Saturday, 24 October 2009

Bargains Bargains !

Bulgaria Residential Property Prices Collapse by 28% in 2009 Q3

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

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


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


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.


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


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



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


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.