At 14th Annual Conference, Government, Business Discuss Bulgaria's ERM Entry, EU Green Deal, Labour Shortage
January 28 (BTA) - Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donchev, Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov, Labour and Social Policy Minister Denitsa Sacheva and Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) Governor Dimitar Radev were among top officials who attended the 14th Annual Government Meets the Business Conference here on Tuesday. The event, organized by the "Capital" weekly, this year explored ways to prepare business for the synchronized slowdown of the global economy.
Bulgaria in ERM II
Borissov said that every effort is being made for Bulgaria to join the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM II) at the end of April 2020. Both Radev and Goranov were adamant that the lev/euro exchange rate will not be changed upon entry in the ERM II. The central bank Governor explained that the Foreign Exchange Act amendment does not alter the fixed rate but merely says that it will be approved within the EU legal framework, aligning Bulgarian legislation with the EU rules. The European Central Bank has been consulted on the legislative revision. "Bulgaria is very close to a strategic breakthrough on its European integration road. By that step, the country will join key institutions at the core of the EU," he added.
The PM assured his audience that after Bulgaria enters the eurozone, prices will not rise and the currency board arrangement will be kept. He sees the joining of ERM II as a guarantee that there will be no more bank failures and the country will no longer be put at risk but will share in decision making.
Borissov accused some EU countries of being "green hypocrites", as they import steel from China and India where limit standards are hardly observed and the air is polluted globally. He stressed that Europe generates 8-9 per cent of carbon emissions and even if it cuts them to 3-5 per cent, this will not make a difference on a global scale. To meet the EU green requirements, Bulgaria alone has to invest some 20 billion. At the same time, the country now relies on coal for 60 per cent of its electricity.
"We have a reason to support the direction in principle, but we are sceptical about the speed of greening," Donchev said for his part. "Nobody wants us to be green and poor," he argued, describing as "overambitious" the noxious emissions reduction programme: the national target is 40 per cent by 2030, while the European Commission proposes 55-60 per cent.
Goranov said that the sectors affected by the Green Deal employ 94,000 people and that the green transformation will be a challenge to Bulgaria.
Donchev said that the Council of Ministers will shortly consider an Industrial Zones Bill, which will speed up the process of establishing such zones as part of an economic transformation.
Sacheva said that 20 per cent of almost 400,000 enterprises and companies countrywide will be hiring next year, according to the National Employment Agency. Over the next 12 months, employers will need some 90,000 university degree holders - mainly engineers, IT professionals, educators and nurses. In the lower-skilled occupations, 64,000 workers will be in demand. The public sector is also understaffed. The Minister said that specific measures will be proposed for the 170,000 people aged 15-29 in Bulgaria who neither study nor work, once a statistical profile on them is ready within two months.
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Borissov said at the meeting that the Foreign Ministry has been assigned to explore options for bringing back home the three Bulgarian students who are stranded in quarantined Wuhan, China. "If they allow us, I will send a plane to fly them out, regardless of the cost," the PM said. "I can imagine how scared they are". RI/LG