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News from Bulgaria / Feb 21, 96

From: bulgaria@access1.digex.net (Embassy of Bulgaria)

Bulgarian Telegraph Agency Directory

EMBASSY OF THE REPUBLIC OF BULGARIA - WASHINGTON D.C.

BTA - BULGARIAN TELEGRAPH AGENCY

21 February, 1996


CONTENTS

  • [01] WORLD BANK TO FLOAT LOAN IF THERE IS POLITICAL CONSENSUS ON THE GOVRERNMENT PROGRAMME

  • [02] PRESIDENT'S OFFICE RECOMMENDS MEASURES FOR REHABILITATION OF THE MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX

  • [03] BULGARIAN OFFICIALS BACK FROM MEETING OF DUTCH GROUP

  • [04] TWO-DAY BULGARIAN-FRENCH ECONOMIC MEETING

  • [05] BELARUS P.M. MIHAIL CHIGIR IN SOFIA

  • [06] BTA, TANJUG TO COOPERATE

  • [07] BRUSSELS MINISTER OF ECONOMICS IN SOFIA

  • [08] PODKREPA MINERS TO STRIKE

  • [09] BULGARIAN ARTIST STAGES EXHIBITION AT COUNCIL OF EUROPE


  • [01] WORLD BANK TO FLOAT LOAN IF THERE IS POLITICAL CONSENSUS ON THE GOVRERNMENT PROGRAMME

    Sofia, February 20 (Alexander Kirov of BTA) - Bulgaria will get a loan to support its balance of payments if political consensus is reached on the Government's economic programme, World Bank Resident Representative Alberto R. Musalem told a news conference today. He said that during its recent visit to Bulgaria the World Bank mission had restricted itself to reviewing the Government's programme and did not discuss the specific parameters of the financial and enterprise sector adjustment loan (FESAL) and the structural adjustment loan (SAL) expected to be floated in 1996.

    The World Bank loans to Bulgaria can be divided into three groups: effective loans, loans on which agreements were signed but have not been ratified by the Bulgarian Parliament and loans which are yet to be negotiated.

    Bulgaria has received in full the following effective loans: the 250 million dollars SAL for 1991-1994 and the debt and debt service reduction loan (DDSR) of 125 million dollars for October 1994 - August 1995. It is receiving funds under the technical assistance loan (TAL) and the Telecommunication loan. The Energy I project, totalling 93 million dollars and signed for the period August 1993 December 1997 is also effective. Eleven million dollars of it were actually utilized in 1995, though one of the World Bank's conditions was that the Government increase electricity prices to a level that would enable the National Electric Company to operate a stable power system and pay off its debts.

    The water companies restructuring and modernization loan agreement was signed in May 1993 but Parliament has not ratified it yet. The 98 million dollars loan is intended for the period October 1995 - June 2002.

    The World Bank approved the granting of another two loans which Bulgaria has not signed: a railways rehabilitation loan of 95 million dollars and a health sector restructuring loan of 35 million dollars.

    The total funding Bulgaria got from the World Bank in 1991 - 1995 amounts to 718 million dollars. Another 308 million are yet to be floated. Four million dollars have already been received for 1996.

    Besides FESAL and SAL-2, there are plans to grant loans for social insurance, environmental protection and education.

    I am optimistic and I believe that FESAL and SAL-2 will be finalized in June 1996, but it is important for the Bank to support an efficient economic programme, Mr Musalem said. The World Bank mission approved part of the Bulgarian Government programme which provides for reform in the financial sector and the carrying out of mass privatization, Mr Musalem said.

    For the further progress of negotiations, the World Bank recommends that the Bulgarian Government apply measures to rehabilitate the banking system and minimize losses incurred by state- owned enterprises. The World Bank analysed 1992 - 1994 data showing that the losses of 75 large state enterprises and companies losses represent about 20 percent of the country's gross domestic product in the period under review.

