site.btaMedia Review: June 18

Media Review: June 18
Media Review: June 18
BTA Photo/Lyubomir Martinov

All print media report that so far four parliamentary parties have refused to sit for government-forming negotiations with GERB. Continue the Change - Democratic Bulgaria said they will act as pro-European opposition, the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) has decided to not support a government with a mandate given to GERB or the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), the far right Vazrazhdane party would only support a government with their own mandate, while the leader of the Velichie [Grandeur] party, Nikolay Markov, was adamant that he would only negotiate with GERB's leader, Boyko Borissov. He added: "Borissov is the leader, so I want to hear him out. [GERB MPs Raya] Nazaryan and Temenuzhka [Petkova] are not leaders."

Duma quotes BSP member Gergana Aleksova who said in an interview for Bulgaria on Air that while her party would not support a government-forming mandate of GERB or the MRF, it would not necessarily refuse to negotiate with other parliamentary parties.

POLITICS

In a spread interview for Telegraph, political expert Hristo Panchugov talks about the electorate in Bulgaria and specifically about the 70% of it that chooses not to cast a vote when elections come. According to the expert, the notion that the only form of participation in the democratic process is voting and that the "votes" of those who did not vote get distributed to various parties is false and harms the Bulgarian people. He added: "On the contrary, these people have a voice. That voice has not been used because they have probably not found their representatives. That is to say, their interests are not part of the political system and there is no way around that." Panchugov believes that politicians should try to reach out to the disheartened electorate in order to learn their interests and the reasons they choose not to vote.

* * *

In a spread interview for Dnevnik, His Britannic Majesty's Ambassador in Sofia, Dr Rob Dixon, discussed several topics including the sanctions that the UK imposed on three Bulgarian individuals: MRF co-chair Delyan Peevski, former national security official Ilko Zhelyazkov and gambling mogul Vasil Bozhkov. The sanctions, which were announced on February 10, 2023, targeted these three because of alleged offences such as attempts to exert control over key institutions and sectors in Bulgarian society through bribery. Dixon said the decision to impose the sanctions was basically a statement that the UK does not want certain people travelling there or trading and doing business in or through the UK. This is a way to protect the British financial system while making a statement regarding corruption on the global stage. From there on, it is Bulgaria's decision how to react and what this means for it.

ECONOMY

In a spread interview for Trud, financial expert Nikola Filipov said that the factors that generate inflation in the country are primarily internal rather than external. In recent months, the services that have seen the largest price increases are Restaurants and Hotels, Clothing and Footwear, Miscellaneous Goods and Services, Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco. It is not just the inflexible labour market that forces employers to raise wages but also all the social and income policies of the administration that are the main factors behind the higher inflation. Filipov said that numerous fiscal policy mistakes were made in recent years. He specified: "The series of parliamentary elections led to a situation in which political parties fell into heavy populism, which aimed to appeal to the electoral masses at the expense of rational fiscal and economic policy. All of this has led to an increase in public spending disproportionate to economic growth, which has been financed by taking on new public debt. This is not always a negative thing in theory, but there are a few key nuances here that we need to be clear about. The first is the issue of the structure of public spending. The fact is that, in recent years, the budget deficits that we have realized and financed largely by taking on new debt have gone primarily to social policy and the administration's income policy, not to investment. Such a policy of sharp and substantial increases in the cost of living creates serious structural imbalances in our economy, because increases in wage and pension costs do not create value in the long term, as capital expenditure does. The sharp increase in wages in the public sector also leads to an increase in wages in the private sector, which in the long term will lead to the loss of competitiveness of our economy."

* * *

Trud's front page warns that some types of bread are likely to disappear from the shelves of smaller shops. The reason will be a supply problem caused by amendments to the VAT Act, which provide that from July 1 to December 31, 2024, the maximum mark-up on the sale of bread made from dark wheat flour and white bread and Dobrudzha bread will be 15%. This is the total mark-up that suppliers and retailers can put on the manufacturer's or importer's price. Meanwhile, there are no restrictions on producers themselves raising prices, even if wheat prices drop. The 15% mark-up limit will apply only to these three types of bread, which means that simply changing the packaging to not specify the type of bread inside may be enough to avoid the restrictions. Another potential problem with the new requirement is that only the last link in the bread supply chain is restricted. No restrictions apply to producers, which would allow them to even raise prices so that the final price with a 15% mark-up for retailers would be the same as the current price in shops. It is yet to be clarified who will monitor compliance with the new requirement and what the penalties will be if infringements are found.

Another article in the daily notes that according to data from the Ministry of Agriculture and the National Statistical Institute while wheat prices have dropped by more than 45% over the past two years, the price of bread for the final consumer continues to rise. In early June 2022, one tonne of wheat cost BGN 716 compared to BGN 390 in early June 2024. Meanwhile, the prices of bread and cereals have increased by 9.5% over the same period.

