INFLATION - PRICES
Trud reports that between January and April foods appreciated by 14.2%, according to data of the National Statistical Institute. Fuel prices have increased by nearly 22%. The official inflation is at 7.8%. The minimum wage is 710 leva. As of April 1 only teachers and magistrates among public servants received an increase of wages. Most businesses are unable to pay their employees more because of the rising costs of fuels, electricity and raw materials.
A check by Telegraph on Fuelo.net showed that fuels continue to appreciate. A-95 gasoline was sold at an average 3,12 lv/l on Thursday and between May 15 and 19 its price went up by 0.07 lv/l. Diesel fuel added 0.04 lv/l and was sold for 3.28 lv/l on average.
24 Chasa quotes Energy Minister Alexander Nikolov as saying that ways will be sought to compensate households for the high price of central heating. He was speaking to the parliamentary energy committee on Thursday in connection with reports that the utility companies have asked for an increase of prices of between 100 and 150%. Nikolov also said that the envisaged decrease of the VAT rate on heating will drive the price down. He explained the expected increase by the higher price of gas.
In a Bulgarian National Radio interview on Friday, Vladimir Ivanov, head of the State Commission on Commodity Exchange and Wholesale Markets, said that food prices will steady when the market of energy resources stabilizes. He added that the prices of 40 staple foods have gone up by 24.5% compared with last year. The zero VAT rate on bread will compensate losses for bread makers, but won't decrease the price of bread, said Ivanov. He said he expected the price of bread to remain at this level for a long period of time. Ivanov predicted that the prices of vegetables and fruits in the summer will be bearable and that the competitive market won’t allow a 100 per cent increase in the price of Bulgaria potatoes, as farmers have warned.
"Inflation Will Eat Away Pension Increase", reads the frontpage headline in Trud.
The inflation is already eating away the planned increase of pensions. The incumbent lied that pensions will be increased by nearly 20% as of July as one of the measures in the government's anti-crisis package. The real increase is between 8.6% and 9.5%. However, the prices in the consumer basket will increase by over 10% between January and June alone. Pensions will be increased by 10% and the 60 leva monthly COVID bonus which is paid now will be added. The minimum pension of 370 leva with the added bonus totals 430 leva. As of July the bonus will be scrapped and the minimum pension will become 467 leva. The incumbent said that pensions will be recalculated as of October too but this will apply to 770,000 pensioners and not to all two million of them.
In its main story Capital Weekly analyzes the anti-crisis package unveiled by the government on Wednesday. The package of 11 measures is worth two million leva. According to Finance Minister Assen Vassilev the money will come from increased budget revenues. In the beginning of the week the government presented an energy package for businesses too with companies set to receive much higher compensation compared with previous months. The package will cost 300-400 million leva monthly.
According to the author, the final result is a mixture of populism, awkward attempts at targeted support for the most vulnerable social groups and ideas for reduction of the administrative burden on businesses. The measures certainly won’t decrease inflation and if economy books are to be believed some will drive it up. They won’t support the poorest households either because they are proportionate and households with high incomes and consumption will receive more compared with those with lower salaries. However, they will inflate budget expenditures in the long run and will draw away the country from its goal to adopt the euro in 2024.
In a similar vein an analysis in Sega calls the measures "an utter chaos". The package does not take into consideration the warnings of experts not to take action which will promote inflation but to focus on measures for those who are worst affected.
On the morning show of bTV former labour minister Ivailo Kalfin said that a lower VAT rate won't drive prices down. According to him, the incumbent should say why inflation in Bulgaria is double the average EU rate of 7%. Kalfin said that this was due to accumulation of economic policies in Bulgaria. "Inflation is very dangerous for a country which has a currency board, as it can't be compensated by the rate between the lev and the euro as it is fixed. This means that the Bulgarian economy will become less competitive," said Kalfin. Of the entry to the eurozone Kalfin said that this should happen when the Bulgarian economy and incomes are close to those in the countries in the eurozone.
Speaking on the morning show of Nova TV former economy minister Nikola Yankov expressed hope that the measures will be fine-tuned and focused on people who really need assistance. Martin Vladimirov, energy expert with the Centre for the Study of Democracy, said that all EU countries are implementing measures especially in the energy sector through social transfers unlike in Bulgaria.
