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Bulgarian PM pledges 2.3 bln euro to support businesses, jobs through coronavirus

Bulgarian PM pledges 2.3 bln euro to support businesses, jobs through coronavirus Photo: Bulgarian government press office / All rights reserved.

SOFIA (Bulgaria), March 25 (SeeNews) - Bulgaria will introduce a package of financial measures worth 4.5 billion levs ($2.5 billion/2.3 billion euro) to support businesses under strain from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and preserve jobs, prime minister Boyko Borissov said. 

The measures include increasing the capital of state-owned Bulgarian Development Bank (BDB) to help businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, government-backed payment of 60% of the salaries of employees who might otherwise be fired, delaying the payment of annual corporate tax until June 30 and offering interest-free loans to workers put on leave, Borissov said in a video file posted on his Facebook profile late on Tuesday. 

Some 1 billion levs of the total is intended for providing state financing for 60% of the salaries of employees, if their company decides to keep them on payroll during the crisis and pay the remaining 40%.

"The 60-40 scheme will take enormous amounts of money," the prime minister noted. 

Labour minister Daniela Sacheva said earlier this week that the number of unemployed people in Bulgaria is rising sharply as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic and this trend is expected to persist. Over the past week, corresponding with the start of the national state of emergency, the number of people who registered as unemployed increased to 1,300 on Friday from about 750 per day before the crisis.

The government will increase the capital of BDB by 500 million levs, which will serve as a guarantee that businesses will receive credits in the amount of 2.5 billion levs, Borissov said. 

Last week, Iliya Lingorski, chief economist at BDB, said that the state-run bank will implement a set of programmes aimed at mitigating the negative effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). 

"After the increase of the bank's capital announced by the government becomes fact, BDB will disclose publicly and in a transparent way all the criteria by which the new programmes for support of SMEs will be put into action," the Lingorski was quoted as saying in a TV interview at the time. 

"We have two main goals now: to protect the health of the elderly and the jobs of Bulgarian citizens," the prime minister said in the video file. 

According to Borissov, Bulgaria will certainly be ready to manufacture lung ventilators in about seven to eight weeks. 

As of Wednesday, there are 220 confirmed coronavirus cases in Bulgaria, including three deaths related to the disease as well as three recoveries. Bulgaria is currently in a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

(1 euro = 1.95583 levs)