* * *

The Bulgarian National Radio (BNR) said on Tuesday that a court decision increased the rate of return on the capital of Sofiyska Voda, the operator of the water and sewerage system in the Bulgarian capital. The Energy and Water Regulation Commission (EWRC) will approve the new rate on July 10. The rate of return influences the final cost of water for consumers. The EWRC set an 8.12% increase for water and sewerage services for Sofiyska Voda, aligning it with other major operators.

BNR quoted Sofiyska Voda Director, Vasil Trenev: "Today's meeting follows the procedure for approving Sofia Water's business plan, submitted to the EWRC last autumn. We proposed a 22.34% increase in water prices for this year, primarily due to rising costs of materials, goods, services, and wages driven by accumulated inflation. Sofiyska Voda operated without a price increase in 2022 and 2023 due to the absence of an approved business plan, so the proposed increase reflects the accumulated costs up to this year."

DEFENCE

NATO's spending figures show Bulgaria is expected to spend 2.18% of its gross domestic product on defence this year, BNR and the Bulgarian National Television (BNT) said on their morning blocks. The country reached and exceeded the target of 2% of GDP annually for defence purposes. This achievement marks the first time Bulgaria has met this goal. The amount NATO estimates Bulgaria will spend in 2024 is USD 2.325 billion or BGN 4.217 billion. The figures are based on 2015 prices. Most of the spending or 51.6% will be allocated to personnel, while another 31.9% will be on military equipment, and 4.6% will be allocated to infrastructure.

HEALTHCARE

The head of the National Center of Infectious and Parasitic Diseases, Prof. Iva Hristova, told Telegraph that a case of mpox has been confirmed in Sofia. The patient, a 36-year-old man, is in good condition and did not require hospitalization. He has self-isolated, as the disease is highly infectious. In an interview for bTV, Hristova specified that the patient has not travelled abroad or had sexual intercourse with a partner who has, so the infection most likely originated in Bulgaria. Most people with mpox recover without complications within two to four weeks. Newly diagnosed cases of mpox should be medically evaluated for severity and risk factors (e.g., underlying diseases or medications affecting the immune system, untreated HIV infection, etc.). Hristova specified that usually the disease is very mild, especially in those vaccinated against smallpox.

* * *

Dr Nikolay Branzalov of the Bulgarian Medical Association told Telegraph that GPs risk having their contracts with the National Health Insurance Fund terminated and losing their medical licence after being pressured by patients to issue electronic medical referrals without actually getting to examine the patients in person. The patients' excuse is that they have difficulty moving, however, a more likely reason is that they want to avoid waiting in hospital to be examined or to pay the medical fee for the examination.

HOME AFFAIRS

BNT reported on Tuesday the Animus Association Foundation will continue to support the National Hotline for Victims of Violence for at least one more year, as confirmed by the Council of Ministers. The Council of Ministers Secretary General signed a new contract with the NGO that has a 10-year history of helping people at risk. Animus offers social, legal, and psychological counselling, referral, and support to victims of domestic violence and people at risk. More than 2,800 people sought help over the phone in 2023, statistics show. The vast majority of them or 81% were women who were victims of domestic aggression. Animus will receive BGN 64,800 in funding for the next 12 month to support the 24/7 helpline, offering specialized legal and psychological services while maintaining confidentiality and anonymity. The Secretariat of the National Council for Prevention and Protection against Domestic Violence at the Council of Ministers is working to provide a national helpline for victims of domestic violence and people at risk, using a single harmonized European number, as outlined in the Protection against Domestic Violence Act.

WEATHER

Telegraph quoted the National Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology who warn that a heatwave of 35C is expected to run through the country on Wednesday. This year's astronomical summer starts on June 20 at 11.50 p.m. This will be the earliest solstice over the past 228 years.

CULTURE

The fourth edition of Sofia Live Festival is set to take place in Borisova Gradina from June 21 to 23, BNR said. Artists to perform include hip-hop duo Atmosphere, Selah Sue, Kovacs, DJ Shadow, Dub FX, Music Moves Europe 2024 award winner Bulgarian Cartrader, and local acts Jluch/Grigovor/Gena and Heptagram. The festival focuses on musical aesthetics and literacy. Singer Ruth Koleva, who is involved in the event, told BNR that organizing the festival is challenging, as this year marks a turning point. She added: "One of my goals is to support talented Bulgarian musicians by giving them the opportunity to perform in front of a large audience. The festival also serves as a platform for their development."

/NZ/

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By 09:56 on 22.07.2024 Today`s news

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