EU Funds Deepen Bulgaria's Regional Imbalances
Instead of redressing Bulgaria's regional economic imbalances, EU funds are actually deepening them, a report claims.
Thus, the poorest regions in Bulgaria – and in the EU – Bulgaria's Severozapaden (Northwestern) and Severen-Tsentralen (North-central) have contracted substantially less EU money for public projects per capita than has the Yugozapaden (Southwestern) Region, which includes the capital Sofia.
According to the update action plan for the National Regional Development Strategy of the Bulgarian government, cited Tuesday by the Sega daily, Bulgaria's poorest regions should catch up by 2015 by using EU money. The document is key for the programming of EU funded projects in Bulgaria for 2014-2020, the period of the EU's next financial framework.
The paper claims that it was adopted secretly by the Borisov Cabinet, without any mention to the public, at the very end of 2011.
Government data shows that Bulgaria's Northwestern Region, the poorest in the EU, had a per capita GDP of BGN 5 576, or 62% of Bulgaria's average, in 2009, while the Southwestern region including Sofia, had a per capita GDP of BGN 15 610, three times more. Bulgaria's North-central region is also doing bad with BGN 5942 of GDP per capita.
In 2000, the difference between the poorest and richest region in GDP per capita was only 47%.
The regional imbalances are also grave when it comes to employment figures and attracting foreign direct investment.
In terms of contracted EU funding, Bulgaria's Northeastern Region has the lowest amount per capita – BGN 512, followed by the North-Central Region with BGN 691 per capita, and the Northwestern – BGN 700 per capita. In comparison, the Southwestern Region got BGN 1 855 per capita, and the Sofia Municipality in particular – BGN 2 164.
According to experts quoted in the National Regional Development Strategy, Bulgaria should set aside budget funding to try to redress the regional imbalances with pilot projects in municipalities that are doing the worst, followed by an expansion of this mechanism in 2014-2020.
The goals set by the Strategy state that the per capita GDP in the three poorest regions – Northwester, North-central, and South-central – must react 45% of the EU average in 2015 (in 2008, it was 28%, 30%, and 30% respectively.
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