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Wednesday, 30 December 2009

The taxman cometh....


NRA Director: 21 Bulgaria Music Stars Guilty of Tax Evasion

Society
The Executive Director of Bulgaria’s National Revenue Agency (NRA), Krasimir Stefanov, has stated that 21 top Bulgarian musicians have been found to have discrepancies between declared income and their assets.
Of the 37 pop-folk and pop singers investigated by the NRA in December, 21 were revealed to have a discrepancy declared income and their assets. One unnamed singer is reported to have not declared any income while owning a property worth BGN 200 000.
Stefanov said that the aims of the ongoing investigations, “which do not immediately mean that the investigated people are guilty of any offense”, were to show Bulgarian society what harm undeclared taxes do. He said that after the recent investigation into Bentley owners an extra BGN 16 M had been added to the state budget. He also added that the aim of the investigation was not to throw a lot of people in jail.
Regarding the ongoing NRA investigation into a total of 261 Bulgarian top flight football players, Stefanov concluded that it was ridiculous that some of them declared a yearly income of BGN 3000. He added; “I hope that they will declare the loans from friends. I hope that public figures understand that if they want to live in this country they should pay their taxes.”

Friday, 11 December 2009

Again Strange but allegedly true !

BULGARIAN SWAPS 'ORIGINAL' MONET PAINTING FOR 2 TRACTOR LOAN
A painting alleged to be that of legendary French impressionist Claude Monet has been sold in Bulgaria for almost BGN 13 M after being put down as collateral for a USD 319 000 loan for two tractors.
Chude Georgiev, the original owner of the painting, stated that it is certainly authentic and worth EUR 24 M, but according to bank experts and a private bailiff it is fake and probably worth BGN 5000. The case is currently being dealt with in the Sofia City Court and the Supreme Cassation Prosecutor's Office.
At an auction Thursday morning, the private bailiff Stoyan Yakomov, sold the painting for BGN 12,8 M to one of nine private buyers. The painting was given as collateral by Georgiev for a loan from First Investment bank to his friend Alexander Dimitrov. Dimitrov later bought two brand new tractors with the loan. (Georgiev is the leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Workers Party, which has participated several times in local and parliamentary elections and Dimitrov is a close friend of the Communist Finance - Belcho Belchev.)
Georgiev allegedly received the painting from his grandfather, a merchant from Vratsa. Much later he said that he realized that it was from the early period of Monet an took it to be certified. According to him, it was investigated by Western experts, who confirmed that the painting was an original Monet, and invented a name for it: ‘Walk in the mansion’. Georgiev then insured it with DZI for USD 8 M and for the same sum with British insurance company Lloyd's.
Georgiev also said that the Christie's auction house told him that the price of the painting is between USD 15-24. Bulgarian experts, however, including the director of the National Art Gallery Boris Danailov, are explicit that it is fake. They say that the canvas itself is produced in the Soviet Union 50-years ago, and gave it a market price of USD 5000 .
After Thursday’s auction Georgiev, who will receive most of the money from the sale, launched a case in the Supreme Cassation Prosecution he argues that Yakimov is working jointly with First Investment Bank and that the bidder is connected to them. He stated that they will then sell it on for a much higher price to “Western” art lovers. He had also previously tried to stop the auction taking place but failed.
Another theory is that Georgiev is connected to the unnamed bidder who has not yet officially paid the sum over to the bank, and therefore the false price would have stopped the auction. Georgiev is also thought to have recently found a buyer in France who wants to pay him EUR 7 M for the painting.

Overview

Dear Readers,

There are lots of posts I could have put on here regarding such things as the appointment of Rumiana Juleeva as Bulgaria's new EU Commissioner, the latest shennanigans in parliament,and further dire economic news, but I will confine myself to one piece of economic news that is just emerging.It appears that while Bulgaria is one of the worst affected economies there appear to be signs that a turnaround will happen next year.

Now please bear in mind that recovery is a slow as turning round an ocean liner (there were still over 7 million unemployed in the US in December 1941), but since this recession is basically created by disappearing credit, and therefore consumer confidence, it is not the same kettle of fish.

Let us hope so.

Winter is coming !

Its getting cold now, the last few nights and days have been chilly and tomorrow the snow is coming, according to the weather forecast.It appears that we will have a mild winter this year but, unless you love in a centrally heated place or one with air-con, every day the log fire has to be tended to, piled high at night and cleaned out and re-lit each morning.Coming from London this was a bit of a shock to the system, but you get used to the daily ritual plus the power cuts of varying length.Usually in this big village near a power station its only a few minutes or house, I dont envy the poor devils in isolated areas where it is far longer.

A wood supply for the winter is just over 200 pounds.Electric heating is, on the other hand, hideously expensive and bills of 100 pounds A MONTH  can easily be run up.Gas supplies for a gas central heating system are by large bottled gas containers and are about half as expensive as electric heating.

Generally speaking Bulgaria functions well unless there is very heavy snow and then things, inevitably, start to fall apart. Cities and towns get cut off and airports get closed.If anyone is considering travelling here from the end of December till the end of February please bear this in mind.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

ET

BULGARIAN ACADEMY SCIENTISTS REPORTED TO BE IN TOUCH WITH ALIENS

Scientists from the Space Research Institute of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS) have been reported to be in touch with extraterrestrial beings.
The Bulgarian Novinar Daily has reported that the Bulgarian scientists are currently working on deciphering pictograms which are said to have come in the form of the so called “crop circles” with which the aliens answered 30 questions posed by the BAS researchers.
“They are currently all around us, and are watching us all the time. They are not hostile towards us; rather, they want to help us but we have not grown enough in order to establish direct contact with them. They are ready to help us but we don’t know what to request from them in case of contact,” said Lachezar Filipov, Deputy Director of the Space Research Institute of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, as quoted by the Novinar Daily.
Filipov has said that even the Vatican had agreed that aliens existed. In his words, the humans are not going to be able to establish contact with the extraterrestrials through radio waves but through the power of thought.
He has stated that the human race was certainly going to have direct contact with the aliens in the next 10-15 years.
The deputy head of the Bulgarian Space Research Institute has also told the Novinar Daily that the extraterrestrials were critical of the people’s amoral behavior referring to the humans' interference in nature’s processes.
Filipov’s team is reported to be analyzing the 150 new crop circles which appeared around the globe in the past year.
The publication of the Novinar Daily about the BAS researchers communicating with aliens comes in the midst of a controversy over the role, feasibility, and reform of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, which last week even led to the exchange of offensive remarks between Bulgaria's Finance Minister, Simeon Djankov, and President Georgi Parvanov.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

New Mayor in Sofia


Bulgaria's Ruling Party Candidate Fandakova Elected Sofia Mayor in Landslide - Exit Poll


Yordanka Fandakova (left) has been elected to succeed Bulgaria's Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov (right), as the Mayor of the capital Sofia. Fandakova's election is widely believed to have resulted from Borisov's active endorsement. Photo by BGNES

Yordanka Fandakova, the candidate of Bulgaria's ruling party GERB and Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, has been elected the new Mayor of the capital Sofia in Sunday's by-elections.

More information about Yordanka Fandakova is available HERE.

Fandakova, who is currently the Education Minister in the GERB government, has been elected in a landslide, according to the exit poll of Gallup International. In addition to Borisov's GERB, she has also been backed by the nationalist Ataka party and the rightist Blue Coalition.

Despite the record low voter turnout - 21,4%, Fandakova has won in the first round, and so no runoff will be held. The Sofia Mayor by-elections have been widely regarded as a race with clear outcome from the very beginning due to the huge popularity and public support for Prime Minister Borisov and the GERB party.

The first exit poll results show that Fandakova, who is widely seen as a protege of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, has won 65,6% of the cast votes.

Georgi Kadiev, the candidate of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, known as the "red yuppie", who has been seen as Fandakova's only serious competitor, has remained second with 26,5 % of the votes.

All other candidates have received a total of 7,9%.

With her election Sunday, Fandakova has become the first woman to be Mayor of Sofia, a fact described as an advantage by Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov.

The Bulgarian capital Sofia had to hold Mayor by-elections as former Sofia Mayor Boyko Borisov became Prime Minister after his party GERB won overwhelmingly the July 2009 Parliamentary Elections.

Borisov was himself first elected in by-elections in 2005, and then reelected at the regular elections in 2007. Under his administration in 2005-2009, Fandakova served as a Deputy Mayor of Sofia in charge of education, youth, culture, and science. She has been Minister of Education since July 2009.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Theatre news .....

Bulgaria Culture Minister Exposes Huge Draining, 'Turkish Theaters'

Domestic

Bulgaria's Culture Minister, Vezhdi Rashidov, presented Thursday his report for his first 100 days in office, including the results from inspections of the previous administration.

“A lot of money have been siphoned off from the cultural institutions from around the country such as theaters, which had been turned into “gray companies”, Rashidov explained.

A huge number of violations have been uncovered with respect to contracts for the repair of the buildings of cultural institutions, where usually much larger sums were spent than the market value. One example is the repair of the National Art Gallery.

