Maritsa Forum Mulls Infrastructure, Industrial Zones and Support of SMEs
AmCham Bulgaria magazine
By Irina Bacheva
Bulgarian industrial zones, infrastructure, building of roads and freeways, as well as better economic and trade relations with the neighboring Greece and Turkey were the main topics discussed at the economic forum Maritsa held in Plovdiv on April 11-12.
The event was organized for a second time by the Bulgarian Economic Forum and was dedicated to the Southern-Central Economic Region covering the administrative regions of Plovdiv, Pazardjik, Star Zagora, Haskovo, Kurdjali and Smolyan. The most attractive sectors for the Turkish business are energy, construction, banking sector and electronics. Turkey was represented by 25 businessmen at the forum.
A round table at the forum was dedicated to the development of industrial zones, which was earlier presented by Stoyan Stalev, executive director of the InvetsBulgaria Agency at the AmCham business luncheon on March 28. Then he talked about special initiatives for the Bulgarian SMEs and the lack of legislation to facilitate these initiatives.
According to Lydia Vitoshka from the Economy and Energy Ministry, the state will invest a total of 100 million Euro in the establishment of industrial zones in the next several years. The funding is planned for the period 2007-2013. The state and municipalities would support the creation of funds for building infrastructure, subsidies granting, using wastelands and training labour force, she said.
Because of the lack of industrial zones, Bulgaria has lost some Greenfield investors from Sweden, Canada and UK, Stoyan Stalev told participants in the event.
A team of the Economy and Energy Ministry in co-operation with experts of the IBA and the Regional Developments Ministry is developing a project for amendments to the Act on Investments, which would stimulate the industrial zones, Stalev added. In his view, the strategic advantages that an industrial zone gives to investors include free land plots and ready buildings, fast administrative procedures, transportation and logistical services and others.
Adding to the state efforts to create modern industrial zones, Landmark Properties Bulgaria, a property investment and management company and AmCham member announced during the forum it would build a commercial park on the southern exit route of Plovdiv. The announcement was made by the company’s manager Tanya Koseva. Work on the 12 million Euro project is scheduled to begin by the end of 2006 and wrap up by the fall of 2007, added Koseva. The 42,000-square meter park will have built-up area of 18,000-square meters and 500 parking lots. The complex will accommodate retail outlets selling food, furniture, consumer electronics, and household and some home-improvement goods.
Koseva announced that 50 percent of the premises had already been leased.
Landmark is co-owned by investment advisers Altima Partners, Iceland’s Landsbanki and Gort Securities, the owner of the Radisson SAS hotel in Sofia. Kosseva chairs the AmCham Real Estate committee, too.
Greek business at the Economic Forum Maritsa was strongly represented by Christos Katsanis, executive director of United Bulgarian Bank (UBB), who presented a new product in support of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by UBB.
"SMEs are are the backbone of the Bulgarian as well as of every other economy. After entering the EU, there will be strong challenges – they will receive support but also there will be many problems," Katsanis said. The bank has developed forms for the co-operation with the Swiss Fund and the Sorros Fund, as well as with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. What would be implemented soon would have additional characteristics that will make the product more flexible for SMEs, said Katsanis.
At the round table organized by UBB the lack of national guarantee fund for the small and medium business was also discussed. According to the experts, such a fund will provide better business environment and investment credits up to 60,000 Leva would be guaranteed.
If Bulgaria becomes a member of the EU in 2007, during 2007-2013 up to 11,727 billion Euro will be allocated from the cohesion funds for the country and the companies have to be ready to use those funds with projects to fulfill the EU criteria.