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Economy of Bulgaria
BulgariaBLVDBelissimo.JPG
An office building on Bulgaria boulevard, Sofia
Currency 1 Bulgarian lev (BGN) = 100 stotinki
Fiscal year Calendar year
Trade organisations European Union, WTO, OSCE and BSEC
Statistics
GDP $90.54 billion (2009 est.)
GDP growth -4.8% (2009 est.)
GDP per capita $12,600 (2009 est.)
GDP by sector Agriculture (4.6%), industry (35.5%), services (57%) (2008 est.)
Inflation (CPI) 2.7% (2009 est.)[1]
Population
below poverty line
13.1% (2007)
Gini index 30.7 (2007)
Labour force 3.465 million (March 2008)[2]
Labour force
by occupation
Agriculture 7%, industry 36.3%, services 56.6% (Q1 2008)[2]
Unemployment 9.1% (2009 est.)
Main industries Electricity, gas and water; food, beverages and tobacco; machinery and equipment, base metals, chemical products, coke, refined petroleum
External
Exports $22.3 billion (2008)
Export goods clothing, footwear, iron and steel, machinery and equipment, fuels
Main export partners EU 60%, Turkey 7%, Serbia 3.1%, Russia 2.2%, Macedonia 1.6%, US 1.1% (2008)
Imports $35.3 billion (2008)
Import goods machinery and equipment, metals and ores, chemicals and plastics, fuels, minerals, and raw materials
Main import partners EU 52%, Russia 13%, Ukraine 7%, Turkey 4%, China 2%, Georgia 1% (2008)
Gross external debt $54.01 billion (December 2008)
Public finances
Public debt 21.4% of GDP (2009 est.)
Revenues $17.3 billion
Expenses $17.89 billion (2009 est.)
Economic aid $475 million (2004-06)
Main data source: CIA World Fact Book
All values, unless otherwise stated, are in US dollars

The economy of Bulgaria is an industrialised, open free market economy with a moderately advanced private sector and a number of strategic state-owned enterprises. Bulgaria is classified as an upper-middle-income country by the World Bank.[3]

The economy declined dramatically during the 1990s with the collapse of the COMECON system and the loss of the Soviet market, to which the country had been closely tied. The standard of living fell by about 40%, and only regained pre-1989 levels by June 2004. In addition, UN sanctions against Serbia (1992-95) and Iraq took a heavy toll on the Bulgarian economy. The first signs of recovery emerged when GDP grew 1.4% in 1994 for the first time since 1988, and 2.5% in 1995. Inflation, which surged in 1994 to 122%, fell to 32.9% in 1995. During 1996, however, the economy collapsed due to the Bulgarian Socialist Party's slow and mismanaged economic reforms and an unstable and decentralized banking system, which led to an inflation rate of 311% and the collapse of the lev. When pro-reform forces came into power in the spring 1997, an ambitious economic reform package, including introduction of a currency board regime, was agreed to with the IMF and the World Bank, and the economy began to stabilize. The 2000s saw a steady pace of growth and budget surpluses, but shaky inflation.

As of 2010 the country is suffering from the results of the world financial crisis. That comes after a period of large trade deficits and real estate investment. Future prospects are tied to the country's increasingly important integration with the European Union member states. The country is expected to join the Eurozone in 2013.

Contents

History

From the end of World War II until widespread revolution in Eastern Europe swept aside most communist governments in 1989, the Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP) exerted complete economic control in Bulgaria. The party's ascent to power in 1944 had marked the beginning of radical economic change for Bulgaria. After World War II, Bulgaria followed the Soviet model of economic development more closely than any other East Bloc country. The new regime shifted much of the labor force from the countryside to the city to provide workers for new large-scale industrial complexes. At the same time, the focus of Bulgarian international trade shifted from Central Europe to Eastern Europe.[4]

These new policies resulted in impressive initial rates of growth. But this was partly because the country was starting from a low level of economic development. Throughout the postwar period, economic progress also was assisted substantially by a level of internal and external political stability unseen in other East European countries during the same period and unprecedented in modern Bulgarian history.[4]

Nonetheless, beginning in the early 1960s low capital and labor productivity and expensive material inputs plagued the Bulgarian economy. With disappointing rates of growth came a high degree of economic experimentation. This experimentation took place within the socialist economic framework, however, and it never approached a market-based economy.[4]