According to Vladimirov for years on end Bulgaria has refused to define energy poverty. He said that currently, the social allowances for the energy poor apply to less than 1% of the vulnerable groups.
"This is a deliberate decision to avoid a social conflict," he said. Vldadimirov was categorical that Europe is not implementing the measures announced in Bulgaria.
Trud writes that the Inspectorate of the Culture Ministry has fined Parliament for installing metal bars on the inside of the central entrance to the building. GERB MP Lyuben Dilov recalled that the building is a cultural heritage landmark. The administration of the National Assembly said earlier that the bars had been installed over the weekend and the addition had been approved by the Culture Ministry. National Assembly Chair Nikola Minchev said that the bars had been installed at the request of the National Protection Service after January when protesters tried to break into the building.
Trud quotes Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) leader Mustafa Karadyi as saying said his party is ready for early elections. Karadyai said: "Bulgaria needs a Euro-Atlantic government." He spoke at a rally in Dzhebel, which marked the protests in 1989 against the forcible assimilation of Bulgarian Turks.
Duma writes that the US-owned ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 thermal power plant has a new owner, who has investments in Vivacom and Nova TV. The KKR Fund which has shares in Vivacom's owner United Group will acquire ContourGlobal for 2.16 billion dollars. Contour Global purchased the thermal power plant from Italy's Enel in 2011. The plant generated 13% of Bulgaria's total electricity production in the first quarter of 2022.
In an interview for the Bulgarian National Television Azerbaijan Ambassador here Hussein Husseinov said that his country has deposits of natural gas which are enough to cover domestic demand and exports for the next 100 years. The diplomat said that Azerbaijan plans to follow its energy strategy as it does not consider itself a competitor of the large energy players and the idea is to support energy diversification, but it is ready to increase production if there is demand. Azerbaijan has built five large gas pipeline to the European market, which for the moment ae enough for the deliveries of Azeri gas to Europe.
ROAD CONSTRUCTION - HAULIERS
24 Chasa quotes Regional Development Grozdan Karadzhov who confirmed to journalists on Thursday that no payments have been made for the construction of the Hemus motorway since he has taken office. He was approached in connection with a story in the publication dated from Wednesday that the companies building lots 1 and 3 have almost stopped work, because they are not paid. These lots are different from lots 4 to 9, whose construction can't start because the technical designs and the permits are not ready. The last payment was made on December 20 2021 several days into the tenure of the new government. Karadzhov said that since then no payments have been made as the special account set aside for the construction of the Hemus motorway is empty. It was opened at the end of 2018 and was debited with the surplus revenues in the budget. By mid-2021 it had 497 million leva in it but then caretaker finance minister Assen Vassilev ordered the money to be returned to the state coffers.
Telegraph writes that a meeting between Regional Development Minister Karadzhov, road hauliers and bus carriers on Thursday decided that a working group will look into the proposals of the industry over which two national protests were held. Transport companies want the extension of the national toll system and the higher toll charges to be postponed. However, on Thursday they indicated that they were ready to make concessions.
Duma writes that road hauliers have agreed to pay tolls for second class roads on certain conditions. The industry insists on toll discounts after 3,000 km of mileage each month and wants the toll charge for motorways and first-class roads to remain unchanged by the end of the year as an anti-crisis measure.
On the morning show of the Bulgarian National Television Confederation of Bus Carriers President Magdalena Miltenova said that with regard to the toll system transport companies want the coalition agreement to be observed. Miltenova said: "The coalition agreement stipulates that only second-class roads along international corridors will be told. We accept this but we can't accept the proposal that all second-class roads will be tolled as this affect bus transport to a very large extent."
Duma writes that the Italian town of Borgo Vercelli will name a street after Bulgarian poet and revolutionary Peyo Yavorov. The initiative for the cultural exchange between the Italian town and the Bulgarian town of Chirpan belongs to the Bulgarian General Consulate in Milan. In exchange a square in Chirpan will receive the name Borgo Vercelli. In front of the castle Castello Bulgaro a tree symbolizing the friendship between Italy and Bulgaria was inaugurated. According to Italian historical records a noble Bulgarian family, started by Oglerio de Bulgaro, lived in the Middle Ages there.