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Bulgarian Telegraph Agency (BTA), 97-02-25
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From: Embassy of Bulgaria <email@example.com>
EMBASSY OF BULGARIA - WASHINGTON D.C.
BTA - BULGARIAN TELEGRAPH AGENCY
25 February, 1997
 CABINET UNBLOCKS CONTINGENCY GRAIN RESERVESofia, February 24 (BTA) - The cabinet decided to unblock the entire state contingency reserve of grain at USD 85 a ton at its session on Monday, said Agriculture Minister Roumen Hristov. The reserve amounts to some 80,000 tonnes which meets this country's average monthly requirement. At this price of wheat a 1 kg loaf of bread will cost around 600 leva, Hristov said. (Now the US dollar exchanges at 2,300-2,500 leva on the cash market.) Hristov said the international financial institutions insist on the liberalization of all prices, including bread prices, but this cabinet will take the responsibility of keeping bread prices affordable.
The cabinet had no chance but to unblock the state contingency reserves as it found the granaries and the treasury empty, the Agriculture Minister said. Hristov also said that the wartime reserves will remain intact.
The cabinet also decided to liberalize wheat purchase prices. This will bring between 20,000 and 30,000 tonnes of grain kept by wheat growers out on the market at USD 100-120 a ton.
The cabinet is also considering to barter cooking oil for wheat.
Gratuitous aid of 3,000 tonnes of wheat are expected to arrive from Switzerland soon. Almost all countries of the EU, Hungary, Moldova and Romania have offered Bulgaria aid in solving the grain crisis, Agriculture Minister Roumen Hristov said.
Some countries with outstanding debts to Bulgaria have offered to settle them in grain. Trade and Foreign Economic Relations Minister Daniela Bobeva said. The Trade Ministry is now considering an offer from Syria and Kazakhstan to settle their debts to Bulgaria in wheat.
The cabinet also decided to export 35,000 tonnes of the new harvest against import of harvesters. The Agriculture Minister will conduct negotiations with Germany for a credit line of DM 100 million for purchasing plant protection preparations and farming and food industry machinery.
Last week Prime Minister Stefan Sofiyanski said that this country needs 450, 000 tonnes of wheat to meet requirements till the harvest. The most favourable solution for this country would be to import grain against export of Bulgarian wheat of the new harvest.
There are bread shortages in many Bulgarian towns.
 BULGARIA MAY RECEIVE GRAIN FROM U.S.Sofia, February 24 (BTA) - Bulgaria may receive about 130,000- 150,000 tonnes of grain under the U.S. programme GSM-102 by May, Minister of Agriculture and Food Processing Roumen Hristov said after his meeting with US Ambassador here Mrs. Avis Bohlen on Monday. Mrs. Bohlen said she will be very happy if the deal is realized and if Bulgaria manages to meet the agreement's two conditions.
The two conditions set by the US party for the realization of the deal is that Bulgaria repays 300,000 US dollars on its old grain loan under the PL- 480 programme and that the new agreement is signed with the mediation of Bulbank, Minister Hristov explained. He hopes that by the end of the week Bulgaria will pay the due sums. He also said that he has already discussed the problem with Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Bozhkov and with the popular financial expert Emil Hursev who both approved the idea.
According to Mr. Hristov the second condition of the US party can also be fulfilled and that Bulbank will provide guarantees for the grain loan worth some 25,000 US dollars.
Mr. Hristov and Mrs. Bohlen believe that within two months all details on the deal will be cleared and that the first consignments will arrive in Bulgaria in May. The loan is to be repaid in deferred installments.
 BULGARIA TO JOIN SFORSofia, February 24 (BTA) - A decision for Bulgaria's participation in the multinational forces for stabilization of Bosnia and Herzegovina (SFOR) under NATO's command was taken at the Monday meeting of the Cabinet, the Government's press office said. The Government will move to the 38th National Assembly (to be formed after the elections due April 19 this year) a proposal to okay this participation. It has been planned for a Bulgarian group of up to 35 military officers to be trained at centers of the armed forces of the Netherlands between March 15 and April 30 this year.
It was suggested that the funds required for the training of the military experts that will join SFOR be envisaged in the new budget of the Defence Ministry.
Negotiations are being held for the participation of Bulgarian sappers in the operations of NATO's multinational forces in Bosnia, Chief of General Staff of the Bulgarian Army, Colonel-General Totomirov said early this year after a meeting with military attaches, accredited in Sofia. He also specified that under an initial agreement the Bulgarian officers and soldiers will join a Dutch company under Dutch command.
