Economic Development of Bulgarian Regions Still Dominated by Major Hubs
December 9 (BTA) - The economic development of Bulgarian regions is still dominated by major economic hubs, Institute for Market Economics (IME) Senior Researcher Peter Ganev told a BTA-hosted news conference on Thursday.
For the 10th year in a row, the IME presented a survey on the social and economic condition of the regions of Bulgaria. The survey encompasses the country's 28 administrative regions and uses 66 development indicators grouped into 12 categories. The analysis is compiled with the support of the America for Bulgaria Foundation.
The latest survey shows that in 2019 the national capital Sofia (Sofia City) generated 51 billion leva of gross domestic product (GDP), which was 43 per cent of the output of the Bulgarian economy. Other leading economic areas in the south of the country were the regions of Plovdiv (9.7 billion leva of GDP), Burgas (5.5 billion leva) and Stara Zagora (5.1 billion leva). In the north, the economy was dominated by the regions of Varna (7.7 billion leva), Russe (2.8 billion leva) and Veliko Tarnovo (2.6 billion leva).
Per-capita gross value added (GVA) in 2019 varied from 7,000 leva in Silistra Region to 33,000 leva in Sofia City. The economy of the capital was strongly dominated by services, which accounted for 87 per cent of its GVA.
In 2019, industry played a more notable role in Sofia Region and the regions of Stara Zagora, Vratsa and Gabrovo. Agriculture generated over 10 per cent of GVA in Silistra, Vratsa, Montana, Razgrad, Dobrich, Targovishte, Shumen, Yambol and Kardjali. These were poorer regions situated mainly in the north, the survey shows.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had an adverse impact on the dynamics of the Bulgarian labour market, the experts say. After the employment rate for the 15-64 age group topped 70 per cent in 2019 for the first time in the nation's recent history, in 2020 employment contracted to 68.5 per cent, with negative repercussions discernible in all regions. Major labour market gaps remained effective in 2020. Large economic hubs reported around or above 70 per cent employment, while poorer areas lagged far behind. All five regions with an employment rate below 60 per cent were situated to the north of the Balkan Range. The best performing northern regions in terms of employment were Varna, Russe and Veliko Tarnovo.
Despite the adverse impact of COVID-19 on the labour market, the year 2021 has seen some positive developments. Incomes continue to rise despite the crisis. The average gross monthly wage in Bulgaria exceeds 1,500 leva, increasing by over 10 per cent compared with 2020. The level ranges from about 1,000 leva in such regions as Blagoevgrad and Kyustendil to over 2,000 leva in Sofia City.
The labour market is beginning to recover, with unemployment gradually falling back to pre-crisis levels. However, the ongoing waves of coronavirus infection and the ensuing restrictions on social life and economic activity pose a risk to new jobs, the survey shows.
The population of 26 regions has decreased over the last decade. The opposite has been observed only in Sofia City and Kardjali Region.
The pandemic has made healthcare an absolute priority as COVID-19 tests the capacity of the public health system to respond to extraordinary circumstances, the experts say. Regional differences in healthcare are particularly visible where the accessibility of doctors is concerned. In some regions (Pleven, Sofia City, Plovdiv, Varna), a doctor takes care of fewer than 200 people, while in half of all regions the ratio is one doctor for more than 300 people.
The COVID-19 outbreak has also caused a decline in crimes against the person and property crimes. In 2020, there were under 10 such crimes per 1,000 population. Kardjali and Smolyan remained the safest regions, with 5 crimes against the person and property crimes for 1,000 people. Crime clearance in 2020 was highest in Gabrovo Region, where 76 per cent of registered crimes were solved. RY/VE