“A donation of EUR 48 000 had been received for the renovation of 300 square meters on the top floor of the gallery. The money was specifically given for that job. In addition, BGN 140 000 were demanded from the Ministry for the same purpose. Our audit showed that BGN 60 000 were enough to get the job done. Where is the other money?” Rashidov said.

Another type of huge violations had to do with the leasing of property of cultural institutions around the country for ridiculously small sums of money.

Grave violations have been uncovered in what Rashidov called “Turkish theaters”, i.e. the theaters in the regions dominated by the ethnic Turkish party DPS (“Movement for Rights and Freedoms”), which was one of the three parties of the former governing coalition.

“For example, in one of those theaters we found that 76 people are on the payroll, that is a huge budget with no income whatsoever. There were only a couple of performances. At the same time, there was an amateur dancing troupe of 25 people whose only function was to dance “kyuchek” (i.e.Turkish belly dancing) upon the arrival of the DPS activists. The director was drunk all the time, and did nothing. He appointed his wife, his son, who is underage, his aunt, and several of his cousins to positions at the theater. What a wild gang, a?” declared Minister Rashidov, who is a renown Bulgarian sculptor of ethnic Turkish origin.

The Chief Secretary of the Culture Ministry, Stoyan Stoyanov, explained that the results from all of the audits carried out in the last three months had already been submitted to the Agency for State Financial Inspection, and from there they would go to the Prosecutor’s Office.

Among the successful projects of his first 100 days in office, Culture Minister Rashidov pointed to the optimization of the staff and the number of institutions within the Ministry, and the adoption of a new Working Rules Statutes.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Bulgaria and the 'fall' of communism

Yesterday was the twentieth anniversary of the collapse of the Communist regime.It was basically an internal coup organised by some communists to preserve their own power.To this day there are major connections between the old communist leadership (and their security apparatus) and politics and big business.
One reason Bulgaria had so many corruption and organised crime problems is the failure to come to terms properly with the communist period and its legacy.

Now finally it appears that the new government may be willing to address these issues and that Bulgaria may be evolving into a modern democracy.

Land Deals and Tax

Bulgaria Makes Bank Payment Mandatory for Real Estate Deals

Properties
Draft amendments to the Notaries Public Act are going to make bank payment mandatory for all real estate property deals in Bulgaria starting January 1, 2010.
The news has been announced by the government press service, which points out that this move is intended to curb money laundering by paying in cash for the purchase of property, and to counter real estate fraud.
The legislative changes will require that both the vendor and the vendee specify their bank accounts for conducting a property deal. Alternatively, they could use the account of their notary public.
The conditions for depositing money into bank accounts as part of the deal will be specified by the respective sides in written agreements.
These legislative changes are seen as the first step to an all-out regulation of payment in purchase deals through a special law to be called Deposit Account Act.

Uncle's comment:It is difficult to know how this will pan out but it basically means more tax as the correct value goes on the title deeds.It will also mean that the statistics for real estate may actually have some meaning.The flip side is that the party is over for tax avoidance.


Saturday, 24 October 2009

Bargains Bargains !

Bulgaria Residential Property Prices Collapse by 28% in 2009 Q3

Properties
The prices of residential property in Bulgaria declined by an average of 28% in the third quarter of 2009 compared to the same period of 2008.
This becomes clear from data released Friday by the National Statistical Institute, which also show that the residential property prices around Bulgaria dropped by 5% in July-September 2009 compared to the second quarter of 2009.
According to the NSI, the average price of one square meter of residential property in Bulgaria in the third quarter of 2009 was BGN 1 021,45. The residential property prices are found to be the highest in the Black Sea city of Varna – BGN 1 770 per square meter, followed by the capital Sofia BGN 1 640,33, and the Black Sea city of Burgas – BGN 1 379,83.
In the third quarter of 2009, the residential property prices in Sofia dropped by 6% compared to the second quarter of 2009. The highest decreases are registered in the northern cities: Montana – 16,3%, Vidin – 10,1%, and Shumen – 10%.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Taxi News

The ongoing saga of over-priced taxis who seduce customers by mimicking other companies’ logos has entered a new stage of arbitration.

The controversy mostly affects new arrivals at Sofia Airport unfamiliar with the feud between longstanding taxi companies and those who imitate their logos and phone numbers but charge extortionate rates. The matter has now gone to court but remains unresolved.

As The Sofia Echo has previously reported, the "victims" are ripped-off clients and - in most cases - OK Supertrans taxi, a reputable company of many years standing that is one of two firms contracted to service the airport.

Some of the companies who imitate OK Supertrans’ logo are OK Superchance and OK Superlux. In one such case, in April this year, experts from the European Anti-Fraud Office (Olaf) fell victim to unfair competition between different firms.

They took a taxi from the airport to central Sofia and were presented with a bill for 102 leva. The average bill should have been no more than 20 leva. OK Supertrans responded by alerting the Protection of Competition Committee (PCC) while clients chose to complain to the Consumer Protection Committee (CPC). As a consequence the PCC repeatedly imposed fines of hundreds of thousands of leva on the grounds of unfair competition. By contesting the fines in court, however, the "impostor" companies have managed to survive.

All taxi drivers in Bulgaria are entitled to charge any price they choose. Besides having their registration papers in order, they only have to display the tariff prominently on the vehicle. Unfortunately, by imitating other companies’ logos such drivers rely on unsuspecting passengers climbing into their taxis.

By the time the customer realises the scam, the bill is already high and the driver is fully entitled to demand payment. Protests about the logo resembling that of other firms are then a matter for the PCC and the CPC.

After extensive media coverage the issue reached boiling point in mid-October when the two organisations who claim to represent the taxi business held a meeting with the Transport Ministry. On one side was the recently-founded National Federation of Taxi Drivers in Bulgaria (NFTDB). Its chairperson is Yane Yankov, also head of OK Superlux, the firm fined 150 000 leva by the PCC for mimicking OK Supertrans’ logo. On the other side was the National Union of Private Carriers (NUPC), representing some of Sofia’s large taxi firms.

Both organisations asked the Transport Ministry to deal with the issue by changing the law. NFTDB demanded that every municipality should have the right to set one unified price for taxi companies in its region. The Transport Ministry and the NUPC, however, suggested that municipalities should be given the right to impose the maximum fare that cab companies would be allowed to charge. This, according to the ministry, would clamp down on cab drivers preying on unwitting foreigners and absent-minded customers.

Yankov responded with a news conference in which he accused the ministry of supporting the business of NUPC members. He asked for the resignation of the Ministry’s Car Administration Executive Agency head, Lyubomir Hristov and argued that rather than having maximum fares imposed on them, firms should be allowed to charge high prices as long as their cabs are painted in different colours so that clients can distinguish between rivals. The issue is yet to be resolved in Parliament.

Uncles Comment: If you go to Sofia airport, come out of the arrivals area and there is a taxi office for the proper company by the exit, they will take all your details and give you your drivers number and the taxi reg. number which will be waiting outside.
I dont understand why there is no mention of Varna airport where every taxi is a bandit, typically 160lv to Albena !. 

Lots of good news from Easyjet

Wonderful set of news from Easyjet.From November 2009 there will be flights from Manchester to Sofia three times a week.This is great news for Northerners who are a bit cut off from Bulgaria at the minute facing lots of stupid changes.

From January 2010 an Easyhotel will open in Sofia prices are from 10 Euro's a night.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Sofia property news

Sofia Residential Property Prices Drop by 16% in 2009 3rd Quarter

Properties
The residential property prices in the Bulgarian capital Sofia have dropped by 16% in the third quarter of 2009 compared to the same period of 2008.
This has become clear from the new index of Raiffeisen Real Estate, which uses its own research, and official data from the National Statistical Institute, the National Real Estate Association, and other market sources.
The index, which had reached 177 points in the third quarter of 2008, is now down to 152 points. The residential property prices in Sofia are back to their levels from the end of 2007, and the beginning of 2008.
The Raiffeisen Real Estate index shows that the commercial property (offices, stores, storage space) prices have declined by 26% year-on-year; they reached their peak in the fourth quarter of 2008.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

On the Buses

The Sofia police are on the lookout for a man who fired a gun inside a public transportation bus in Sofia Sunday night.

According to information from the Interior Ministry's press center, a man had entered in an altercation with the driver of bus 76, broke the glass of the driver's cabin with the handle of a gun and fired a shot in the air before leaving the vehicle.

The incident happened around 9:30 pm in the Sofia “Mladost 4” district. Witnesses say the scandal began as the bus was departing from the stop in front of the “Pliska” hotel, on Sofia's main thoroughfare “Tsarigradsko Shosse.” The man, about 35-years of age, got enraged when the driver closed the doors without waiting for all passengers to board the bus. During the entire trip to “Mladost 4,” the man, who witnesses say spoke Russian, and his wife took turns to argue with the driver and yell at him. The man fired the gun before leaving the bus.

A similar incident happened in Sofia in February when shots were fired at a bus in the “Lyulin” district. Four windows on the side of the bus were broken, but there were no injured passengers.