    The World Bank will specify the amount of the two loans and the time they will be floated only when the Bulgarian Government copes with those problems, Mr Musalem said. According to him, if the Government succeeds to implement the measures mapped out in its programme, Bulgaria will get the loans before the end of 1996.

    [02] PRESIDENT'S OFFICE RECOMMENDS MEASURES FOR REHABILITATION OF THE MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX

    Sofia, February 20 (BTA) - President Zhelyu Zhelev met today with CEOs of units of the military-industrial complex to propose measures for rehabilitation of this sector, said Boyan Slavenkov, economic advisor to the President. The specific proposals were not disclosed to journalists. They will be formulated and submitted at a sitting of the Consultative Council on National Security the President is planning to call soon to discuss the problems facing the military-industrial complex (MIC).

    The President's office will draw up a package of recommendations to be brought to the attention of the executive and the trade unions, Slavenkov also said. President Zhelev made a commitment to that effect at a meeting with labour activists in the MIC affiliated with the Confederation of the Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria.

    At today's meeting the CEOs briefed the President, who is also Bulgarian Supreme Commander-in-Chief under the Constitution, on the condition of the MIC and their ideas for its rehabilitation. They submitted documents connected with the situation in the Bulgarian defence industry.

    Our main idea for rehabilitation of this sector is that all competent state institutions pull efforts and then everything will come in place, said Major General Dragomir Ivanov who heads the MIC technical section. He said that another priority is to recapture the markets for special products.

    This view is fully shared by Ivan Stoyanov, Executive Director of Aerogrom - Consortium, who said the crisis in the MIC can be overcome only through regaining the lost positions on the market for special products.

    [03] BULGARIAN OFFICIALS BACK FROM MEETING OF DUTCH GROUP

    Sofia, February 20 (BTA) - The Bulgarian initiative to have the programmes of the international financial institutions directed to the Balkans as a whole rather than to specific countries was met with understanding by the representatives of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, Bulgarian Finance Minister Dimiter Kostov told journalists upon his return from Israel today. The Finance Minister together with central bank Governor Lyubomir Filipov and Vice Governor Mileti Mladenov were in Israel for the annual meeting of the IMF Dutch Group that includes Bulgaria.

    This initiative seeks not only to overcome the consequences of the Yugoembargo, but to provide preconditions for an economic advancement of the whole region, said the Finance Minister. The World Bank is ready to provide financing for urgent infrastructure projects.

    The budget will continue to aid the restrictive policy of the central bank, Kostov said answering a journalist's question about the tension on the interbank forex market in Sofia last week. According to him, it is cheaper for the state to provide compensation for small depositors than keep banks in liquidity crisis. The government is due to discuss a bankruptcy bill by the end of the week.

    [04] TWO-DAY BULGARIAN-FRENCH ECONOMIC MEETING

    Sofia, February 20 (BTA) - A two-day Bulgarian-French economic meeting opened today, the press office of the Council of Ministers said. At its first session deputy ministers of economic development, industry, finance, trade and foreign economic cooperation, construction, transport and the environment conferred with representatives of eleven major French companies visiting here. This is the first visit by a large group of representatives of leading French companies here aimed at activating bilateral economic cooperation.

    Each company presented its line of business, the size of its overseas investment and its views on future cooperation with Bulgarian enterprises.

    The main purpose of the two-day meeting is to discuss possibilities for major investment projects in power engineering, transport, industry and infrastructure. It is organized with the assistance of the Foreign Investment Agency with the Ministry of Economic Development and the French SISIE organization, the press release says, without providing further details.

    [05] BELARUS P.M. MIHAIL CHIGIR IN SOFIA

    Sofia, February 20 (BTA) - Belarus Prime Minister Mikhail Chigir today arrived on a two-day official visit here at the invitation of Bulgarian Prime Minister Zhan Videnov.

    "I have no doubts that my visit will be successful, and the negotiations will go beyond the framework of bilateral agreements to be discussed and signed," Chigir said upon his arrival at Sofia Airport. He said a major task to the Belarus delegation was the restoration of traditionally close relations between the two countries, not only in the economy but also in culture, science and other fields.