In the late 1980s, continuing poor economic performance brought new economic hardship. By that time, the misdirection and irrationality of BCP economic policies had become quite clear. Bulgaria's economy contracted dramatically after 1987 with the dissolution of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON), with which the Bulgarian economy had integrated closely. Finally, on 10 November 1989, a popular movement toppled Todor Zhivkov, long-time party leader and head of state; orthodox communist dictatorship ended. But unlike the communist parties in most other East European states, the BCP retained majority power after the transition in Bulgaria by winning the first free national elections in June 1990. By that time, however, changes in party leadership and reduction of its power base permitted economic reorientation toward a market system. This difficult transition combined with political instability to seriously worsen economic conditions during 1990.[4] The standard of living fell with nearly 40%, and did not-regain the pre-1989 levels until 2004.

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Reforms of the 1990s and early 2000s

Members of the government promised to move forward on cash and mass privatization upon taking office in January 1995 but were slow to act. United Nations sanctions against Yugoslavia and Iraq (1990-2003), two of the country's most significant trading partners, took a heavy toll on the Bulgarian economy. The first signs of recovery emerged in 1994 when the GDP grew and inflation fell. The first round of mass privatization finally began in January 1996, and auctions began toward the end of that year. The second and third rounds were conducted in Spring 1997 under a new government. In July 1998, the UDF-led government and the IMF reached agreement on a 3-year loan worth about $800 million, which replaced the 14-month stand-by agreement that expired in June 1998. The loan was used to develop financial markets, improve social safety net programs, strengthen the tax system, reform agricultural and energy sectors, and further liberalize trade. The European Commission, in its 2002 country report, recognized Bulgaria as a functioning market economy, acknowledging the progress made by Prime Minister Simeon-Saxenoburgotski's government toward market-oriented reforms.

Rebound from the February 1997 crisis

In April 1997, the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) government won pre-term parliamentary elections and introduced an IMF currency board system which succeeded in stabilizing the economy. The triple digit inflation of 1996 and 1997 has given way to an official economic growth, but forecasters are predicting accelerated growth over the next several years. The government's structural reform program includes: (a) privatization and, where appropriate, liquidation of state-owned enterprises (SOEs); (b) liberalization of agricultural policies, including creating conditions for the development of a land market; (c) reform of the country's social insurance programs; and (d) reforms to strengthen contract enforcement and fight crime and corruption. Despite reforms, weak control over privatization led many successful state enterprises to bankruptcy. The UDF government also failed to stop the growing negative account balance, which has since then continued to increase, reaching a negative of $ 12.65 billion in 2008. The government elected in 2001 pledged to maintain the fundamental economic policy objectives adopted by its predecessor in 1997, specifically: retaining the Currency Board, implementing sound financial policies, accelerating privatisation, and pursuing structural reforms. Both governments failed to implement sound social policies. The economy really took off between 2003 and 2008 and growth figures quickly shot up, fluctuating between figures as high as 6.6% (2004) and 5.0% (2003). Even in the last pre-crisis year, 2008, the Bulgarian economy was growing rapidly at 6.0%, despite significantly slowing down in the last quarter.

[5]

In the European Union

On 1 January 2007 Bulgaria entered the European Union. This led to some immediate international trade liberalization, but there was no shock to the economy. The government is running annual surpluses of above 3%. This fact, together with annual GDP growth of above 5%, has brought the government indebtedness to 22.8% of GDP in 2006 from 67.3% five years earlier [6]. This is to be contrasted with enormous current account deficits. Low interest rates guarantee availability of funds for investment and consumption. For example, a boom in the real estate market started around 2003 and has not subsided yet. At the same time annual inflation in the economy is variable and during the last five years (2003-2007) has seen a low of 2.3% and high of 7.3% [7] . Most importantly, this poses a threat to the country's accession to the Eurozone. The Bulgarian government plans for the Euro to replace the Lev in 2010. However, experts predict that this might happen as late as in 2012 [8]. From a political point of view, there is a trade-off between Bulgaria's economic growth and the stability required for early accession to the monetary union. Bulgaria's per-capita PPP GDP is still only about a third of the EU25 average, while the country's nominal GDP per capita is about 13% of the EU25 average.