Varna airport news

Just had a cursory check on Varna airports website.Interestingly there are now regular flights to both Moscow and Istanbul throughout the winter.Encouraging signs !.

Weather update

Weird weather has arrived in Bulgaria.We have had days of wet, cold 'Vremeto' and now it's going to be 20c and sunny, even hotter down Plovdiv way.October is always odd climate wise, and obviuosly 2009 is no exception.
The foreecast for the rest of the week is the same.

Friday, 16 October 2009

I told you so

FINANCE MINISTER: BULGARIA'S ENERGY POLICY HAS SERVED RUSSIA

Bulgaria's energy policy has so far followed the "anything Russia wants" principle, Finance Minister Simeon Djankov said.

During a meeting with local businessmen in the southern city of Smolyan Thursday night, Djankov pointed out Bulgaria’s energy policy under the previous government had been guided by a small group of party functionaries connected with pro-Russian interests.

The Finance Minister believes the idea to build the Belene Nuclear Power Plant has been launched without any economic analysis. In his words, a thorough analysis would show Bulgaria does not need the Belene plant.

“Even if this project is economically sound, it is unclear how it will be funded especially during the present crisis. The idea to construct such an enormous facility in order to export electricity is not serious. Even if it is built, there is not enough demand for electricity, especially abroad,” Djankov said as quoted by BTA.

“In my view, the Belene idea has been connected with attempts to steal as much money as possible while claiming that this project is under way,” said Djankov.

He also stated that if someone wanted to build the Belene NPP, the Bulgarian government would regulate the process but it would not participate with any guarantees as the previous government intended to do.

Property purchase tax up

It has been announced that state property putchase tax will rise from 2.5 to 3%, this will bring total cost of buying to 6.5% of the price on the Notary Act.The increase is optional for the Local Authorities some of whom are concerned that the increase may lead to attempts at fraud to keep the bills down.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Footie News

Having put on a truly shambolic display in losing 4-1 to Cyprus (only the Greek bit) in Larnaca, the Bulgarian national side have demolished Georgia 6-2 !.Am I alone in finding this rather iffy ?.All the goals bar one were scored in the first half...as a Bulgarian said to me 'someone paid for that'

'Red' Diesel comes to BG

To my astonishment the government has only just realised that there could be an illegal market in cheaper agricultural diesel and propose to 'colour' it. This has been standard in the UK for years.Still I suppose it's progress !.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Cold Snap Coming

Summer is officially over on Wednesday. Temperatures are set to fall by around ten degrees in daytime, and as low as 4c at night.Its time to light the fire and think of hibernation.We have had quite a good run for our money this year and October/November are generally pretty good.
In my experience around Christmas Eve is when winter really starts and the snow comes.

Value in Skiing

The UK's Daily Mail, citing a survey by the Post Office, is advising British skiers to head for Eastern Europe this winter for the best deals on the slopes, although skiers are warned that even prices in traditionally cheap ski resorts have jumped.

The same survey cites the Bulgarian resort of Borovets as offering the second best value for money after Romania's Poiana Brasov ski resort, although, significantly, whereas the Romanian resort cited had only increased in price by four per cent overall on last year, Borovets had increased by 14 per cent.

Top-value ski destinations cited are are Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Slovenia in that order, according to the survey.

Including basic week-long costs such as equipment hire, lift passes, meals and drinks, Romania's Poiana Brasov ski resort offered the best value at 195.76 pounds sterling.

Borovets in Bulgaria (250.87 pounds sterling) was the next-best resort in terms of value for money, with High Tatras in Slovakia third (264.97 pounds).

In contrast, Banff in Canada had costs of 429.06 pounds and Verbier in Switzerland was 422.21 pounds.

The Daily Mail quotes Post Office head of travel services Sarah Munro: "It is worth comparing the prices of ski equipment hire and lift passes in different resorts as these can make a big difference to the overall cost of a ski holiday...While bargain-hunters will still find the lowest prices in Romania and Bulgaria, price should not be the only issue when planning a ski holiday. It's important to choose a resort that matches your ability and expectations."

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Nothing left in the cupboard

Bulgaria Ministers Reveal Huge Deficits Left by Former Govt

Domestic

Bulgaria’s Ministers revealed Sunday night the large-scale deficits that their Ministries were facing which they said have resulted from the actions and abuses of their predecessors.

The Bulgarian government held a 3,5-hour working meeting Sunday in order to consider the draft of the 2010 State Budget.

Bulgaria’s Labor Minister, Totyu Mladenov, said the previous administration committed abuses with BGN 7,4 M which had been destined for disabled people. In his words, 87% of the Ministry’s 2009 have been spent already, and it already has a deficit of BGN 97 M, and will end 2009 with a deficit of BGN 385 M.

Agriculture Minister Miroslav Naydenov announced the situation at his institution was really grave as the former administration had signed framework agreements for agricultural payments and subsidies worth BGN 18 M but the Ministry did not have the money in its account. On top of that, starting December 1, 2009, the Ministry is supposed to start paying out subsidies to farmers worth about BGN 211 M. Naydenov said it would be hard for the government to find the money but that it would manage to do so.

Foreign Minister Rumiana Jeleva (who is nominated to become Bulgaria’s new EU Commissioner) said the financial situation of her institution was bad. She said she terminated all privileges that top diplomats received through the Diplomatic Club of the Foreign Ministry including health procedures of former EU Affairs Minister, Gergana Passy, Ambassador to Slovenia (and brother of new UNESCO head Irina Bokova) Filip Bokov, and a list of 36 other names.

Environment Minister Nona Karadzhova said the previous administration of her Ministry had spent over BGN 1 B on projects that were “neither environmental, nor socially responsible”. In her words, this money could have been used to build waste depots for whose lack Bulgaria is about to be penalized by the European Commission.

Bulgaria’s Regional Development Minister, Rosen Plevneliev, announced his Ministry faced a deficit of BGN 350 M. The Ministry owes BGN 200 M to municipal authorities under contracts which the previous government has made without having the necessary funds.

“The Culture Ministry has money only for salaries, and will not be able to carry out any activities and projects by the end of the year. The Ministry has been used as a source of government jobs for party functionaries,” Culture Minister Vezhdi Rashidov said.

Justice Minister Margarita Popova said that in the current situation she would have to lay off about 1 000 people in order to save enough money; at the same time, however, her institution employs only 272 people.

Bulgaria’s Health Minister, Bozhidar Nanev, said his team had uncovered cases in which hospital directors literally stole money, and that they would be referred to the Prosecutor’s Office.

The Sports Ministry, which is a descendant of the State Agency for Youth and Sports, faces a deficit of BGN 1,6 M. The Defense Ministry, however, faces an estimated deficit of BGN 350 M.

"If the Socialists are let in the desert, there will be a deficit of sand there," Defense Minister Nikolay Mladenov said regarding the previous government of Socialist Sergey Stanishev.

Mladenov said on October 31, 2009, his Ministry had to make a payment of BGN 19,55 M to Belgium for the purchase of a second-hand frigate. At the same time, however, the Defense Ministry had only BGN 1 000 left in its account.

As an example of the violations of the former administration, Mladenov revealed a deal for the sale of real estate property of the military plant Terem Jsc worth BGN 50 M, of which the Ministry was supposed to received BGN 20 M but in fact got only BGN 5 000.

Transport Minister Alexander Tsvetkov said the situation at the state-owned railway companies BDZ and NKZI was extremely bad; BDZ already has owes BGN 154 M to creditors, and the combined deficit of the two companies is going to reach BGN 489 M by the end of 2009.

Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov announced a deficit of BGN 58 M. He said there would be no layoffs in his institution but the 3 000 vacancies for policemen and other staff would not be filled as the Ministry could not afford it.

Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said his predecessor Socialist Sergey Stanishev should be ashamed of what he had caused to Bulgaria. He invited Stanishev and all former Ministers to a debate in the Parliament in order to explain how they left their institutions with such deficits.

'Turkish toilet' man stays banned

Bulgaria must learn a lesson from the whole case with Czech artist David Cerny and his exhibit Entropa.

This is the opinion of Bulgarian Culture Minister, sculptor Vezhdi Rashidov, who also thinks no one has the right to hinder the creative impulses of an artist.

“The Czech artist actually did his job very well, and managed to provoke the mind of many people. This is actually the essence of the so called “action art”,” Rashidov said commenting on Cerny’s decision to give up his planned visit to Bulgaria after the Mayor of the city of Plovdiv prevented his works from being exhibited in a municipality-owned gallery.

Cerny became a controversial figure in Bulgaria with his exhibit Entropa opened at the European Commission building in Brussels in January 2009, where Bulgaria was portrayed as a squat toilet.

Rashidov called upon everyone to start contemplating why foreign artists see Bulgaria in such a way before making any rash decisions.

“We should not really have made noise over the way he portrayed us in Brussels. We should have started to think why he did that,” the Culture Minister said during the Golden Chest movie festival in the city of Plovdiv which wrapped up Saturday. Rashidov is the author of the statuette which is handed as award at the festival.

