World Bank, Bulgaria Strike Memorandum for Infrastructure Loans
Bulgarian PM Boyko Borisov and World Bank President Robert Zoellick signed Tuesday in Sofia a memorandum to boost cooperation in the development of Bulgaria's infrastructure.
“It is crucial that roads are build the way they should, it is crucial to overcome corruption and achieve more transparency,” said the World Bank President, adding that his institution can help in those areas.
“Bulgaria is facing challenges that will probably continue during the next months,” according to Zoellick who again did not spare good words for Borisov's cabinet which he characterized as “wonderful.”
Bulgarian PM Borisov declared that with the help of the WB “Bulgaria will become an average European country within 3 years” (which is – by the end of term of his government).
He said that money from the World Bank infrastructure loans will go into the construction of the Struma and Hemus highways. In addition, the Bulgarian State Railways company will get funds from the Bank if it fulfills a requested restructuring to optimize its activities.
On Monday Zoellick praised the Bulgarian government for successfully tackling the global economic crisis on another meeting with Borisov to inspect the reconstruction of the Dobrich-Varna road.
He specified that Bulgaria can rely on the World Bank for support not only for road infrastructure projects, but also in the areas of energy, education and administrative capacity.
On Tuesday he reiterated his words from yesterday, saying “I came here to listen and learn.”
The World Bank president said that the Bank's investment in Bulgaria totals USD 1.5 B, while the country has access to further EUR 7-10 B, which are not loans.
Regarding loans, he recalled that Bulgaria has USD 300 M ready at its disposal in its yearly loan program, but will probably not take advantage of all of them, since it wants to have a spendthrift state budget.
Bulgaria's finance minister Simeon Djankov's prior background is that of a World Bank chief economist, having served at the institution 1995-2009.
Tuesday Zoellick stated that PM Borisov's “wonderful team” is something that is being noticed both in Europe and in the USA, a comment to which Borisov gladly concurred.
PM Borisov, on his part, commented that although a WB loan will up the country's budget deficit, “Brussels is no capital of evil for countries who break the 3% barrier.”
Regarding the future cooperation of the Bank with Bulgaria, Zoellick said he is interested in getting to know the private sector, helping out small and medium enterprises and financial institutions.
He spoke out strongly for improving administrative capacity as a route to better absorption of EU funds.
Tuesday Zoellick had also met with Bulgarian economy minister Traicho Traikov, and the two discussed Bulgaria's plans to reduce administrative burden and an ongoing joint project to analyze the security of Bulgaria's natural gas sector.
Earlier today Zoellick met Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov, who offered high praise to the support of the Bank for the country’s efforts for reforms after the EU accession. The two joined around the idea the goals of the WB Strategy for Cooperation with the Republic of Bulgaria (2006 – 2009) laid the foundations of a successful partnership that must be extended in the future.
Parvanov pointed out Bulgaria needs strong and effective investments in the social sector aimed at the inclusion of young people, the unemployed, and the Roma, among others, and at the education reform.
All meetings were attended by Bulgaria's EU commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, who holds the international development and humanitarian aid portfolio, and before assuming that position in 2010 worked as a World Bank Vice President under Zoellick.
Tuesday she placed strong emphasis on the need for Bulgaria to up the level and quality of its EU-funds absorption, recalling that the country is falling behind in that.
“This year is critical, because we must make a claim on the part of Bulgaria for the next financial period,” said Georgieva.
She too heaped praise on the efforts of the World Bank, saying it gives Bulgaria the opportunity to speed up crucial for the good of its people.
Rober Zoellick on his part styled loans from the World Bank as “the key for additional financing.”
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Dear Prime Minister Boyko Borisov,
I would like to invite you for a beer at H Street NW, Washington DC, just off Pennsylvania Avenue and three long blocks from the White House, I want you to meet the Bulgarian Desk at the WB and listen to reality concerning Transparency and Bulgarian Infrastructure Projects without the Reform Process.
The beer is fine but the Bulgarian Desk is trembling.