Economic downturn following the international financial crisis

GDP Growth (green vs. red) and Unemployment (blue) since 2001
Public (dark red) vs. private (light red) foreign debt (red line)

The country suffered a difficult start to 2009, after gas supplies were cut in the Russia-Ukraine gas dispute. Industrial output suffered, as well as public services, exposing Bulgaria being overdependent on Russia for raw materials. The global financial crisis started to apply downward pressure on growth and employment in the last quarter of 2008. The real estate market, although not plummeting, ground to a halt and growth is expected to be significantly lower in the short-to-medium run.

During the course of 2009, the grim forecasts for the effects of the global crisis on the Bulgarian economy largely materialized. Although suffering less than the worst-hit countries, Bulgaria recorded its worst economic results since the 1997 meltdown. GDP is shrinking by ~6% annually and unemployment is close to crossing into double digits. This is happening in an environment of record foreign debt, greater than the annual GDP.

Economic Statistics

Industries

Agriculture, forestry, and fishing

A sunflower field in Dobrudja. About 43% of Bulgaria's land is arable.
A flock of sheep near Burgas. Bulgaria is the world's 13th largest sheep milk producer.[9]

In the communist era, Bulgaria’s agriculture was heavily centralized, integrated with agriculture-related industries, and state-run. In the postcommunist era, the process of restoring agricultural land to private owners in a form that ensures productivity has been slow. Bank investment and insecurity in the land market contributed to slow development in the 1990s. By 2004 some 98 percent of the workforce and output of Bulgaria’s agricultural sector was private, including a number of large private cooperative enterprises. A significant amount of food also is produced for direct consumption by non-farmers on small plots, which are an important support for parts of the population. In 2000 and 2003, droughts limited agricultural production, and floods had the same effect in 2005. Bulgaria’s main field crops are wheat, corn, and barley. The main industrial crops are sugar beets, sunflowers, and tobacco. Tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers are the most important vegetable exports. Production of apples and grapes, Bulgaria’s largest fruit products, has decreased since the communist era, but the export of wine has increased significantly. The most important types of livestock are cattle, sheep, poultry, pigs, and buffaloes, and the main dairy products are yogurt and goat cheese.[10]

In 2004 an estimated one-third of Bulgaria’s land mass was covered by forests, of which about 40 percent was conifers. Between 1980 and 2000, the forested area increased by 4.6 percent. In 2002 a total of 4,800 tons of timber was harvested, 44 percent of which was fuel wood and 20 percent, pulpwood. Although nominal state timber standards are very strict, in 2004 an estimated 45 percent of Bulgaria’s timber harvest was logged illegally because of corruption in the forest service. Some 7.5 percent of forests are protected from all uses, and 65 percent are designated for ecological and commercial use. In 2005 about 70 percent of the total forest resource was rated economically viable.[10]

Since Bulgaria stopped high-seas fishing in 1995, the country has imported increasing amounts of fish. The fish farming industry (particularly sturgeon) has expanded in the early 2000s, and some environmental improvements in the Black Sea and the Danube River, the principal sources of fish, may increase the take in future years. However, the catch from those sources has decreased sharply in recent decades, yielding only a few species of fish for domestic markets in 2004. Between 1999 and 2001, Bulgaria’s total fish harvest, wild and cultivated, dropped from 18,600 tons to 8,100 tons, but in 2003 the harvest had recovered to 16,500 tons.[11]

Production of the most important crops (according to the FAO) in 2006 (in '000 tons) amounted to: wheat 3301.9; sunflower 1196.6; maize 1587.8; grapes 266.2; tobacco 42.0; tomatoes 213.0; barley 546.3; potatoes 386.1; peppers 156.7; cucumbers 61.5; cherries 18.2; watermelons 136.0; cabbage 72.7; apples 26.1; plums 18.0; strawberries 8.8.