 DONORS WILLING TO SUPPORT BULGARIASofia, February 24 (BTA) - Representatives of the International Monetary Fund, the European Union, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the World Bank met in Brussels on Monday to review the economic and social crisis in Bulgaria, a World Bank news release says.
The participants concluded that only a coherent and bold stabilization and structural reform program will restore confidence, price stability and growth. The donors are optimistic about the Government's intentions in pursuing a serious program. Their positive expectations will firm up when the Government elaborates its program and starts implementing it consistently, the news release says.
The donors also agreed to participate in the working teams to be established by the Government on macroeconomic stabilization, banking, enterprises, agriculture, social protection and public information. They expressed willingness to be as quick in mobilizing financial support as the Government is in implementing its program.
Finally, the donors decided that as soon as a credible Government program is agreed upon with the IMF and the World Bank, they will organize a Consultative Group meeting (including the G-24) to coordinate their support to Bulgaria, the World Bank news release says.
 IMF'S MCGUIRK ARRIVES IN SOFIASofia, February 24 (BTA) - International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission leader for Bulgaria Anne McGuirk arrived in Sofia late Monday evening, from a joint meeting in Brussels of the IMF, the World Bank, the European Union and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development on coordinating efforts in support of economic stabilization in Bulgaria.
McGuirk said upon her arrival that long and difficult work for the preparation of a currency board and all supporting measures was forthcoming. She reiterated the readiness of the IMF to work with the cabinet, not specifying if an agreement will be signed with this cabinet.
It is early to talk about fixing the exchange rate, the mission leader said. Bulgaria needs support for a strong stabilization programme and we are ready to work for that, she said.
The IMF begins talks with the government on the development of a new standby agreement and the introduction of a currency board. Before the start of the official talks, McGuirk will meet President Peter Stoyanov and Prime Minister Stefan Sofiyanski.
An IMF technical mission arrived in Bulgaria last Thursday and started work on the technical parameters of the introduction of the currency board.
Bulgaria signed its fourth stand-by agreement with the IMF, amounting to USD 580 million, in July 1996. The first tranche of the loan, amounting to USD 116 million, was disbursed by the end of July. The second tranche, initially scheduled for September 1996, was delayed because of this country's failure to meet the conditions in the agreement. After two successive IMF missions to Sofia, it emerged that Bulgaria will be unable to implement the parameters in the memorandum to the agreement which envisaged single-digit inflation, liquidation of loss-making enterprises and a budget deficit of less than 40% of the gross domestic product.
 JEFFREY SACHS: REAL ECONOMIC REFORM MOST IMPORTANT NOWSofia, February 24 (BTA) - What is most important now is to conduct the actual economic reform, said in an interview for the Continent daily on Monday Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Harvard Institute for International Development of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Mr. Sachs is economic advisor to President Peter Stoyanov and is expected to arrive in Bulgaria soon.
According to Mr. Sachs, months of serious economic difficulties are ahead for Bulgaria, he believes this will be also a time of great opportunities for this country. Mr. Sachs believes this time may prove to be a turning point for Bulgaria, if all the subsequent steps are taken in a democratic, professional and serious way.
According to the prominent economist, Bulgaria had hard luck over the past few years. He says he has really no doubts about the country's incredible potential, and that he has always admired the quality of Bulgaria's education and its talents. Sachs shares his good impressions of the Bulgarian students at Harvard and describes them as some of the most talented. Mr. Sachs finds illogical the fact that an economic situation can be so miserable given the availability of such great human talent. In his view Bulgaria now has a chance to make a breakthrough.
Jeffrey Sachs believes that Bulgaria should take some preparatory measures to halt the high inflation rate by the summer, as well as to start a decisive structural reform. In his view the main risk lies with the rulers taking rash decisions. He believes that urgent measures in the conditions of chaos cannot comprehensively settle the problems. In his view all options should be considered carefully and the fact that Bulgaria is already in a new political and geopolitical situation should not be disregarded.
 HUMANITARIAN AID FROM ISRAELSofia, February 24 (BTA) Bulgaria received humanitarian aid from Israel constituting about one ton of medicines and medical materials. The aid arrived on Sunday following an urgent order by Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy and is financed by the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
The aid was received by Israeli Ambassador to Bulgaria David Cohen who presented it to the Bulgarian Red Cross which will in its turn distribute it among Bulgarian hospitals and medical establishments.
An aircraft carrying 40 tonnes of aid from Israel, including medicines, medical materials and foods will arrive in Sofia in the next two or three weeks, Ambassador Cohen said.
