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The financial sector has coped well with the crisis, although many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have experienced difficulties in accessing finance and the provisioning for non-performing loans has risen considerably. A continued close coordination among foreign banks and their local subsidiaries, regulators, and international institutions is important to ensure that financial intermediation increases once the crisis subsides. Infrastructure quality has improved, but key challenges remain, including: further liberalisation of the electricity market; new water sector reforms; improved waste management; and further road sector development. The full force of the global economic crisis has meant falling exports, reduced capital inflows and a sharp decline in domestic demand. An important challenge for the government is to balance the need for a sound fiscal policy to provide comfort to the markets, with the need for sufficient economic stimulus to prevent a prolonged recession.
Business environment and competition
The conditions for doing business in Bulgaria have improved in recent years, however, inadequately educated workforce, difficulties in accessing finance and competition from the informal sector still pose challenges to business development. Some progress has been made in improving the judiciary and combating corruption and organised crime, but many shortcomings still need to be addressed.
Infrastructure - Power and energy
The development of the first Energy Efficiency Action Plan and the introduction of new legislation for renewable energy are expected to increase investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy sources. Effective liberalisation of the electricity market has not yet taken place despite a legal framework that provides for a full market opening.
A number of new policies and projects have been initiated to promote energy security in the country. Bulgaria signed the Nabucco gas pipeline project in July 2009 with three other EU countries and Turkey. Steps have also been taken to increase gas interconnectivity with Greece and Romania and to enhance gas storage facilities.
Further improvements are expected in water operating facilities, the roads sector and waste management.
The banks have dealt well with the financial crisis due to the effective existing regulations and the majority of banks are now focusing on sustainable and prudent lending. Credit growth during the first half of 2009 was very low, and interest rates on deposits have remained high so far this year.
Last updated 21 April 2010