Mining and minerals

Bulgaria’s mining industry has declined in the post-communist era. Many deposits have remained underdeveloped because of a lack of modern equipment and low funding. Mining has contributed less than 2 percent of GDP and engaged less than 3 percent of the workforce in the early 2000s. Bulgaria has the following estimated deposits of metallic minerals: 207 million tons of iron ore, 127 million tons of manganese ore, 936 million tons of copper ore, 238 million tons of chromium ore, and 150 million tons of gold ore. Several of Bulgaria’s minerals are extracted commercially; 80 percent of mining is done by open-pit excavation. Iron extraction at Kremikovtsi and elsewhere is not sufficient to support the domestic steel industry, but copper, lead, and zinc deposits fully supply the nonferrous metallurgy industries. A British firm has exploratory gold mines at Dikanyite and Gornoseltsi, and a domestic copper and gold mine operates at Chelopech. About 50 nonmetallic minerals are present in significant amounts. Substantial amounts of uranium are present in the Rhodope Mountains, but no extraction has occurred in the last 10 years.[11]

Despite the poor performance of the mining sector, productivity has increased in recent years. Mining remains one of the most important sources of export earnings. Bulgaria ranks as the 19th largest coal producer in the world,[12] 9th largest bismuth producer,[13] 19th largest copper producer,[14] and the 26th largest zinc producer.[15]

The "Elatsite" copper mine and reprocessing facility, built during Vulko Chervenkov's rule, takes its place as one of the largest in South-Eastern Europe. It produces 50,000 tonnes of copper concentrate and 1.5 tonnes of gold each year. The proven reserves of copper in the area amount to some 12 million tonnes.

Ferrous metallurgy has major importance. Much of the production of steel and pig iron takes place in Kremikovtsi and Pernik, with a third metallurgical base in Debelt. In production of steel and steel products per capita the country heads the Balkans. As of 2009 the fate of Kremikovtsi steel factories has come under debate because of serious pollution in the capital, Sofia.

The largest refineries for lead and zinc operate in Plovdiv (the biggest refinery between Italy and the Ural mountains), Kardzhali and Novi Iskar; for copper in Pirdop and Eliseina (now defunct); for aluminium in Shumen. In production of many metals per capita, such as zinc and iron, Bulgaria ranks first in Eastern Europe.

Industry and construction

Much of Bulgaria’s communist-era industry was heavy industry, although biochemicals and computers were significant products beginning in the 1980s. Because Bulgarian industry was configured to Soviet markets, the end of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact caused a severe crisis in the 1990s. After showing its first growth since the communist era in 2000, Bulgaria’s industrial sector has grown slowly but steadily in the early 2000s. The performance of individual manufacturing industries has been uneven, however. Food processing and tobacco processing suffered from the loss of Soviet markets and have not maintained standards high enough to compete in Western Europe. Textile processing generally has declined since the mid-1990s, although clothing exports have grown steadily since 2000.[11]

A steel frame for a new railroad car, Karlovo railworks. Bulgaria's largest railcar factories are located in Dryanovo, Karlovo and Septemvri.

Oil refining survived the shocks of the 1990s because of a continuing export market and the purchase of the Burgas refinery by the Russian oil giant LUKoil. The chemical industry has remained in good overall condition but is subject to fluctuating natural gas prices. Growth in ferrous metallurgy, which is dominated by the Kremnikovtsi Metals Combine, has been delayed by a complex privatization process and by obsolete capital equipment. Nonferrous metallurgy has prospered because the Pirdop copper smelting plant was bought by Union Minière of Belgium and because export markets have been favorable.[11]

The end of the Warsaw Pact alliance and the loss of Third World markets were grave blows to the defense industry. In the early 2000s, the industry’s plan for survival has included upgrading products to satisfy Western markets and doing cooperative manufacturing with Russian companies. The electronics industry, which also was configured in the 1980s to serve Soviet markets, has not been able to compete with Western computer manufacturers. The industry now relies on contract agreements with European firms and attracting foreign investment. The automotive industry has ceased the manufacture of cars, trucks, and buses. Manufacture of forklifts, a specialty in the communist era, also has stopped. In the early 2000s, shipbuilding has prospered at the major Varna and Ruse yards because of foreign ownership (Ruse) and privatization (Varna).[16]

Only in recent years electronics and electric equipment production has regained higher levels. The largest centres include Sofia, Plovdiv and the surrounding area, Botevgrad, Stara Zagora, Varna, Pravets and many other cities. Household appliances, computers, CDs, telephones, medical and scientific equipment are being produced.