Uncle's comment: 20 years after the fall of communism it is obvious that some people still do not get the idea of free speech and expression.Voltaire said once to an opponent 'I object to what you say but I defend to the death your right to say it'. The Mayor of Plovdiv and other so called 'nationalists' should remember this !.


World Cup Footie News-Bulgaria

Bulgaria gave up hope they can keep alive chances of making the playoffs after a humiliating, crushing and unexpected defeat by Cyprus on Saturday.

With the Bulgarian defense virtually non-existent, Constantinos Haralambides from the team of Cyprus made good use of its naïve mistake and scored two goals – in the 12th and 20th minute of the first half of the match.

These were followed by another couple of goals in the second half of the match, scored by Michalis Konstantinou and Alunescu.

Dimitar Berbatov, captain of the Bulgarian team, made an attempt to revive the hopes of the 2,500 Bulgarian fans present at the Antonis Papadopoulos Stadium in Larnaca, with a wonderful strike into the net of the Cyprus team in the last minute before the break.

“We played very poorly. I hope that we will have learned a lesson today,” said striker Valeri Bojinov after the match.

Italy lead European qualifying Group Eight with 20 points, followed by Ireland on 16. Bulgaria are third on 11.

Bulgaria faces Georgia at home midweek.


Uncles Comment: They really were crap, possibly not as crap as the Romanians who lost 5-0 to the Serbs.The defence was diabolical.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

So what's next ?


So far in this blog we have covered a fairly eclectic mix of topics.For the coming few months I will try to guide readers through the delights of the Bulgarian winter.

For the uninitiated I had better inform you that a continental climate is a capricious mistress.In the summer it is hot and alluring, in the winter it is cold and spurning.

Temperatures here go from 35c to minus 35c (with wind chill) and the once bustling coast becomes deserted.

What I hope to do is to show those interested what it is like to go through a Bulgarian winter and what you have to be prepared to face and, conversely, what you need to survive it.

I do not of course mean literally to survive, this is Europe after all, but rather what the flip side of living in Bulgaria is outside of the beach mentality.

This is after all not Spain, and anybody contemplating coming here to live full time or even visiting here in the winter needs to understand what to expect.

I will be covering this in my usual warts and all style, so we shall have the roaring log fires and the feasts but also the cold.... bbrrrrrrrrrrrr.

I also continue to need feedback from you readers. So if you want any topic covered you think I have missed or mentioned in insufficient depth please let me know.

Uncle

Property in Bulgaria

I have written alot recently about the Bulgarian property so I suppose it's about time I showed you my property site so that you can look for yourselves at what's on offer.Just click on the headline to go to www.gobg.co.uk I will answer any questions that you have either on this blog or from the website e mail.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

This is just plain insane

http://www.vbox7.com/play:56c15360

Click on the title to view same with the other one.

Amazing

http://www.vbox7.com/play:721980f6

Dear Readers

The pictures at this link are either funny, touching or just plain stunning !.

Its a gas gas gas !


A collective sigh of relief can be heard this morning, with the news that the Ukraine has paid its gas bill for September.Previously outstanding bills to the Russian state gas company Gazprom caused major disruption to gas supplies, not just to the Ukraine but to much of Eastern Europe including Bulgaria.

As I have written before the world, and Europe in particular, must find alternative supplies which is why the Nabuco pipeline is so important.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Brits in Bulgaria

Playing on Stereotypes: UK Newspaper Tangled in Bulgaria Feud of British Ex-Pats

Features

UK newspapers have recently covered a number of stories about unfortunate British tourists or ex-pats covered in bruises or suffering from shock after problems in Bulgaria. From being taken hostage by hotel security guards to wild Bulgarian thieves attacking Scots with an axe – the tabloids are having a heyday.

One such story however has sucked the Scottish ‘Dumfries Standard’ newspaper into a British ex-pat feud that has involved alleged blackmail, the Bulgarian tax authorities, assault and many other claims and counter claims flying backwards and forwards across Central Bulgaria.

On September 17 the newspaper printed an article entitled ‘Scottish Man's Wife Stranded in Bulgaria’. It reported on how “Ian Cairns and wife Gail sold up and moved to Bulgaria three years ago - but a catalogue of disasters has left them penniless and fighting to save their marriage.”

Ian reportedly went back to Scotland to try and find a job after the couple ran into money troubles in Bulgaria, but he failed and ended up living in homeless accommodation. The article went onto say that he could not afford to fly his wife, who was suffering from health problems, back to the UK.

Ian was quoted as saying, "Social services also contacted the Bulgarian Embassy and they can't do anything either to get my wife home. It's a living nightmare. We've lost everything and I'm crying out for help."

Soon after the printing of the article the Dumfries Standard allegedly received a large number of complaints to which the writer of the article responded; “All I can do is apologise and tell you that this is something that happens in the newspaper industry on a regular basis. I had to take his word for it and go with the story.”

Rachel Gawith, a British woman living in the Stara Zagora region, enlightened Novinite.com regarding why these complaints were made and her version of events regarding the couple. She allegedly first met Ian and Gail when she offered them to look after her house and pets in return for a wage, free accommodation and paid bills. Having been pleasantly surprised by the couple at first and after hearing Gail’s story about being attacked by another English woman in Mamarchevo in the bar that they previously owned, Gawith left for France for a long holiday.

While in France Gawith alleges that the couple became sitting tenants after taking vast amounts of money out of the account she had set up for them for their work. The couple’s lawyer, Milena Manginova, then sent a letter to Gawith demanding BGN 3000 in exchange for them moving out of her house and they also contacted the Bulgarian tax authorities regarding the lack of a work contract. Gawith in return contacted the local Mayor and police regarding the issue. When the Police turned up Gail allegedly asserted that Gawith’s property was actually hers. They eventually moved out after allegedly causing damage to Gawith’s property and stealing her pets.

Novinite.com contacted Ian regarding some of these allegations and found that he had arrived back in Bulgaria. He confirmed that he had reported Gawith to the National Revenue Agency regarding not being given a work contract but denied that they had become sitting tenants instead suggesting that Gawith had not paid them the agreed amount for their work and that this was the reason for the feud. Ian also suggested that Gawith had signed herself into a mental institution in the Stara Zagora region.

Gail claimed that Gawith even put up her villa for rent while they were staying there including all of the couple’s furniture and a tiled kitchen that Gail had done herself. She also accused Gawith of animal cruelty to the “street dog” that she was alleged to have stolen and that they had been very cordial with police when they visited - confirming that they did not want to live in Gawith’s villa anyway.

Ian is now planning to take Gail back to Scotland for medical treatment as she is ill and is also planning on finding a job in Bulgaria before February when he will go back too. They have been selling furniture to raise money for their trip.

The feud continues but maybe the main point to take from this story is that the UK press seems to be hell bent on painting Bulgaria as a place to stay clear of without investigating the stories they write - tabloid press techniques seem to have started to infiltrate the mainstream broadsheets and local newspapers. As for Gail, Ian and Rachel we can only hope that they manage to sort out their differences out of the public eye.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Cigari's to go up up and away !


The prices of cigarettes in Bulgaria will increase drastically in 2010 over the planned raise in excise duty.

The Deputy Finance Minister, Vladislav Goranov, said for Darik Radio that in the Budget 2010 project is foreseen a excise of EUR 76 per 1 000 cigarettes.

This is a 46% increase compared to the present levels, which will affect the end prices, too.

A pack of the most common Bulgarian cigarettes, Victory, will cost at least BGN 1,5, if the excise rise affects the price formation. In this way, a pack of Victory will cost nearly BGN 5.

The business expects an increase in the excise between EUR 52 and EUR 64 for 1 000 cigarettes, because the previous government promised them so.

“The minimal excise in the European Union is EUR 64 for 1 000 pieces. The Bulgarian government would offer higher, because currently the country has the highest heart deceases death rate in the EU”, Goranov said.

Another argument for the excise increase is the expected bigger budget incomes. However, the exact rise is still being calculated.

Goranov explained that in other EU countries the excise on cigarettes was higher. He gave as an example Germany, where it is EUR 120-130 for 1 000 cigarettes.

Uncle's Comment: The minimum wage in Bulgaria is around 220 leva a month, most people take home maybe 500 leva plus, so 5 leva a packet  is something like 2.5% of the minimum wage and 1% of the average.However if someone smokes 20 cigarettes a day over a 30 day month that is 150 leva.Hopefully this will be a major incentive to cut down on or stop smoking.I would anticipate a big increase in the cigarette smuggling trade from Turkey.

Bring me my smelling salts !


Bulgaria has the worst European quality of healthcare services, according to the 2009 Euro Health Consumer Index (EHCI).

The research, sponsored by the European Commission, puts Bulgaria in last place having in mind the negative results of the country in different health related fields.

Bulgaria has negative evaluations in all criteria, connected with medicines accessibility – percentage of price return for medicines given with a prescription, innovative onco medicines usage, access to new products. In this criteria Bulgaria is joined at the bottom by Albania and Lithuania.

Some of the main criticism is based on the lack of patient protection legislature. In Bulgaria, there is no way of getting compensation without getting the case to the court.

