ECONOMY

Bulgaria exceeds targets

European Union aspirant Bulgaria announced yesterday it had defied a global economic slowdown last year and outperformed its IMF-agreed key budget targets. Finance Minister Milen Velchev told a news conference that the Balkan country had lowered its budget deficit, inflation and current account gap below initial forecasts, while raising economic growth above target. «We had a successful year during which we registered higher-than-expected growth and implemented reasonable budget policy combined with tight fiscal discipline,» Velchev said. Last year’s budget deficit fell to 232 million levs ($127 million), or 0.7 percent of gross domestic product, from a target of 0.8 percent agreed with the International Monetary Fund, he said, citing preliminary data. Velchev said Bulgaria registered one of the highest GDP growth figures in Europe last year, exceeding the government’s forecast of 4.2 percent but declined to give a figure. Last week, Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg said 2002 GDP rose by 4.5 percent. A recovery in exports despite continued depressed conditions in the EU, Bulgaria’s main trading partner, had led to a drop in the 2002 current account deficit to a preliminary 4.3 percent of GDP from an initially expected 5.7 percent. (Reuters)