Many factories producing transportation equipment currently still do not operate at full capacity. Plants produce trains (Burgas, Dryanovo), trams (Sofia), trolleys (Dupnitsa), buses (Botevgrad), trucks (Shumen), motor trucks (Plovdiv, Lom, Sofia, Lovech). Lovech has an automotive assembly plant. Rousse serves as the main centre for agricultural machinery. Bulgarian arms production mainly operates in central Bulgaria (Kazanlak, Sopot, Karlovo).

Construction output fell dramatically in the 1990s as industrial and housing construction declined, but a recovery began in the early 2000s. The sector, now dominated by private firms, has resumed the foreign building programs that led to prosperity in the communist era. The Glavbolgostroy firm has major building projects in Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine as well as domestic contracts.[17]

Energy

Bobov dol thermal power plant.

Bulgaria relies on imported oil and natural gas (most of which comes from Russia), together with domestic generation of electricity from coal-powered plants and the Kozloduy nuclear plant. The economy remains energy-intensive because conservation practices have developed slowly. The country is a major regional electricity producer. Bulgaria produced 38.07 billion kWh of electricity in 2006[18] (in comparison, Romania, which has a population nearly three times larger than Bulgaria, produced 51.7 billion kW·h[18] in the same year). The domestic power-generating industry, which was privatized in 2004 by sales to interests from Europe, Japan, Russia, and the United States, suffers from obsolete equipment and a weak oversight agency. To solve the latter problem, in 2008 the government set up a state-owned energy holding-company (Bulgarian Energy Holding EAD), composed of gas company Bulgargaz, Bulgartransgaz, power company NEK EAD, Electricity System Operator EAD, Kozloduy nuclear power plant, Maritza-Iztok II thermal power plant, the Mini Maritza Iztok (Maritza Iztok mines), and Bulgartel EAD. The state holds a 100% stake in the holding company.[19][20] Most of Bulgaria’s conventional power plants will require large-scale modernization in the near future. Bulgaria has some 64 small hydroelectric plants, which together produce 19 percent of the country’s power output.[17]

The Kozloduy nuclear plant, which in 2005 supplied more than 40 percent of Bulgaria’s electric power, will play a diminishing role because two of its remaining four reactors (two were closed in 2002) must be closed by 2007 to comply with European Union (EU) standards. Kozloduy, which exported 14 percent of its output in 2006, was expected to cease all exportation in 2007. Construction of the long-delayed Belene nuclear plant resumed in 2006 but will not be complete until at least 2011. Belene, planned in the 1980s but then rejected, was revived by the safety controversy at Kozloduy.[17]

Oil exploration is ongoing offshore in the Black Sea (the Shabla block) and on the Romanian border, but Bulgaria’s chief oil income is likely to come as a transfer point on east-west and north-south transit lines. Burgas is Bulgaria’s main oil port on the Black Sea. Bulgaria’s largest oil refinery, Neftochim, was purchased by Russian oil giant LUKoil in 1999 and underwent modernization in 2005. Bulgaria’s only significant coal resource is low-quality lignite, mainly from the state-owned Maritsa-Iztok and Bobov Dol complexes and used in local thermoelectric power plants.[17]

Thermal power plants (TPPs) provide a significant amount of energy, with most of the capacity concentrated in the Maritsa Iztok Complex. The largest TPPs include:

  • "Maritsa Iztok 2" - 1,450 MW
  • "Varna" - 1,260 MW
  • "Maritsa Iztok 3" - 870 MW
  • "Bobov Dol" - 630 MW
  • "Ruse Iztok" - 600 MW
  • "Maritsa Iztok 1" - 500 MW

A $1.4 bln. project for the construction of an additional 670 MW block for the 500 MW Maritza Iztok 1 Thermal Power Plant[21] is expected to be completed by the middle of 2010.