    "There are many untapped opportunities in bilateral relations," Prime Minister Videnov said. He expressed his conviction the agreements to be signed tomorrow will help put bilateral relations on a new, modern footing.

    Bilateral talks will focus on economic cooperation which is obvious from the composition of the Belarus delegation which includes the ministers of agriculture and supplies and forestry, deputy ministers of foreign affairs, foreign economic relations, industry and aviation, experts and business people.

    The two delegations will not sign an agreement on air services, expected to be included in the package of intergovernmental documents subject to signing, it became known after a joint session of the two government delegations. The agreement will be further specified and signed later, Chigir said. "At present economic cooperation does not correspond to the level of understanding between our two peoples and our delegation will seek to mend this discrepancy," Belarus Prime Minister Chigir said after the talks.

    "We outlined the possibilities for a rapid development of bilateral relations in different spheres on the basis of traditional friendship and our common views on the development of the two countries and regions in the all-European process," Bulgarian Prime Minister Videnov said after the meeting. He spoke of the great interest shown in the development of contacts between the separate ministries which will also sign agreements for cooperation. These will complement the existing basis for developing bilateral relations. So far the two countries have signed a Treaty for Friendly Relations and Cooperation and agreements for cooperation between the interior, defence and environment ministries. The new agreements are expected to contribute to promoting economic cooperation between the two countries which has been on the decline over the past few years. By the end of November 1995 commercial exchange between Bulgaria and Belarus totalled USD 33.3 million, Bulgaria running a USD 6.1 million surplus.

    Later today Chigir will also meet and confer with National Assembly Chairman Blagovest Sendov.

    The Belarus Prime Minister laid a wreath at the grave of the Unknown Soldier and visited the St Alexander Nevski Cathedral.

    Tomorrow the two delegations will hold their final talks which will be followed by the signing of intergovernmental and interdepartmental documents as well as by a meeting between the Belarus Prime Minister and President Zhelev.

    While the two delegations were holding official talks, Mrs Chigir visited one of Bulgaria's most renowned fashion houses - "Rila Style" and saw its new collection. Last autumn "Rila Style" presented its collection at the autumn-winter ready-to-wear fashion show in Paris where some of its designs were quite a success.

    [06] BTA, TANJUG TO COOPERATE

    Sofia, February 20 (BTA) - BTA and TANJUG will upgrade the communication channels along which they exchange information. The two largest news agencies on the Balkan Peninsula will insist before the competent authorities of Bulgaria and the FR of Yugoslavia on the speeding up the laying of the optical cable linking Sofia and Belgrade, according to a cooperation protocol signed by BTA Director General Milen Vulkov and TANJUG Director General Slobodan Jovanovic today.

    The two news agencies will undertake measures for upgrading communications between them within the framework of the Association of Balkan News Agencies (ABNA). The two agencies will also study possibilities for launching joint economic publications and economic services. BTA and TANJUG will cooperate in building an efficient communication ring between the Balkan agencies within the framework of the ABNA.

    "An optical cable between Sofia and Belgrade will not serve BTA and TANJUG alone, it will be a link with Europe," BTA Director General Vulkov said. "Its laying will be a step towards establishing a Balkan information pool as part of the European information pool," Vulkov added.

    "This agreement is a contribution to Balkan cooperation and will be instrumental to turning the Balkans into a zone of economic prosperity, it is also a model of cooperation for the other news agencies in the region," TANJUG Director General Jovanovic said.

    [07] BRUSSELS MINISTER OF ECONOMICS IN SOFIA

    Sofia, February 20 (BTA) - The role of regional cooperation in Europe was one of the subjects discussed today by Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski and Brussels Minister of Economics, Finance, Budget, Health and Foreign Affairs Jos Schaber, who arrived here on Monday at the invitation of Mayor Stefan Sofiyanski.

