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Bulgaria Economy Profile 2019

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Economy - overview

Bulgaria, a former communist country that entered the EU in 2007, has an open economy that historically has demonstrated strong growth, but its per-capita income remains the lowest among EU members and its reliance on energy imports and foreign demand for its exports makes its growth sensitive to external market conditions.

The government undertook significant structural economic reforms in the 1990s to move the economy from a centralized, planned economy to a more liberal, market-driven economy. These reforms included privatization of state-owned enterprises, liberalization of trade, and strengthening of the tax system - changes that initially caused some economic hardships but later helped to attract investment, spur growth, and make gradual improvements to living conditions. From 2000 through 2008, Bulgaria maintained robust, average annual real GDP growth in excess of 6%, which was followed by a deep recession in 2009 as the financial crisis caused domestic demand, exports, capital inflows and industrial production to contract, prompting the government to rein in spending. Real GDP growth remained slow - less than 2% annually - until 2015, when demand from EU countries for Bulgarian exports, plus an inflow of EU development funds, boosted growth to more than 3%. In recent years, strong domestic demand combined with low international energy prices have contributed to Bulgaria’s economic growth approaching 4% and have also helped to ease inflation. Bulgaria’s prudent public financial management contributed to budget surpluses both in 2016 and 2017.

Bulgaria is heavily reliant on energy imports from Russia, a potential vulnerability, and is a participant in EU-backed efforts to diversify regional natural gas supplies. In late 2016, the Bulgarian Government provided funding to Bulgaria’s National Electric Company to cover the $695 million compensation owed to Russian nuclear equipment manufacturer Atomstroyexport for the cancellation of the Belene Nuclear Power Plant project, which the Bulgarian Government terminated in 2012. As of early 2018, the government was floating the possibility of resurrecting the Belene project. The natural gas market, dominated by state-owned Bulgargaz, is also almost entirely supplied by Russia. Infrastructure projects such as the Inter-Connector Greece-Bulgaria and Inter-Connector Bulgaria-Serbia, which would enable Bulgaria to have access to non-Russian gas, have either stalled or made limited progress. In 2016, the Bulgarian Government established the State eGovernment Agency. This new agency is responsible for the electronic governance, coordinating national policies with the EU, and strengthening cybersecurity.

Despite a favorable investment regime, including low, flat corporate income taxes, significant challenges remain. Corruption in public administration, a weak judiciary, low productivity, lack of transparency in public procurements, and the presence of organized crime continue to hamper the country's investment climate and economic prospects.

GDP (purchasing power parity)
$153.5 billion (2017 est.)
$148.2 billion (2016 est.)
$142.6 billion (2015 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)
$56.94 billion (2017 est.)
GDP - real growth rate
3.6% (2017 est.)
3.9% (2016 est.)
3.6% (2015 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP)
$21,800 (2017 est.)
$20,900 (2016 est.)
$19,900 (2015 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

Gross national saving
25.4% of GDP (2017 est.)
21.4% of GDP (2016 est.)
21.2% of GDP (2015 est.)
GDP - composition, by end use
household consumption: 61.6% (2017 est.)
government consumption: 16% (2017 est.)
investment in fixed capital: 19.2% (2017 est.)
investment in inventories: 1.7% (2017 est.)
exports of goods and services: 66.3% (2017 est.)
imports of goods and services: -64.8% (2017 est.)
GDP - composition by sector
agriculture: 4.3% (2017 est.)
industry: 28% (2017 est.)
services: 67.4% (2017 est.)
Population below poverty line
23.4% (2016 est.)
Labor force
3.357 million (2017 est.)

note: number of employed persons

Labor force - by occupation
agriculture: 6.8%
industry: 26.6%
services: 66.6% (2016 est.)
Unemployment rate
6.2% (2017 est.)
7.7% (2016 est.)
Unemployment, youth ages 15-24
total: 12.9%
male: 13.3%
female: 12.4% (2017 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share
lowest 10%: 1.9%
highest 10%: 31.2% (2017)
Distribution of family income - Gini index
40.2 (2017)
38.3 (2016)
Budget
revenues: 20.35 billion (2017 est.)
expenditures: 19.35 billion (2017 est.)
Taxes and other revenues
35.7% (of GDP) (2017 est.)
Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)
1.8% (of GDP) (2017 est.)
Public debt
23.9% of GDP (2017 est.)
27.4% of GDP (2016 est.)

note: defined by the EU's Maastricht Treaty as consolidated general government gross debt at nominal value, outstanding at the end of the year in the following categories of government liabilities: currency and deposits, securities other than shares excluding financial derivatives, and loans; general government sector comprises the subsectors: central government, state government, local government, and social security funds

Inflation rate (consumer prices)
1.2% (2017 est.)
-1.3% (2016 est.)
Central bank discount rate
0% (31 December 2017)
0.01% (31 December 2015)

note: Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) has had no independent monetary policy since the introduction of the Currency Board regime in 1997; this is BNB's base interest rate

Commercial bank prime lending rate
5.41% (31 December 2017 est.)
6.39% (31 December 2016 est.)
Stock of narrow money
$29.27 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$22.01 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
Stock of broad money
$29.27 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$22.01 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
Stock of domestic credit
$33.44 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$27.57 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares
$14.49 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$5.205 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$4.797 billion (31 December 2015 est.)
Agriculture - products
vegetables, fruits, tobacco, wine, wheat, barley, sunflowers, sugar beets; livestock
Industries
electricity, gas, water; food, beverages, tobacco; machinery and equipment, automotive parts, base metals, chemical products, coke, refined petroleum, nuclear fuel; outsourcing centers
Industrial production growth rate
3.6% (2017 est.)
Current Account Balance
$2.562 billion (2017 est.)
$1.207 billion (2016 est.)
Exports
$29.08 billion (2017 est.)
$25.37 billion (2016 est.)
Exports - commodities
clothing, footwear, iron and steel, machinery and equipment, fuels, agriculture, tobacco, IT components
Exports - partners
Germany 13.5%, Italy 8.3%, Romania 8.2%, Turkey 7.7%, Greece 6.5%, Belgium 4.2%, France 4.1% (2017)
Imports
$31.43 billion (2017 est.)
$26.66 billion (2016 est.)
Imports - commodities
machinery and equipment; metals and ores; chemicals and plastics; fuels, minerals, and raw materials
Imports - partners
Germany 12.3%, Russia 10.3%, Italy 7.3%, Romania 7.1%, Turkey 6.2%, Spain 5.3%, Greece 4.4% (2017)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold
$28.38 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$25.13 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
Debt - external
$42.06 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$35.98 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home
$46.92 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$45.26 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad
$5.868 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$4.988 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
Exchange rates
leva (BGN) per US dollar -
1.63 (2017 est.)
1.86 (2016 est.)
1.768 (2015 est.)
1.7644 (2014 est.)
1.4742 (2013 est.)
Fiscal year
calendar year

Source: CIA World Factbook
This page was last updated on December 7, 2019

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