Services

Although the contribution of services to gross domestic product (GDP) has more than doubled in the post-communist era, a substantial share of that growth has been in government services, and the qualitative level of services varies greatly. The Bulgarian banking system, which was weak in the first post-communist years, was fully reformed in the late 1990s, including stronger oversight from the National Bank of Bulgaria and gradual privatization. In 2003 the banking system was fully privatized, and substantial consolidation began making the system more efficient in 2004. Several smaller banks grew substantially between 2004 and 2006. These processes increased public confidence in the banks. Although the system still requires consolidation, loan activity to individuals and businesses increased in the early 2000s. The insurance industry has grown rapidly since a market reform in 1997, with the help of foreign firms. An example is the Bulgarian Insurance Group (BIG), a pension-fund and insurance management company owned by the Dutch-Israeli TBI Holding Company and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The introduction of health and pension insurance plans has expanded the private insurance industry. A series of reform laws in the early 2000s enabled the Bulgarian Stock Exchange to begin regular operation. As of 2005, stock market activity was limited by lack of transparency, although the growth rate increased beginning in 2004.[22]

After a decline in the 1990s, in the early 2000s the tourism industry has grown rapidly. In 2004 some 4 million foreigners visited Bulgaria, compared with 2.3 million in 2000. This trend is based on a number of attractive destinations, low costs, and restoration of facilities. Most of the industry had been privatized by 2004. Infrastructure items such as recreation facilities and booking services require improvement. Development of Bulgaria’s retail sales sector was slow until the early 2000s, when a large number of Western-style outlets began to appear, and Sofia developed as a retail center. By 2006 several major European retail chains had opened stores, and others planned to enter the Bulgarian market.[23]

Bulgaria has attracted considerable investment from foreigners buying property either for their own use or for investment. In 2006, more than 29% of property deals were signed by foreigners, more than half of whom were UK citizens.[24] Various companies, such as Bulgarian Dreams, actively marketed Bulgarian properties to buyers overseas.

Labor

In 2005 the labor force was estimated at 3.3 million; in 2004, 11 percent worked in agriculture, 33 percent in industry, and 56 percent in services. The unemployment rate has been in double digits throughout the post-communist era, reaching a high point of 19 percent in 2000. Since then, the rate has decreased substantially with the creation of new jobs in private and state enterprises. In 2005 the official figure was 11.5 percent, compared with 16.9 percent at the end of 2002. However, in 2003 an estimated 500,000 Bulgarians were unemployed but not officially counted because they were not seeking work. In January 2005, the government raised the minimum wage by 25 percent, to US$90 per month. The largest labor unions are Podkrepa (Support) and the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria. They represent labor in the National Council for Tripartite Partnership, in which they join government and business representatives to discuss issues of labor, social security, and living standards. The unions were an important political force in the fall of the Zhivkov regime.[23]

Currency and inflation

Banknotes of 5, 20 and 50 leva

Bulgaria’s unit of currency is the lev (pl., leva). In October 2006, the U.S. dollar was worth 1.57 leva. In 1999 the value of the lev was pegged to that of the German deutsch-mark, which was replaced by the euro in 2001. Following Bulgaria’s expected admission to the European Union, the lev is scheduled to be replaced by the euro.[25]

In 2003 Bulgaria’s inflation rate was estimated at between 2.3 and 3 percent. The rate was 6 percent in 2004 and 5 percent in 2005.[10]

Taxation and government budget

As of 1 January 2008 the income tax for all citizens is set to a flat rate of 10%. This flat tax is one of the lowest income rates in the world and the lowest income rate in the European Union.[26] The reform was done in hope for higher GDP growth and greater tax collection rates. Some called it a "revolution" in taxation, but the changes were met with mild discussions and some protests by affected working classes. The proposal was modified to allow for compensating the perceived losers from the changes in the tax formula. The corporate income tax is also 10% as of 1 January 2007 which is also among the lowest in Europe.[27]

For 2005 Bulgaria’s estimated state revenues totaled US$11.2 billion, and its estimated state expenditures, including capital expenditures, were US$10.9 billion, yielding a surplus of US$300 million. In 2004 revenues totaled US$10.1 billion and expenditures US$9.7 billion, for a surplus of US$400 million.[10]

Foreign economic relations

In the 1990s, Bulgaria moved gradually away from dependence on markets in the former Soviet sphere, increasing its exports to the European Union (EU). In 1999 Bulgaria joined the Central European Free-Trade Agreement (CEFTA), with whose members (Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia; Macedonia was added in 2006) it has established important trade relations. The admission of all but Croatia and Romania to the EU in 2004 reduced the significance of CEFTA trade, however. In 2004 some 54 percent of Bulgaria’s import trade and 58 percent of its export trade was with EU member countries. Bulgaria has bilateral free-trade agreements with Albania, Croatia, Estonia, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, and Turkey.[23]

