Package of Post-Pandemic Business Recovery Measures Under Preparation
“My colleagues and I have been working actively on a package of post-pandemic business recovery measures”. This is what the Minister of Finance Assen Vassilev announced at a joint press conference with the Minister of Education and Science Prof. Nikolay Denkov and the Minister of Tourism Stella Baltova today. “In structural terms, at the beginning of May the budget already experiences some serious problems and we need to secure money from various places so as to be able to finance the ongoing needs of businesses, of the Ministry of Health and for pensioner relief”, Mr. Vassilev explained.
As to the budgetary state of play, Minister Vassilev pointed out that BGN 1.164 billion from the central budget had been spent by 14 May 2021. The budget’s cushion provided BGN 283 million, while the MoF budget – BGN 22 million. Through restructuring, BGN 810 million of the funds were spent for contingencies”. The majority of these contingencies were used to compensate the COVID pandemic measures, to support the businesses and to secure additional resources for pensioners for April and May. “In other words, instead of revising the budget in March, when it became clear that those measures had to continue, this was not done but all possible cushions and items available started to be used instead. Even before our Government took office, the funds from items that are not planned for this purpose had started to be used”, the Minister said. Contingencies had been targeted to churches, to the Fund of Funds, to BNT, etc.
“What my colleagues and I managed to do was to find a cushion of 0.8% from the various ministries budgets by reducing mainly staff costs so as to continue paying out the pensioner relief of BGN 50. We continue looking for resources to continue this type of relief until the end of the caretaker government’s term of office”, the Minister emphasized. He said that the epidemic situation was no longer necessitating a closing down of businesses. An all-around post-pandemic business recovery programme was therefore under preparation. “We need to shift from paying to businesses because they were closed down to supporting their recovery so as to help them work up to par, surmount the economic hardships and solve the issues experienced thus far”, Mr. Assen Vassilev said firmly.
The measure we have been working on from day one of our Government is also along this line because it targets the sector that is still hit most severely, i.e. Tourism”, the Minister added. He announced that some central budget funds were secured for the implementation of programme with a strong social impact. It would enable 30 thousand pupils and pedagogical staff to enjoy a one-week holiday and to go sightseeing around Bulgaria. The Minister of Education Prof. Nikolay Denkov said that the participation in the programme, which had an overall budget of BGN 15 million, would be voluntary, with the maximum number of pupils per school being 70. Schools would be able to apply by the middle of July. The application process would continue until 15 September or until depleting the financial resources. Prof. Denkov said that a survey was distributed among the educational establishments in order to see their views on these types of holiday.
Programme implementation envisaged that the tour operators traditionally working with children and pupils prepare comprehensive package tours. “This will stimulate the businesses but will also have an impact on pupils’ upbringing and development”, the Minister of Tourism Stella Baltova added. Various measures, including subsidising air plane seats and cutting beach item prices, were envisaged. Likewise, there was an agreement for Romanian tourists visiting our country not to present COVID tests upon entry, she added. The Minister of Finance announced that there was some active work on other measures in support of the sector of tourism including paying for the coronavirus tests of all foreign tourists entering the country.