ECONOMY

Bulgaria on right track

SOFIA – The World Bank said yesterday Bulgaria’s economic prospects remained good despite worsening global conditions, due to its new government’s intention of speeding up reforms. Bulgaria’s new cabinet of Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg swept to power in a June general election pledging to boost economic growth and living standards, uproot corruption and privatize major assets still in state hands. The economic future for Bulgaria is still reasonably good, compared with other countries, said Pieter Stek, the World Bank’s executive director for a group of countries including Bulgaria. And if you succeed in speeding up structural reforms, then your prospects will continue to be reasonably good despite a global environment that is not good at the moment, Stek told reporters after meeting Saxe-Coburg. However, Stek said the global slowdown would not bypass Bulgaria. You are not falling into recession but your growth rate will be lower than you have hoped, he said. The government, together with the International Monetary Fund, from which Sofia seeks a deal of up to $150 million, had scaled down forecasts for 2002 economic growth to 4 percent from 4.5. This year’s growth is forecast at 4.5 percent from an initially expected 5 percent. Even if you get hit more than we expect at the moment, you will be in a better position to benefit from a recovery, Stek said. He attributed his optimism to cautious policies carried out by the previous center-right government, and to the beginning of serious structural reforms which the new government aimed to continue and accelerate. But Stek warned the new Cabinet not to be too ambitious in achieving its pledges. There has to be realism in a program. It’s no use rushing ahead with a program that is too ambitious, particularly in the present situation where Bulgaria is also affected by what is becoming a real (world) recession, he said. The World Bank had said that if Bulgaria continued with reforms, it would increase its lending to the country over the next three years to a maximum of $750 million, from $700 million.