In the early 2000s, hydrocarbon fuels remained an important import, although beginning in the late 1990s those commodities’ share of total imports decreased significantly, from 29 percent in 1996 to 13 percent in 2004. During that period, the diversification of imported products improved as the volume of machinery and equipment, consumer products, and automobiles increased. A large percentage of imports is accounted for by raw materials such as cloth, metal ore, and petroleum, which are processed and re-exported. The most important imports in 2005 were machinery and equipment, metals and ores, chemicals and plastics, fuels, and minerals. The major sources of imports, in order of volume, were Germany, Russia, Italy, Turkey, and Greece. In 2005 Bulgaria’s largest export markets, in order of volume, were Italy, Germany, Turkey, Greece, and Belgium. The most important export commodities were clothing, footwear, iron and steel, machinery and equipment, and fuels. In 2005 Bulgaria’s exports totaled US$11.7 billion and its imports totaled US$15.9 billion, incurring a trade deficit of US$4.2 billion. The trade deficit is especially severe with Russia, where markets for Bulgarian goods have shrunk drastically in the early 2000s.[28]

In the first half of 2006, Bulgaria had a current account deficit of US$2.3 billion, a substantial increase over the deficit for the same period of 2005, which was some US$1.4 billion. Its trade deficit was US$2.78 billion, foreign direct investment totaled US$1.8 billion, and the financial account balance was US$2.29 billion. In mid-2006 the overall balance of payments was US$883 million, compared with US$755 million for the same period of 2005.[29]

Bulgaria’s large foreign debt has been an economic burden throughout the postcommunist era. At the end of 2005, Bulgaria reported an external debt of US$15.2 billion, an increase in value but a decrease as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) compared with 2002 and previous years. As a percentage of GDP, the external debt remained constant between 2004 and 2005.[29]

Beginning in the late 1990s, investment from the West and from Russia has contributed significantly to recovery from the economic crisis of 1996–97, but the rate of investment has remained lower than that in other countries of Eastern Europe. In 2003 the largest national sources of foreign direct investment, in order of volume, were Austria, Greece, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands. In 1997 the Belgian Solve company bought the Deny Soda Combine, and in 1999 LUKoil of Russia bought the Neftochim Oil Refinery at Burgas. Union Minière, a Belgian mining company, bought the large Pirdop copper-smelting plant, giving an important boost to Bulgarian nonferrous metallurgy. A number of foreign companies have invested in the chemical fertilizer and food-processing industries In the early 2000s, China invested in the Bulgarian electronics industry. Some cooperative agreements have been made for manufacture of vehicle components. Daimler-Chrysler of Germany has a contract to update Bulgaria’s military transport vehicles between 2003 and 2015. The French Eurocopter company has a bilateral protocol involving a variety of machinery, computer software, and other industrial products. In 2004 Bulgarian oil reserves attracted interest from Melrose Resources of Edinburgh. Russia’s natural gas giant, Gazprom, has pledged investment in Bulgaria’s natural gas infrastructure in exchange for increased purchase of its product. A three-company Israeli consortium agreed in 2004 to work with the domestic Overgas company (which is half-owned by Gazprom) on a major natural-gas distribution network in Bulgaria. In 2005 three European consortia submitted bids for construction of the Belene nuclear power plant. One such investor is the Italian ENEL energy consortium, which also owns the Maritsa–Iztok–3 thermal power plant. In 2006 Russia’s Gazprom company bid against several European energy companies for ownership of newly privatized regional heating utilities, and the Austrian Petromaxx Energy Group invested US$120 million in a new oil refinery at Silistra.[29]

In December 1996, Bulgaria joined the World Trade Organization. In the early 90's Bulgaria's slow pace of privatization, contradictory government tax and investment policies, and bureaucratic red tape kept foreign investment among the lowest in the region. Total direct foreign investment from 1991 through 1996 was $831 million. In the years since 1997, however, Bulgaria has begun to attract substantial foreign investment. In 2004 alone over 2.72 billion Euro (3.47 billion US dollars) were invested by foreign companies. In 2005 economists observed a slowdown to about 1.8 billion euros (2.3 billion US dollars) in FDI which is attributed mainly to the end of the privatization of the major state owned companies. After joining the EU in 2007 Bulgaria registered a peak in foreign investment of about 6 billion euros.