The Netherlands win the 2009 (EHCI), for the second year in a row.

There are general improvement trends among most of the measured healthcare systems, with examples of reform making impact not only in Netherlands but in Ireland or the Czech Republic as well.

There is continuous decline in the Spanish, Portuguese and Greek healthcare systems which do not keep up with the improvement rate one can find in countries like the Netherlands, Denmark or Ireland.

Large parts of Eastern and Central Europe seem to be affected by the financial crisis, the report says.

The EHCI 2009 groups 38 indicators of quality into six categories: Patient rights and information, e-Health, Waiting time for treatment, Outcomes, Range and reach of services provided and Pharmaceuticals.

The EHCI has become a measurement standard for European healthcare. It ranks 33 national European health care systems across 38 indicators.

Uncle's View: In defence of the Bulgarian healthcare system; friends who have used it were relatively impressed (apart from one friend who was asked for a 12 year old bottle of malt whisky for the gynacologist to assist his wife in childbirth).

The hospitals are generally clean and the staff quite good, though the surgical scars I have seen on some people would not happen in the UK.

However it all boils down to money at the end of the day and Bulgaria just doesnt have it.

Secret Police News...I kid you not !


The Bulgarian communist-era secret police, the so called "State Security" (DS) was closely related to, but was not a part of the notorious Soviet KGB.

The Chair of the Bulgarian Files Commission (investigating Bulgaria's communist-era police files), Evtim Kostadinov, said this Monday at the official presentation a book that attempts to track down the relations between both police.

The nearly 500-page documentary collection "KGB and DS - links and dependences" covers archives from the two police from the period 1950 - 1991, including funds of the Interior Ministry and the National Investigative Service, a successor to the foreign policy investigating unit at the Bulgarian state security police.

This is the first event of this kind, initiated by the so-called files commission. Under local legislation, adopted in 2006, the body is entitled to publish archive documents of the repressive regime from the ruling of the Bulgarian Communist Party.

The commission, which is in charge of the declassification of the files prepared by the country's intelligence services before the fall of the regime, plans to distribute the collection on DVD and online.

The former State Security (DS) and its files are a thorny issue in Bulgaria, especially when it comes to the past of high-ranking officials.

Bulgaria's communist-era security service is believed to have remained potent after the fall of communism with the ex-operatives closely linked to the political and business establishment.

Uncle's View: In practice they were the same thing.A Secret Police force exists to prop up a dictatorship by keeping its internal and external enemies in check and stiffling dissent. All Eastern Bloc countries had a form of KGB which worked closely with its Soviet counterpart, hence the Bulgarian DS's alleged complicity in the attempted assassination of the Pope in 1981 on behalf of the KGB.

Tourism on a downer !

Foreign trips dip 10.1% y/y in Aug 

Foreign travels to Bulgaria continued the downtrend at the height of the summer season, contracting by 10.1% year-on-year to 1.4 million in August, showed official statistics. Swedes and Danes who used to flock to Bulgarian seaside resorts in previous years chopped trips by 72.5% and 65%, respectively, as the number of Slovenian tourists contracted by 60%. Germans regained interest in Bulgaria making 241,000 visits including 175,000 holiday travels but the other key markets – the UK and Russia – slid by respective 31.9% and 2.8%. Romanians who are the most numerous group at Bulgaria's northern coast trimmed trips by 16.9%. The tourist sector contracted by 12.7% in June and pared the loss to 5.8% in July with revenues plunging deeper than tourist numbers. At the same time, fewer Bulgarians travelled abroad in August, down 7.7% on the year. Trips to Greece and Macedonia picked up 7.5% and 24.6% but visits to Turkey shed 4.1% as most Bulgarians abandoned trips to western Europe where they usually go on business.

Monday, 28 September 2009

News from Bulgaria Air

Breaking News Hot from the Airlines newsletter.Sounds good value.

END OF SUMMER SALE!


London (Heathrow) - Sofia - London (Heathrow)

60.20 GBP One Way
100 GBP Return

T&C
Sale starts today 28SEP and ends 04OCT 2009
Travel Period: Departure from 01OCT to 04DEC 2009.
Ticket must be issued within 72h after reservations are made.
Airport taxes included.
Prices apply from the UK to Bulgaria or from Bulgaria to the UK.
The ticket issuing charge may also be applied, according to the issuer's policy.
Available seats are limited. Prices are correct as on 28th September 2009.

Energy issues

The more cultured of you will realise that 'Nabuco' is an Opera by Verdi that deals with the Israelites in Egypt.However it is also the project name for an ambitious gas pipeline project that will transfer energy from Asia to Europe.It will pass through the Balkans, and here the plot thickens.

Energy, particularly for heating, is an extremely politically sensitive issue in Eastern Europe.Most of the gas currently comes in one pipeline from Russia.This gives Putin,Medvedev etc enormous leverage over the Balkans.Two winters ago the Russians got into a dispute with the Ukraine and cut the gas supply to them in the middle of winter, leaving thousands of people literally freezing.A corollary of this is that the gas supply was also reduced for Bulgaria and other states.It was very close here to a major shortage of heating.

The previous Socialist government was pretty pally with Moscow (the Premier was born in the former Soviet Union and his father was a politburo member of the Bulgarian Communist Party)They dragged their feet over Nabuco, despite the fact that the pipelines shortest length is in Bulgaria.Now it appears that the new government is forging ahead.This is incredibly important for stable and relatively inexpensive gas, at a time when prices are rising due to all of Europe's dependency on Russian gas (about 30% of the total).

Europe cannot be overly dependent on one supplier of gas.The coming wars of the future will, I am sure, be over energy as it becomes more scarce and demand continues to increase.

It is also interesting to note that the Russians want to take a stake in the new Belene nuclear plant, that is about to go to tender.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

When ID Cards are not ID Cards


Confusion Reigns over Bulgaria Residence for EU Citizens

EU citizens are up in arms over confusion regarding their Bulgarian identity documents that have caused problems with residency and every day life.

After a Novinite.com investigation into the problems encountered with the Bulgarian certificate for long-term residence it has become clear that Bulgarian authorities are utterly confused over when and how EU citizens can use their identity cards and when they are allowed to apply for permanent residence.

EU citizens who contacted Novinite.com described the situation as "like apartheid" and urged the new center-right GERB government to take urgent action. They also described how they had been laughed at by Bulgarian banks, local government officials and police when they produced their "child-like" long-term residence certificates.

Before Bulgaria joined the EU, foreign citizens who had applied for a Bulgarian visa were rewarded with a card that had the same format as the lichna karta - including an LNCh identity number and a photo. However since 2007 when Brussels welcomed Bulgaria with open arms into the EU family, EU citizens have been met with confusion, annoyance and sometimes anger by the Bulgarian authorities after being issued with new long-term residence cards that do not include either an identity number or photo.

The Interior Ministry concluded that it is aware of the issue and stated that a bill is currently being discussed in the parliament to solve the problems.

Uncle's View: Everyone knows the so called ID cards are a joke, there is no photo or number so they are useless.A copy of the passport or at least a driving licence should be carried by an EU citizen at all times.The irony is that a non-EU citizen does have photo ID, but they have to pay through the nose for it, as I did before 2007 (525 leva a year)

Friday, 25 September 2009

Shops galore !.


Billa, the German supermarket chain, have announced that they will soon have 26 stores in Bulgaria, and the French chain Carrefour are also expanding.This is good news for consumer choice in Bulgaria as previously it was just Piccadilly, CBA and Metro as the mainstays.Kaufland is also expanding in Bulgaria which will hopefully drive down retail food prices as it's not cheap in Bulgaria.With the exception of booze, everything else would be undercut by a UK supermarket.

There is actually a Marks and Spencers in Burgas, but I hear the prices are horrendous !.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Sporting News !


Bulgaria Top Football Clubs Rocked by Tax Evasion Scandals

Business

Eight of the top football clubs in Bulgaria owe the State over BGN 8 M in taxes.

Among them the biggest debtor is the CSKA football club with over BGN 2 M owed to the National Revenue Agency (NRA), the TV channel bTV reported Thursday.

The other seven football teams involved in large-scale tax evasion are "Litex," "Locomotive Sofia," "Locomotive Plovdiv," "Beroe," "Belasitsa," "Botev," and "Marek."

The State institutions are yet to officially confirm the information and name the clubs.

The NRA agents have found out that football clubs committed fraud by listing fake loses of over BGN 3 M and that reporting the football players' salaries of BGN 220 (the country's minimum monthly wage) is common practice.

Checkups of football players for discrepancies between their reported income and the property they own are pending.

The football club "Levski" reportedly paid all its taxes as announced by their President, Todor Batko

More airline news, good this time !


Wizz Air to launch four new routes from Sofia 

Hungarian no-frills airline Wizz Air will fly to four new destinations from Sofia airport, said executive vice-president John Stephenson. 

As of May 22, 2010, the carrier will carry out three flights a week to Madrid, Paris, Frankfurt and Bologna, with one-way fares starting from BGN 33.99 with taxes, excluding luggage, insurance and bank transfer surcharges. 