    The guest said he was ready to help implement integration and PHARE programmes for Sofia and the Sofia region, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Pantelei Karasimeonov said. Schaber suggested that Brussels and Sofia-based companies take part jointly in the reconstruction of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

    Pirinski underlined the importance of solving infrastructure problems in the Balkans as part of Bulgaria's integration into the European Union.

    The sides agreed that regional cooperation and expanding border contacts could parallel the integration process.

    Earlier today Schaber had a conversation with Sofia Mayor Sofiyanski and councillors at the City Hall.

    "Brussels, which is Europe's capital, will help modernize Sofia transport," Schaber told the press after the meeting.

    The city council familiarized Schaber with five projects for transport restructuring in Sofia, drawn up jointly by the city council and the Belgian firm Trans-Europe. Three of them got high marks from the PHARE programme. ECU 1.9 million is expected in financial assistance for their implementation. Schaber pledged his support for the other two projects, City Council Spokeswoman Tsvetina Bozhinova told BTA. He said Belgian contractors would invest in large construction projects in Sofia.

    On Tuesday and Wednesday Belgian and Bulgarian experts will be considering projects for investment in health care, transport and security.

    The visit by the Belgian minister is made under a 1993 cooperation agreement between Sofia and Brussels.

    [08] PODKREPA MINERS TO STRIKE

    Sofia, February 20 (BTA) - Coalmining in Bulgaria is in a critical condition, representatives of the Miners' Federation affiliated with Podkrepa, one of this country's most influential trade unions, told a news conference today. Low wages and bad working conditions will inevitably lead to industrial action, said Miners' Federation President Alexander Zagorov.

    The eleven national mining companies posted losses of 2,000 million leva in 1995. Only Maritsa-Iztok (Southern Bulgaria) was profitable. Subsidies are paid partially and irregularly. In 1996, 70 per cent of the budgeted sum will be paid out, Zagorov said. The National Electric Company owes over 4,700 million leva for coal supplies (the dollar is quoted close to 75 leva).

    Miners earned between 9,000 and 11,000 leva a month in 1995, which is not enough according to Podkrepa. The average monthly wage now is 8,500 leva. Financial sector employees get some of the highest salaries at 13,500 leva.

    In 1995 coal output reached 30.8 million tonnes, up 7 per cent from 1994 when it was 28.7 million tonnes, "Douma" wrote last month. Still, the coal industry will remain a loss-maker in 1996, said a recent review in "Demokratsiya".

    Last September the Federation of Miners' Independent Trade Unions with the other influential union, the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions, approved a protest note criticizing a government draft strategy for the energy industry until the year 2012. It envisages the closure of six deep mines and of Bulgaria's only briquette factory. This would leave 12,300 miners out of work and cause job losses in the service sector in miners' towns. Also in September miners affiliated to the Podkrepa trade union protested against government plans which, according to them, would put an end to coalmining in Bulgaria.

    [09] BULGARIAN ARTIST STAGES EXHIBITION AT COUNCIL OF EUROPE

    Sofia, February 20 (BTA) - Boyan Kirkov is the first Bulgarian artist staging a one-man show at the Council of Europe's headquarters in Strasbourg. His paintings will be exhibited during the session of the European Parliament.

    According to art critics, Kirkov's paintings make space vibrate with music, provoke the imagination with the mysterious magic of their representations and take viewers to a different and wonderful world. The artist's multilayer paintings are made on wood. Their autumn colours are in conflict with time and go far beyond its limits, Kirkov's colleagues say.

    Boyan Kirkov was born in Sofia in 1965. He is not popular in Bulgaria because he has been living abroad for many years. Graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts in monumental painting, he specialized in St Petersburg. He had one-man shows in Denmark and France and submitted paintings for a number of exhibitions in Japan, Germany, Belgium and the Commonwealth of Independent States. Boyan Kirkov made his debut in Bulgaria with an exhibition put on at the Sofia Press Agency coffee club.

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