachés are in place. Competitions for the selection of new staff are advertised in the media, with dozens of candidates currently competing for one place.
The construction of the first specialized industrial zone in Bulgaria in Dobroslavtsi has started. It will become home to companies from the automotive industry and the government has provided funding from the budget of the National Company Industrial Zones PLC for the start of its development. Along with this, the work on the creation of an industrial zone in Stara Zagora is nearing completion, which will enable the establishment of a new economic centre in the region.
A special focus during these months was the effective management of public enterprises in the system of the Ministry of Economy and Industry. All have been subject to public competitive procedures for the selection of management. A number of positive results have also been reported. The development of a modernisation programme for the production process at Vazovski Mashinostroitelni Zavodi (VMZ) — Sopot is underway. Experimental production of 155 mm projectiles to NATO standard was started. Avionams is to be approved as one of the companies that will implement projects under the industrial cooperation program between Bulgaria and the United States in connection with the purchase of F-16, block 70 aircraft.
The state-owned dairy company LB Bulgaricum is already working on new rules for selecting raw milk suppliers. This allowed the company to reduce prices, as a kilo of white cheese for end customers is BGN 12.90 incl. VAT, and yellow cheese — BGN 15.90 incl. VAT. An agreement was signed with the Central Cooperative Union to expand LB’s market presence. On the basis of it, the store network, which offers the products of LB at these prices, has been increased 10 times and the turnover of the company is 2 times higher.
Together with the measures for the domestic market, LB has started negotiations with a number of countries for the sale of Bulgarian ferments and the production of Bulgarian yoghurt against payment of licensing fees. As a result, a licensing agreement has been signed with Mongolia, and such a document is to be finalised within weeks with Poland. The successful partnership with Japan continues as a bilateral document has been signed for the establishment of a joint development and research centre in Bulgaria.
An Inter-ministerial Working Group has been established to prepare legislative changes related to dams. For the first time, all competent institutions are working together to identify and initiate regulatory changes that will provide a sustainable solution to the accumulated problems in this area. Alongside this, the monitoring of dams and their facilities has been greatly increased during these months, with more than 1,000 spot checks carried out.
The regularity of the meetings of the Inter-Ministerial Commission on Export Control and Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Inter-Ministerial Council on Defence Industry was ensured, which provided the companies from the Bulgarian defence industry with predictability and the opportunity to plan the implementation of the projects they are working on.
A number of actions were also taken to improve the performance of the administration of the Ministry of Economy and Industry. An electronic document workflow was introduced in the institution. A new website has also been launched which provides much more comprehensive and easily accessible information to consumers and businesses. Among the improvements is an interactive map of the offices of the Trade and Economic Affairs Offices, so that any Bulgarian or foreign company can easily and quickly find their exact locations.
There are also draft legal acts to be submitted to the National Assembly, including a Draft Amendment to the Law on Export Control of Defence Related Products and Dual-Use Items and Technologies; Draft Amendment to the Law on Weapons, Ammunition, Explosives and Pyrotechnic Articles; Draft Amendment to the Law on Plant Protection; Draft Amendment to the Law on State Reserves and Wartime Stocks; Draft Law on Representative Actions for the Protection of the Collective Interests of Consumers.