The first three destinations are services by flag carrier Bulgaria Air. Wizz Air will compete also with EasyJet, which flies to Madrid, Air France to Paris and Lufthansa to Frankfurt. No airline on the market operates the Bologna route at the moment, according to the timetable of Sofia Airport. 

From May, Wizz Air will also add one more flight to its Eindhoven and Valencia destinations, carrying passengers three and four times a week, respectively. It is also pondering launching a flight to Bratislava, seeking to lure Vienna travelers following the collapse earlier this month of SkyEurope, which slipped into insolvency and filed for bankruptcy protection. Stephenson said the carrier could not afford to fly directly to Vienna due to the high fees but added the destination will be services by their peer Flyniki. 

To meet surging demand, Wizz Air plans to add a new Airbus A320 to its operating base in Sofia. The company operates its Sofia routes by 26 airliners, which should grow to 132 by 2017. It has captured around 11% of the Bulgarian market, ranking second after Bulgaria Air and leaving behind Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines and EasyJet. 

The Hungarian airline has carried around 650,000 passengers across all Sofia destinations, Stephenson said. Traffic is expected to swell to 750,000 in 2010.

Uncle's comment: Looking like Wizzair are really investing in Bulgaria, and taking up the slack caused by the demise of SkyEurope. A little bit more competition on the winter coastal routes would be nice though !.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Field of Broken Dreams

It's Sunday morning, I don't have any hot news stories to post,so I thought I'd just give you some musings about people, mainly British in Bulgaria.

People from the UK have been coming here in large numbers since the Communist period, when Bulgaria was one of the few Eastern bloc countries with a large Western tourist trade.I still meet people who have been coming here since the 1970's and can regale you with many a fine story about that time.

From roughly 2003, the nature of the foreigners here changed.They were not coming here simply as tourists, but to buy property.Some of these actually came to live here.

British people living abroad in large numbers first happened in the 1980's, virtually entirely in Spain.It was cheap and the sun actually shone quite alot.There are well in excess of a million British people in Spain.

Bulgaria was a relative 'Johnny come lately'. It offered what Spain could no longer; cheap property and a very high standard of living for little money.

Now things have changed yet again, Bulgaria is nowhere near as cheap as it used to be, the pound has slumped and the world is in recession causing the property market to collapse.

Now the underlying tensions in the ex-pat lifestyle rise to the surface.People are starting to run out of money and are having to return to the UK, to restart their lives yet again.Many marriages are breaking up under the strain (Although many cannot survive the pressures of the lifestyle out here).

Many people are resorting to drinking heavily, principally because it's cheap and freely available as there are no licensing laws here.

Basically it's Spain all over again.The Bulgarian press delights in stories about the antics of the 'English'.

Meanwhile those of us who work out here continue to struggle with an abysmal economic situation.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

New travel portal


Came across www.fly.com seems a pretty useful new search portal for accessing flights.Wizzair still remains the only direct winter flight to Varna though, and don't forget the Easyjet option to Sofia and change for the internal flight on Wizzair.

A little better

BULGARIA REAL ESTATE MARKET REGISTERS AUGUST REVIVAL

Bulgaria's property market has registered an August increase of 2% to 3%, the Chair of the National Real Estate Association, Lachezar Iskrov reported.

Iskrov spoke Thursday in a special interview for Darik radio.

According to the Chair, property prices have ceased to go down, but will maintain their current level for quite a while and the real estate values would reach their pre-crisis numbers in five to six years from now.

Currently the average price for residential properties in the capital Sofia is between EUR 750 and 950 per square meter. In the Black Sea cities of Varna and Burgas the values are 5% to 10% lower while the prices are the lowest in Bulgaria's second largest city, Plovdiv - between EUR 550 and 750 per square meter.

Iskrov also pointed out that the minimal reduction of mortgage interest rates was not going to contribute to a further market revival since the banks still grant loans under conditions that are too restrictive.

The National Real Estate Association Chair said that he expects a price reduction for lands used for construction since they have been overpriced in last years, but the demand has been almost non-existent lately.

Good news for new business

BULGARIA MPS APPROVE SYMBOLIC EUR 1 AS CAPITAL FOR STARTING BUSINESS

The required capital to register a limited liability company was lowered to the symbolic BGN 2 or EUR 1 by the Bulgarian Parliament.

The Members of the Parliament approved Thursday on first read the amendments in the Trade Act, lowering the required registration amount from BGN 5 000 to BGN 2.

The proposal had received the preliminary approval of the new cabinet in August and was promised by the now ruling Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) party before the July general elections.

On his part, Finance Minister, Simeon Djankov, included the measure in the the anti-crisis packet as a way to encourage local business.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Currency news

The finance minister announced yesterday that entry into the Eurozone should be achievable with the new governments 5 year term ie by 2014.This is further confirmation that the Euro will be reality fairly soon.Membership of the Eurozone will further bind Bulgaria into the European family and provide economic security.

Monday, 14 September 2009

M-Tel Bulgarian Open


Uncle enjoyed a very convivial evening at the Lighthouse Golf course last night at the presentation ceremony for the winners of the tournament.The buffet was superb, as was the drink, and the band was absolutely superb. A thoroughly good advertisement for the Golf industry in Bulgaria and everyone is to be applauded for their efforts !.

More on economics

Joblessness to climb by summer ’10, economy to bounce in ‘11 

Ravaged by its first recession in 12 years, Bulgaria could see a double-digit unemployment rate, peaking at around 10% in the spring of 2010, business groups forecast. 

The economy shrank by 4.9% in the second quarter in comparison with 6.8% year-on-year growth in third-quarter 2008 when it still kept clear of the downturn. The jobless rate sprang by almost 40% over the past year to almost 7.8% at the end of August. 

“I think we have hit the bottom. But it’s too low and so unemployment will rise further as redundancies lag the drop in orders by around six months,” said Vasil Velev, chairman of the Bulgarian Industrial Capital Association (BICA). In this period companies are using all options to cut costs by soft measures such as putting staff on shorter working hours, he explained. 

Kamen Kolev, deputy chairman of the Bulgarian Industrial Chamber (BIC), companies could not stick to this approach for more than six months as slumping order intakes will force them to slim down their workforce. 

Bulgaria’s main trade partners such as France and Germany have shown signs they are shaking off recession but Bulgaria will see the green shoots of recovery in the spring of 2010. This will perk up the job market in a few months and so unemployment will stay high through the summer and even the autumn of 2010, Kolev reckons. 

The state could salvage some jobs if it covers a portion of the wages paid by companies that have been hit by recession, according to Evgenii Ivanov, executive director of the Confederation of Employers and Industrials in Bulgaria (CEIBG). The government put in place a similar programme but keen interest sapped quickly the allocated amounts. The social ministry has pledged to tap into Human Resources Development programme of the European Union (EU) to extend the scheme. 

Ivanov believes that by lending businesses a hand against the downturn, the state could stave off double-digit unemployment in 2010.

Friday, 11 September 2009

September 11th


I suppose I cannot let this day pass without some comment on the 8th anniversary of this momentous event. 

On that morning over 2,000 people simply went to work and never came back again.The pictures of that day are still heart breaking to watch. That moment in history is every bit as tragic as the Titanic, but the Titanic was mainly an accident. The W.T.O. incident was entirely man made and in the 24/7 media age was covered round the world.

It triggered two wars that we are still fighting today and the deaths of thousands more, including now well over 200 British soldiers in Afghanistan alone.

What did Kipling say 'East is East and West is West and na'er the twain shall meet' .

We have to ask ourselves how can the West accomodate Islam and vice versa.How the First World deals with the Third ?. And what is the benefit of western armies staying in these theatres of war for much longer.

We need an exit plan and we need one urgently. 

Bulgaria and the EU


Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boiko Borisov has met with EU Commission President Manuel Barroso.

The meeting seems to have been very productive with Barroso emphasising that the next 6 months are CRUCIAL to Bulgaria's position in the EU.He went on to praise the anti-corruption measures taken by the new government and to release some of the SAPARD money that has been blocked by Brussels over concerns over corruption and lack of financial transparency. O.L.A.F. the EU anti-fraud office has also praised the new government for its work.

However Bulgaria's Chief Prosecutor, Velchev has said that very little has been done so far to combat particularly state fraud, and the government faces an enormous black hole in the Budget left by the last government, which was spending frantically in its last few days in office.The Health budget is in a particular mess.

The government will have to raise more money in taxes, which considering that evasion is the norm here will be difficult, public expenditure will also be cut.

Vroom Vroom !


BULGARIA TO BUILD FORMULA 1, MOTO GP TRACK NEAR CAPITAL SOFIA

Bulgaria is going to build a track for Formula 1 and Moto GP races near the capital Sofia.

This has been announced by Member of Parliament from the Bulgarian Socialist Party (and former Interior Minister (2005-2008), Rumen Petkov, who is also the chair of the Organizational Committee for the Bulgarian Grand Prix in motorcycling.

