(DF) Caretaker Cabinet Reports Back on First Month in Office

June 15 (BTA) – At a news briefing at the Council of Ministers on Tuesday, members of Bulgaria’s caretaker Cabinet reported back on their performance since taking office on May 12. Prime Minister Stefan Yanev: The more we delve into the relevant sectors and issues, we come across a consistent mess and lack of rules. Corruption appears in a seemly guise. Our principles are transparence and accountability, we will not tolerate any other approach, nor will treat anybody as untouchable. Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov: Holding fair elections is one of the top priorities of the caretaker Cabinet, so that every vote cast by Bulgarian voters could be accounted for the way it was cast and not the way somebody wants to rig it. All necessary high-level personnel changes at the Interior Ministry have already been made. There was no purge at the Ministry. The people who were dismissed can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Deputy Prime Minister and Labour and Social Policy Minister Galab Donev: The unemployment rate is steadily declining, and the year-on-year decrease now tops 37 per cent. At present, the jobless rate approximates 5.4 per cent, which is a good sign of the Bulgarian economy gradually recovering and emerging from the recession into which it was forced by the COVID restriction measures. Deputy Prime Minister for EU Funds Management Atanas Pekanov: Bulgaria does not risk losing the funding to which it is entitled under the Recovery and Resilience Plan, the money will be available before the end of the year. As soon as the national plan is approved, 13 per cent of the amount will be disbursed. The national plan has not been submitted to the European Commission. There are two reasons for the delay: the preceding government’s decision not to submit it and some technical irregularities, and our desire to improve the plan and make adjustments ensuring that the resources will be invested in the best possible way without compromises. More than 30 new projects have been received, but some of them do not meet the Commission’s requirements. We will consider about a dozen new project proposals which we want to include in the plan. Health Minister Stoycho Katsarov: The poor results are due to the bad condition of the health system and the inadequate management of the crisis. Bulgaria ranked first in coronavirus lethality, had low vaccination uptake, and lacked an approved general plan for COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment. We prioritized vaccinating the elderly people: those aged over 60 exceed 400,000. The project for aiding hospitals that have admitted and treated COVID-19 patients has been overhauled, and all these facilities will get financial support. Economy Minister Kiril Petkov: We first exposed the Bulgarian Development Bank (BDB) having lent 946 million leva to just 8 companies, and then we found out that 20 companies had borrowed 1.8 billion leva. The Ministry, therefore, proposed new Articles of Association of BDB setting the maximum amount of a loan that it can extend to 5 million leva. Transparency and control commissions have been set up at the State Consolidation Company and the Bulgarian Export Insurance Agency. An economic growth boosting programme has been launched in partnership with commercial banks, under which more than 2.5 billion leva in liquidity support are available to small and medium-sized enterprises. EU institutions, including the European Investment Bank, have been enlisted as partners for a nearly 500 million leva increase of the resources allocated for business under the recovery and resilience plan. The Three Seas Initiative opens up yet another opportunity for support to business, with an option to attract companies of the magnitude of Amazon and Google to Sofia during the Three Seas Summit in Sofia in July. Bulgarian business executives can invite their partners from the countries of the Initiative. Bulgarian trade representatives abroad are successfully competing to attract foreign investors to this country and arrange potential export deals for Bulgarian companies. Finance Minister Assen Vassilev: Our principal task is to plug the financial drain hole and improve the revenue compliance rate. A budget revision will be submitted to a series of public consultations, the idea being to avoid an increase of the deficit. This may be done by cutting capital costs. The pandemic control measures were budgeted until the end of March, and until the end of May they were financed at the expense of various other items. We furnished 2.5 billion leva to support business and aid the most vulnerable members of the population. We found that there are no preventive and ex-post controls of public procurements. We saw no duty of care in handling public funds and their uncontrolled spending. Control over cash-in-hand held by large enterprises has been tightened. * * * On a proposal by the Minister of Justice, Gabriela Kozareva will be replaced as Executive Director of the Registry Agency, Prime Minister Stefan Yanev told journalists here on Tuesday. He specified that Kozareva “refuses to work transparently and in the interest of people” and her work is probably “motivated otherwise”. Kozareva’s dismissal comes a week after the Registry Agency refused to register the new management of the Alexandrovska Hospital, arguing that the proper procedure had not been complied with. Health Minister Katsarov accused Kozareva of acting arbitrarily and asked Justice Minister Yanaki Stoilov to check the Agency and remove its executive director. NV/LG/DT //