 EU APPROVES GREEK PROPOSAL FOR AID TO BULGARIASofia, February 24 (BTA) - During talks in Brussels on Monday Greek Alternate Minister for European Affairs Georgios Papandreou, who attended the meeting of the European Union foreign ministers' general affairs council, informed Bulgarian foreign minister Stoyan Stalev on the council's work, the national radio said. Stalev arrived in Brussels on Monday at the head of a Bulgarian delegation to attend a meeting of the EU-Bulgaria association council scheduled for Tuesday.
On Monday the council was presented with the official proposal of the Greek Government to provide aid to Bulgaria, Albania and Serbia. According to Papandreou, the document includes urgent measures for humanitarian and social aid (grain, foods, medicines) from the EU to Bulgaria, as well as loans to restore the Bulgarian economy, the national radio correspondent to Brussels said.
Participants in the Monday meeting confirmed that the Greek proposal won a favourable response and that concrete urgent aid programmes will be outlined very soon, the national radio said. The 15 EU member states, however, insist that the Bulgarian cabinet give concrete data on this country's most urgent needs and a programme on how to use the aid. Stalev said that this may take place already on Tuesday during the talks on adaptation of the EU-Bulgaria association agreement. On Tuesday Stalev will meet with NATO Secretary General Javier Solana and with the EU Secretary General.
 CABINET DISCUSSES IRAQ'S, OTHER COUNTRIES' DEBTS TO BULGARIASofia, February 24 (BTA) - At a meeting on Monday the cabinet discussed issues of settling the debt of Iraq and other countries to Bulgaria. The question was addressed on a proposal by minister of trade and foreign economic cooperation Daniela Bobeva. Countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America owe Bulgaria a total of USD 3,000 million, Bobeva said. Bulgaria's foreign debt amounts to about USD 10,500 million.
The problem with outstanding debts to this country will not be resolved by this cabinet but the government will carry out the preliminary work. Meetings at diplomatic level will be held in connection with the issue, coordinated by Bobeva. Other countries' debts to Bulgaria were discussed during the two-day visit to Sofia of World Bank Department Director K. Lay late last week, prime minister Sofiyanski said Monday.
Sofiyanski said that the issue will be raised with the U.N. Sanctions Committee. Bulgaria strictly enforced the international sanction against Iraq and Libya which owe this country hundreds of millions dollars. The Bulgarian economy also sustained direct and indirect losses as a result the U.N. sanctions against former Yugoslavia.
Iraq is this country's biggest debtor. Although the Iraqi side officially recognized the debt, amounting to more than USD 2,000 million, since 1991 until now Bulgaria has received nothing because of the Gulf crisis and the embargo imposed on Iraq by the UN.
The cabinet decided Monday to hold an urgent sitting of the joint Bulgarian- Iraqi commission. The Bulgarian side will be headed by deputy prime minister and minister of industry Alexander Bozhkov.
 WAGES IN PUBLIC SECTOR RAISED 60%Sofia, February 24 (BTA) - At its sitting on Monday the Cabinet decided to raise as of March the wages of civil servants 60 per cent from the preceding month. Child benefits will be raised 100 per cent to become 3,640 leva. Pensioners will receive extra 10,000 leva each in March. The minimum monthly wage will become 17,600 leva (one US dollar currently exchanges for 23 - 25 hundred leva).
In March doctors will be paid an average wage of 33,757 leva or they will receive a total of 74,077 leva with the January and February inflationary adjustments added. Teachers will receive an average wage of 43,254 leva, culture sphere employees - 33,555 leva and social workers - 33,616 leva.
A total of 23,000 million leva are needed for the payment of these wages and the Ministry of Finance has committed itself to provide the money, Minister of Social Affairs Ivan Neikov said.
 INDUSTRY MINISTER: THE SOLUTION LIES IN QUICK PRIVATIZATIONSofia, February 24 (BTA) - Of the 1,150 industrial enterprises in Bulgaria, 401 posted losses in the first nine months of 1996, newly appointed industry minister Alexander Bozhkov told a news conference on Monday. Bozhkov introduced his team. Bank loans extended to industrial enterprises amount to a total of 132,000 million leva, Bozhkov said. (The U.S. dollar trades at 2,200 leva.) Bulgaria is the only East European country to report a drop in production in 1996, the industry minister said.
During its term of office the industry ministry will try to put an end to draining of capital, plundering of state-run enterprises, further accumulation of losses. "We shall seek to create conditions for accelerated privatization," Bozhkov said.
One of the ministry's priority aims will be to make appraisals of enterprises slated for liquidation, especially of the export-oriented ones, Bozhkov said.
"There will be no politically-motivated dismissals in the industrial sector," Bozhkov said. The management of all enterprises showing positive results will remain, he said.