Tourism

In 2007 Bulgaria was visited by 5,200,000 tourists, ranking 39th in the world.[30] Tourists from Greece, Romania and Germany account for 40% of visitors.[31] Significant numbers of British (+300,000), Russian (+200,000), Serbian (+150,000), Polish (+130,000) and Danish (+100,000) tourists also visit Bulgaria. Most of them are attracted by the varying and beautiful landscapes, well-preserved historical and cultural heritage, and the tranquility of rural and mountain areas.

Main destinations include the capital Sofia, coastal resorts Albena, Sozopol, Sveti Vlas; winter resorts Pamporovo, Chepelare and Borovetz. Arbanasi and Bozhentsi are rural tourist destinations with well-preserved ethnographic traditions. Other popular attractions are the 10th century Rila Monastery and the 19th century Euxinograd château.

See also

References

Notes

  1. ^ https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2092rank.html?countryName=Bulgaria&countryCode=bu&regionCode=eu&rank=85#bu
  2. ^ a b Labour force survey for Q1, National Statistical Institute
  3. ^ "World Bank: Data and Statistics: Country Groups". The World Bank Group. 2008. http://go.worldbank.org/D7SN0B8YU0. Retrieved 2008-07-27. 
  4. ^ a b c d William Marsteller. "The Economy". Bulgaria country study (Glenn E. Curtis, editor). Library of Congress Federal Research Division (June 1992).
  5. ^ Associated, The. "Bulgaria's economy grew by 6.2 percent on year in 1Q - International Herald Tribune". Iht.com. http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/06/19/business/EU-FIN-ECO-Bulgaria-Growth.php. Retrieved 2009-01-02. 
  6. ^ "The Hard Road Towards the Euro". Capital. 2007-04-13. http://capital.bg/show.php?storyid=330539. 
  7. ^ "Inflation Statistics". Stat.bg. 2007-05-05. http://www.stat.bg/indicator.html?lang=1&id=143&per=3. 
  8. ^ [1] List of projections for year of accession to the Monetary Union
  9. ^ FAO - Bulgaria country rank
  10. ^ a b c d Bulgaria country profile, p. 9.
  11. ^ a b c d Bulgaria country profile, p. 10.
  12. ^ See List of countries by coal production.
  13. ^ See List of countries by bismuth production
  14. ^ See List of countries by copper mine production
  15. ^ See List of countries by zinc production
  16. ^ Bulgaria country profile, p. 10–11.
  17. ^ a b c d Bulgaria country profile, p. 11.
  18. ^ a b Photius.com, Electricity production as of 2006
  19. ^ "Bulgaria Consolidates Five Energy Companies into Holding". Sofia News Agency. 2008-02-13. http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=90355. Retrieved 2008-02-24. 
  20. ^ "Bulgaria announces birth of energy giant with new holding company". Power Engineering. 2008-02-14. http://pepei.pennnet.com/display_article/320064/6/ARTCL/Display/none/1/Bulgaria-announces-birth-of-energy-giant-with-new-holding-company/. Retrieved 2008-02-24. 
  21. ^ ":Alstom.CZ - Power Environment Sector:". Alstom.cz. http://www.alstom.cz/boilers/en/enovinky.html#3. Retrieved 2009-01-02. 
  22. ^ Bulgaria country profile, p. 11–12.
  23. ^ a b c Bulgaria country profile, p. 12.
  24. ^ http://www.propertywisebulgaria.com/article/brits-form-the-majority-of-bulgarias--foreign-property-buyers/id_347/catid_12
  25. ^ Bulgaria country profile, p. 14.
  26. ^ http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/2007/12/17/bulgaria-now-an-official-member-of-the-flat-tax-club/
  27. ^ http://www.eubusiness.com/Bulgaria/1191900721.97/
  28. ^ Bulgaria country profile, p. 12-13.
  29. ^ a b c Bulgaria country profile, p. 13.
  30. ^ See World Tourism rankings
  31. ^ Statistics from the Bulgarian Tourism Agency

Works cited

External links


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