"We have signed a contract for the Moto GP race, and we also have reached an agreement on a Formula 1 race coming to Bulgaria. We hope that everything will go well, and that we will be able to combine the tracks for the two races in one," Petkov is quoted as saying by the Trud Daily.

In his words, the Formula 1 and Moto GP track will be constructed on the place of the former military air base at Dobroslavtsi, Novi Iskar Municipality, about 12 km north of Sofia.

Bulgaria's preliminary contract with Moto GP says that the tract must be completed by the end of January 2011; the negotiations with Formula 1 have been for hosting a race in the fall of 2011 or 2012.

Petkov believes that Sofia's proximity to several other large Balkan cities - Athens, Belgrade, Bucharest, Thessaloniki - would be sufficient to attract the necessary audience for the Formula 1 and Moto GP races.

Uncles Comment: Fat chance of getting off the ground !

'Yes sir I can boogie !'


BULGARIAN JUDGE TO BE PUNISHED OVER HAVING DISCO INSIDE COURT

Bulgaria's Supreme Judicial Council has started a disciplinary procedure against the Deputy Chair of the Sofia District Court, Nikolay Madzharov.

Judge Madzharov is facing possible disciplinary dismissal because he had organized a "chalga" (i.e. pop folk - popular Bulgarian/Balkan music with Oriental motives) disco every Thursday inside the building of the court.

The chalga club was called "Male, male" (an interjection, something like a Bulgarian equivalent of "Wo-hoo") after a song by Roma singer Sofi Marinova and rapper Ustata ("The Mouth").

It was hosted by the common room of the Sofia District Court, and even featured a pair of bikini hanging on its door.

When asked by the media recently about the chalga club he organized, Madzharov said, "If we had called it Piano Bar "Legal Mind", it would not have made the headlines."

The Deputy Chair of the Court is also investigated for a number of violations that he allegedly committed when he was temporarily the head of the Sofia District Court for about a year and a half.

One of the violations includes the fact that all computer monitors somehow disappeared from the building one Saturday, and there is no information where they had been taken.

The recently appointed Chair of the Sofia District Court, Krasimir Vlahov, has already fired the head accountant and the facilities manager of the courthouse, and has punished eight other employees over that and similar other violations.

It is still unclear whether the Supreme Judicial Council is going to fire Madzharov over his chalga disco management skills.

9 of the 22 members of the Council have begged to be struck off the list of the commission that will consider Madzharov's case. They have done so on the grounds that they know Madzharov personally and do not want to participate in the work of the commission.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Tragedy on Lake Ohrid


I forgot to post that there was a shipping tragedy at the weekend, in which at least 15 Bulgarians drowned.They were on a tourist boat which ran in to trouble on Lake Ohrid in Macedonia.The boat sank just 200 metres from the shore.Awful !.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

UK economic news

Even the Right wing Daily Telegraph newspaper is reporting that Britain is now out of recession.The figures on output and employment are very encouraging.I think by next year things will look alot more positive.

From a Bulgarian perspective the housing market needs to get the over-supply issue sorted, which means a resounding no to any more speculative building.

Michael Shields Update

It has just been announced that Michael Shields has been pardoned.He will be released immediately.The Home Secretary said in July that he was minded not to pardon him but it appears that new evidence was presented to him by the Shields family.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Whoops !

An anti-aircraft missile exploded shortly after its launch during military drills of the Bulgarian Army near the northeast town of Shabla.

The rocket exploded 50 meters up in the air a second after the launch in front of the eyes of Defense Minister, Nikolay Mladenov, and President Georgi Parvanov, who is the Bulgarian Commander-in-Chief.

No one was killed or injured by the explosion but the drills had to be terminated for some time. The explosion originated in the engine of the anti-aircraft missile, whereas its head fell in the sea, and will be recovered by divers.

"Unfortunately, this incident shows that we are working with outdated equipment. The conclusions is that we need to restore the priorities of our armed forces," Defense Minister Mladenov commented after the explosion.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Bulgarian Open Golf Tournament


Well the Bulgarian Open starts next week, the most prestigious event ever held on the Black Sea Golf courses.It will be shared between the Blacksearama and Lighthouse clubs. And yes it does mean that we will have a week of heavy rain, thunder and showers.They are going to be out of luck on that front.I am advised however that anyone who wants to come and watch and/or soak up the atmosphere (no pun intended) will be welcome.

Uncle's note: The golf courses are located off the E87 international highway.From Varna go to the Albena roundabout and exit to the signpost 'Dobrich', stay on that road.At Balchik cross the roundabout at the petrol station and its about 5/10 minutes.The courses are next door to one another.

A timely quote

This is doing the rounds on the blogosphere and I thoroughly agree with it !.

"No one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick. If you agree, please post this as your status for the rest of the day." Barack Obama

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Balchik


I had a very convivial afternoon in Balchik yesterday afternoon sat by the harbour with some friends.Balchik is a beautiful town with a nice promenade and brilliant restaurants.Unlike the resorts it's also very cheap and has enormous potential.In ten years time I can see it being like Puerto Banus in Spain.Already there are some nice yachts appearing and there is an annual regatta in conjunction with Romania.It also features the summer house of the late Queen Marie of Romania and stunning botanical gardens.If you have never been there it is well worth a visit.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

As predicted...

Bulgaria’s tourism markets shrivels up to 30% summer’09 


Last-minute bookings where hoteliers lop 20-25% off the standard price were the engine behind Bulgaria’s once-booming seaside tourism industry in the traditionally bumper months of July and August, hoteliers and tour operators said. 

As the economic downturn made vacationers snap up their purses, the share of last-minute bookings widened from a humble 10-15% of all in previous periods to 30-40% this season, when separate hotels even recorded 50%. 

Coupled with the shorter tourist season, this battered revenues in a sector that generates around 14% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). 

“Tourist numbers dropped by around 10-12% this year but revenues slumped by more than 30%,” said Elena Ivanova, chairwoman of the Sunny Beach owners’ union. 

Her estimates were echoed by Georgi Shterev, who chairs the owners’ union in Bulgaria’s other upmarket resort of Golden Sands, on the northern Black Sea coast, who said that tourist numbers have dwindled by 10-15% as revenues have come in 20-25% shorter. 

Despite the sharp decline, Bulgaria has scored higher than all of its main competitors expect for neighbouring Turkey, which hopes to eke out a 5% rise. 

As the highest season draws to an end, hoteliers and tour operators are putting the finishing touches on summer 2010 deals, when most companies will slash the number of hotels they work with but do their best to keep tourist numbers unchanged. In addition, they will seek ways to encourage early bookings through juicier offers and special extras to packages.

Uncle's comment: Bulgaria must learn to compete in terms of both price and quality.It is no longer a budget tourist destination because the resorts have priced themselves out of the market.They ought to learn from Western supermarkets 'Stack it high sell it cheap !'

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

A few musings on UK politics


I dont usually spend too much time commentating on UK politics, as I don't live there anymore.However I have been reading an article in the blog Libdemvision,which talks about Nick Clegg continuing his 'March to classical Liberalism'.In other words a move towards economic rather than Social Liberalism or Social Democracy.

Coupled with this I am reading that the latest 'model' Tory Council the London Borough of Barnet is to be 'run on a budget airline model'.

I over-use the phrase 'you couldn't invent it' quite alot but I am absolutely taken aback.At a time when unregulated capitalism has brought us to the edge of catastrophy we are being told that more laissez-faire is good for us and that local government should be run like a cut price airline.

The Labour Government has responded boldly to the economic crisis, but the rest of it's performance, with some noble exceptions, has been more reminiscent of a party afraid of its own shadow, afraid to upset the middle classes and the Murdoch press.It's been ok to attack soft targets such as fox hunting and reform of the Lords, but the last 12 years of New Labour have seen the gap between rich and poor actually increase, coupled with a depressingly predictable authoritarianism leading us, among other things, to ID cards.

So there we have it, two rightwing parties, in the Tories and the Liberals, plus a Labour Party that has completely lost the plot and veered to the right, and now we have the extremist BNP.

What the country actually needs is a Social Market economy that recognises the state as a major economic player and that redistributive taxation is a central plank of social policy.

Otherwise, in Monty Pythons words, its 'Spam,Spam,Spam and Spam'

Good News for 'Uncle'


Great news on my website front over 143,000 hits in August by far the best ever.I was geting only 29,000 hits in February so this is a startling improvement.I am well aware that alot of people are just window shopping at the minute but it adds to my confidence that the interest is still there in Bulgaria, it's just that alot of people are putting their decisions off due to the economic uncertainty.

Unbelievable !

SUBWAY COMMUTERS IN BULGARIA CAPITAL SOFIA ENJOY FREE PORN

Graphic porn images shocked the commuters at the Serdica Metro Station in the Bulgarian capital on Monday.

This happened as porn websites were left opened on the 17-inch of the free Internet terminals that have recently been installed at the subway station.

Some of the commuters alerted the security personnel about the indecent images shown on the free Internet terminals.

The terminals were installed three days ago by the municipality-owned firm Metropolitan that runs the Sofia Metro.