The World Bank will probably extend a new loan to Bulgaria to be used for severance pay to people who have been made redundant, the industry minister said.
"After talks late last week with Mr. Kenneth Lay, Director of the World bank Southeastern Europe Department, we agreed that compiling a list of enterprises slated for liquidation is the best solution. It is better to liquidate a given percentage of state assets," Bozhkov said, adding that the world financial institutions are interested in eliminating losses rather than in the procedure for liquidation. The solution is quick privatization, Bozhkov said.
 DIPLOMATIC PERSONNEL CUTS?Sofia, February 24 (BTA) - One of the deputies to the foreign minister has proposed to close down 20 Bulgarian embassies and reduce 40 percent of the Foreign Ministry personnel, "Continent" writes in a front-page story Monday referring to unnamed insiders. However, the newly-appointed Foreign Minister Stalev opposed this measure, the paper adds. Twenty Bulgarian embassies, including those in Hong Kong, Zambia, Morocco, Tunisia, Tanzania, Ghana, Indonesia, Uruguay, Equator, Nicaragua and a consulate in Toronto, have allegedly been slated for possible cuts. Also on the list purportedly were embassies to other countries.
The proposal envisages that three quarters of the planned reduction be made in the overseas missions and the rest - in the Ministry in Sofia. The average salary of an overseas missions' employee equaled almost 1,000 US dollars, according to the paper, and this amount would be enough to pay the staff of a whole department in the ministry, "Continent" says.
 COUNCIL OF MINISTERS' DECISIONSSofia, February 24 (BTA) - The cabinet approved on Monday a programme for social aid in conditions of crisis, to be implemented by the Construction Corps. Under the decision, the General Administration of the Construction Corps will allocate a number of its buildings in various cities across the country to be used for orphanages and social establishments for the elderly, pay part of the repair costs and the heating and food bills. The Construction Corps will also provide free lunches to socially disadvantaged people in several cities across the country.
The cabinet discussed a method for liberalizing cigarette prices. The cabinet will set a minimum price for tobacco products only, instead of fixing it. On Thursday the cabinet will discuss questions of liberalizing prices of medicines.
 TURKISH GOVERNMENT TO EXPEL ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS FROM BULGARIASofia, February 24 (BTA) A decision of the Turkish government to expel some 400,000 illegal Bulgarian immigrants would be rash, Kurdjali Mayor Rassim Moussa told a news conference on Monday following a visit to Turkey. Kurdjali is a centre of a mixed population region in Southern Bulgaria.
During his visit Moussa told the leaders of the Istanbul municipality of Corlu, twinned with Kurdjali, of his alarm that the deportation of such a mass of people may be of unpredictable consequences for certain regions in Bulgaria and above all for Kurdjali which has one of the highest unemployment rates in this country.
Reuters reported on Monday that Mesut Yilmaz, leader of Turkey's major opposition force - the Motherland Party, said he would take the problem of the expulsion of thousands of Bulgarians of Turkish descent to Parliament. "To deport our kin means to send them to hunger and poverty," Yilmaz said. Turkish Interior Minister Meral Aksener was cited as saying on Monday that the anti-immigrant drive might be tempered with a proviso for dual citizenship. "We are considering a solution which will make everyone happy," Ms Aksener said, cited by AP.
 BRIEFSSofia, February 24 (BTA) - A PRIVATIZATION DEAL FOR BORYANA - CHERVEN BRYAG (Northern Bulgaria) will be finalized in mid March, the Executive Director of Boryana, Miroslav Makaveev, told the local BTA correspondent. Germany's Erika Roessler company wishes to buy 80 per cent of this clothes making factory and is planning to invest DM 90,000 already this year. The funds will be used for purchasing state-of-the art equipment. Already before the privatization deal Erika Roessler presented Boryana with ironing and tailoring equipment worth DM 200,000.
TURKEY WILL CONTINUE TO IMPORT ELECTRICITY from Bulgaria and Iran to make up for the growth in electricity consumption, TANJUG reported citing an announcement of the Turkish State Electricity Company. According to the Electricity Company's data, in 1997 Turkey will need to import 2,000 million kWh of electricity from neighbouring states.
PRESTIGIOUS EUROPEAN FILM DISTRIBUTORS are showing interest in Bulgarian film "Canary Birds' Season", the BTA stringer in Berlin reported. The film was shown at the 47th Berlinale International Film Forum which was its first presentation abroad.
Popular Bulgarian TV journalist Elena Yoncheva's documentary "Welcome to Afghanistan" was also well received at the Berlin film forum.
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