As every year since 2005, the German-Bulgarian Chamber of Industry and Commerce, AHK Bulgarien, conducted a survey among its members regarding the business environment in Bulgaria. The survey is conducted in 15 countries of Central and Eastern Europe simultaneously. 108 companies are members of AHK Bulgarien, most of them small and medium-sized enterprises.
More than half of the companies which took part in the survey (53 percent) stated the economic environment in Bulgaria was satisfactory, 44 percent expect an upturn in the country’s economy by the end of the year. Almost two-thirds (63 percent) are hoping to improve their economic results, most of all from exports and plan to increase their investments in 2018. According to Bulgarian National Bank data, German investments in this country in 2017 stood at 130.7 million euro.
The principal challenge they cite is the shortage of qualified staff. Almost half of the German companies in Bulgaria are ready to hire new staff but are unable to do so because, once again this year this country is bottom of the list in quality of university education. Investors say the solution lies in the return of Bulgarian specialists living abroad, in hiring staff from other countries and investing in education. Vocational education is the only sphere in which there is a certain improvement.
Another major problem German entrepreneurs face is the fact that Bulgaria is bottom of the list, among all Central and East European countries, with regard to the fight against corruption. Lack of transparency in public procurement procedures is another negative fact.
Here is Mitko Vassilev, Managing Director of the German-Bulgarian Chamber of Industry and Commerce, with the other drawbacks German companies face in Bulgaria:
“Legal certainty – we are below the average and it is in this that assessments are most critical. Discontent is highest with regard to the fight against corruption and crime – 44 percent are not satisfied, as against only 6 percent who are. Transparency in public procurement – Bulgaria is second to last, with Slovakia being bottom of the list,” Vassilev says.
72 percent of the respondents say they are not happy with the progress made in the fight against corruption and crime. The state of the infrastructure also gets a negative assessment. Trust in the work of the public administration has increased very slightly. But there are several positive tendencies as well: satisfaction with the political and social stability is slightly above the average for Central and Eastern Europe. Among the other 15 countries in Central and Eastern Europe, Bulgaria continues to occupy one of the top places with regard to the tax burden and labour costs.
Regarding the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU opinions are split down the middle – 44 percent of the respondents say it is a catalyst, and as many are doubtful.
Compiled by Vladimir Vladimirov
English version: Milena Daynova
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