"These terminals are supposed to display the Sofia Metro website, and also, everyone should be able to use Internet through them. I checked the terminals early in the morning, and they displayed our homepage," said Stoyan Bratoev, Metropolitan Director, as cited by the Dnevnik Daily.

The municipal company has promised to block the access to porn websites from the public free terminals.

Monday, 31 August 2009

2009 Season Review


Uncle's comment: Here is an article that I wrote last year for an english language newspaper in Bulgaria.I am re-publishing it because I think the points made in it are still relevant today.

IT MIGHT BE BABEL BUT IT AINT ENGLISH


Apologies to faithful readers for the absence of my column in recent issues but I was saving up for a ‘magnum opus’ !.

This one concerns the enormous power of the big tour operators and the effect they can have on a local economy.

As most people will know, this year the big UK tour operators; Thomsons, First Choice and Thomas Cook, have virtually given up on the Varna region. The reason for this is allegedly the 36% increase in charges at the city’s airport.

As a consequence of this, the lions share of flights are now going to Burgas, which means that the majority of UK tourists are being accommodated in the ghastly mega resort of ‘Sunny Beach’. Those tourists who have booked into Albena, Golden Sands etc face an uncomfortable two and a half hour bus transfer after already enduring a four hour plane ride. Faced with this, who in their right mind is going to book Bulgaria for their hols next year ?.

Since UK tourism has plummeted there is a noticeable sea change in the North Black Sea resorts. I was at the beach in Albena the other day, and could hear a myriad of languages being spoken….with the exception of English. The resort is now dominated by Eastern European and Scandinavian visitors ( big point here, if airport taxes at Varna are too high for UK operators why are they ok for Sven from Sweden and Olga from the Volga ?).

There is naturally no point in complaining that people aren’t speaking English, that is downright silly. However the economic effects are quite serious. British people are probably the biggest spenders amongst the visiting nationalities; beer, food, trinkets, you name it and the Brits are opening their wallets and purses. Other nations don’t have our pub culture and would rather eat and drink in their hotel room. Consequently the bars and restaurants don’t make much money. Faced with soaring rents and declining customers what do the always inept and greedy resort businessmen do ?.....they put the prices up……leading to less customers…leading to….I don’t need to prolong the point. 
This year people in the resorts are paying 4 leva for a beer and 26 leva for an alleged ‘steak’. This is more expensive than the 5 star Hotel Radisson in central Sofia (I know I have been there).

After having left the beach, I girded my loins and approached an Albena taxi rank, ready for the usual argument over prices. After a while I managed to get an offer of 15 leva for the 6km back to my place (way to much, but never mind). The amiable young taxi driver told me that the four taxis on the rank had been there all day (it was now 4pm) and I was the first customer. I almost..almost.. felt sorry for them, but then I slapped myself and thought of the phrase ‘those who live by the sword shall die by it’.

But when you think about the several thousand Romanians in the resort don’t need taxis because they bring their own cars. The Russians aren’t interested in seeing Slavonic culture because they have a big fat one of their own and the Scandinavians just sit on the beach all day.

Then of course there is the effect on the real estate industry. The mainstay of which as been the Brit. Faced with the UK credit crunch and a world recession that could be reminiscent of the 1970’s, the Bulgarian real estate industry in the North region now has to contend with limited and very expensive air flights. Because the number of charter flights is slashed, the carriers left are charging ridiculous prices despite the fact that the planes are in many instances one third empty.

And all because of a few ‘men in suits’ in the Travel companies in London.

United States Economy news


4 big banks have just paid 4 billion US dollars back in loans from the government, a 15% return.This is remarkably good news in a relatively short period.This seems to prove the worth of the bold spending decisions I remarked upon earlier.Remember when the U.S. sneezes the world catches a cold, so when it gets better......

Property News latest


Britons Face Big Losses on Holiday Homes in Bulgaria

Views on BG

By Claer Barrett 
Financial Times

British owners of second homes overseas are facing ruinous losses on their investments after plunging price drops in foreign markets wiped as much as £24bn from the value of UK-owned homes abroad, new research shows.

Dubai and Bulgaria are the worst hit markets, with reported peak-to-trough price falls of 75 per cent on property built for the in-vestment market, according to a report in the Investors Chronicle, the Financial Times' sister publication. The high levels of debt used to engineer transactions have ratcheted up the risk of financial problems for purchasers following the collapse of property markets.

Owning a second home abroad was once the preserve of the super-wealthy, but in the past decade a heady combination of TV property shows and cheap mortgages has convinced an estimated half a million Britons to buy their own place in the sun. The value of UK-owned foreign property investments peaked at £58bn last year, up from £10bn in 2000.

Conti, a UK-based foreign mortgage broker, claims all mortgage products for overseas buyers in Bulgaria have been withdrawn, and are no longer available on apartments in Dubai, effectively trapping thousands in the market. Oversupply and weak demand mean investors' mortgage repayments cannot be covered by rental income, leaving speculators with a huge debt and an unsaleable asset.

For those who need to get out, the only hope is a cash offer from a growing band of "acquirement firms" which focus on distressed assets. In Bulgaria, flats on the Black Sea coast which were sold for €60,000 (£53,000) to British investors are now changing hands for €15,000 or less.

Figures from property consultancy Savills show that at the market's height, 80 per cent of foreign property purchases were being financed by mortgage debt, compared with just 20 per cent seven years previously. The extent of price falls across foreign markets means that most of the 35,000 Britons who completed deals in the 2007-08 financial year will already be in negative equity.

Before the slump, buyers believed that capital appreciation would enable them to sell out at a profit to another investor - a classic "greater fool" market. Yet investor-driven developments have little appeal to domestic home hunters, so liquidity has evaporated.

In Spain, 1m newly built apartments remain unsold, and a further 2m are estimated to be back on the re-sale market as foreign buyers retreat. The newly built properties alone account for five years of supply, based on current sales rates, and local experts believe prices have already fallen by 30 per cent.

In Florida, where an estimated 70,000 Britons have bought second homes in the past decade, prices are said to have fallen 40 per cent, with some properties on investor-driven developments selling for below their building costs as buyers rush to exit.

Foreign banks are also seeking to chase their losses in the UK in the event of mortgage default. Since last Christmas, EU creditors can pursue a European order for payment which makes the process of debt recovery easier and cheaper.

"There hasn't been a sudden rise since the legislation was introduced, but we are getting a steady trickle of cases where people are in situations abroad that haven't worked out," said Paul Connearn, a spokesperson for the National Debt Helpline. "Creditors could try and enforce the debt through a charging order on UK assets, typically the family home. This secures the debt on that property, but doesn't necessarily force the sale."

"In my experience, US banks will no longer lend to the British as so many have handed the keys back and done a runner," said And-rew Bartlett, a Florida-based relocation consultant. "Certain banks now believe it is worth pursuing unpaid loans in the UK under UK law."

Uncle's view: One man's problem is another man's opportunity.The bargains are there to be had.Again I have to ask where these people get their figures from.The market is undeniably bad at the moment but 75% price falls are only obtainable if a seller is absolutely desperate.I am convinced that, due to the prompt injection of large amounts of cash into world economies, we will see a stabilisation in 2010.

Michael Shields update

JAILED LIVERPOOL FAN DECISION DUE "WITHIN WEEKS"

UK Justice Secretary Jack Straw will make a decision "within weeks" on whether to pardon jailed Liverpool fan Michael Shields, BBC reported, citing his parents.

The 22-year-old is serving a 10-year sentence for the attempted murder of a Bulgarian barman after his team's win in the 2005 Champions League final.

His parents, Michael Snr and Maria, put their case to Straw during a meeting at Blackburn Town Hall earlier.

Shields called on Straw "to do the right thing and free my son".

In July, Straw made a provisional ruling not to release Shields and issue him with a pardon.

Shields' legal team then had 28 days to challenge the decision and make new representations to the minister.

It included looking at a report by Merseyside Police, which said had Shields' been tried in the UK, on the evidence used, he would have deserved a re-trial.

Speaking to BBC News, Shields Snr called the meeting "very productive".

He added: "Mr Straw listened to us in detail and to the information from Merseyside Police.

"He told us we would have a decision on the pardon within weeks not months. We just hope and pray it is to free Michael.

"I spoke to Michael before and told him how it went, but he doesn't want to get his hopes up yet."

Louise Ellman, Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside, a long-time supporter of Shields' campaign, and Councillor Joe Anderson, from Liverpool City Council, joined the family.

Shields, from Edge Hill, said he was in bed when the barman was attacked and has always maintained his innocence.

The victim, Martin Georgiev, had a rock dropped on his head in Varna, Bulgaria, where Shields, like a number of Liverpool fans, had broken the journey home from Istanbul.

Shields, then 18, was found guilty of attempted murder and sentenced to 15 years in prison, which was reduced to 10 years on appeal.

He is currently serving the remainder of his sentence in Thorn Cross Young Offenders Institute in Appleton Thorn, Warrington.

Shields is due for release in May 2010.

Uncle's Comment:This is indeed a strange case.I recall the furore at the time.There were many witnesses to the event as it took place in a bar, but the boy has always maintained his innocence.