Survey Underscores Growing Divide between Southern, Northern Bulgaria
A survey of the Institute for Market Economics (IME) think-tank has sounded the alarm about the growing divide between northern and southern Bulgaria.
According to the survey, there is no district where children of up to 15 years of age outnumber people aged 65+.
No district has registered population growth since 2010, the lowest growth ratios being in Vidin, Kyustendil, Montana, Pernik, Lovech, Vratsa, and Gabrovo.
On the positive side, the survey indicates slow but tangible economic recovery.
The economic activity of the population increases and employment rates go up in the majority of districts in 2013, despite the fact that they fall short of pre-crisis levels.
According to the IME, there have been municipalities which have registered very rapid economic recovery over the past two years, succeeding to attract investments and boost living conditions despite the crisis, the most notable example being Burgas.
Estimates of the quality of the environment improve and there share of people with access to sewerage systems increases, as well as the share of people connected to water purification units.
In 2013, cinema and theatre attendance rates reach record-high levels for the past few years and the trend is observable in small districts too, for instance Targovishte.
At the same time, many districts register acceleration in EU funds absorption in 2013. For the third year in a row, Gabrovo emerges as the best-performing district by EU funds absorption per capita, followed by Burgas.
On the downside, the spheres of education and healthcare are characterized by negative trends which are largely attributable to the lack of clear reform plans of the government.
The share of people with health insurance drops from 87.3% to 86.1%, while the enrollment rate of students in 5-8 grade drops from 81.0% to 79.7%.
Despite the fact that the situation on the labor market improves on the whole, a large part of the districts are not involved in the process.
In 2013, the employment rate of people aged 15+ remains below 40% in seven districts, all of them in northern Bulgaria, including Vidin, Vratsa, Lovech, Montana, Razgrad, Silistra and Targovishte. At the same time, southern Bulgaria claims the major portion of new jobs.
The only districts to register population growth in 2013 are Sofia and Burgas.
The relative share of road surface in good condition has decreased, according to Road Infrastructure Agency data, as cited by the IME.
There are significant differences in the capacity of municipalities for successful EU funds absorption. Population-weighted EU funds absorption in 2013 varies from BGN 0 to over BGN 4 000 per capita in the different municipalities.
In over 50 Bulgarian municipalities, including Plovdiv and Kyustendil, EU funds absorption amounts to less than BGN 100 per capita.
Household income data for the past 10 years indicates a growing divide between the capital and the poorest districts.
In the period 2004-2013, the average annual rate of income growth in Sofia stands at 12.79%, compared to an average of 8.50% for the country.
Lovech reports the lowest income growth rate, at 2.90% per year.
Electronic services and one-stop-shop services are developing slowly and the estimate of businesses of the quality of e-services deteriorates on an annual basis.
The estimate of the work of the local administration deteriorates and the corruption perception index worsens.
Throughout the survey period, Sofia remains a separate cluster and the differences between the capital and the other districts fail to diminish.
The cluster comprising districts in poor social and economic condition increases from 2 (in 2012) to 3 (in 2013) to 5 districts (in 2014), according to the IME.
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