AN ASSOCIATION TO ASSIST BULGARIA'S BUSINESS WITH BELARUS
The Bulgarian businessmen working with partners from Belarus laid the foundations of a nonprofit association, whose activities will be directed to improving bilateral commercial relations. The newly-established organisation is chaired by Pencho Sirakov, and among the members of its Management Board are: the Stara Zagora bishop father Galaktion, the former space-man Alexander Alexandrov, Georgi Stanchev, Ivan Stanchev, Stefan Pavlov, Luchezar Dulev, and Emilia Savova. The 2001 data show that commercial exchange between Bulgaria and Belarus amounted to USD19MN. This is a triffling sum for such close countries, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to Sofia H.E. Alexander Petrov, who was invited at the constituent meeting, pointed out. This association stands chances to revert the negative trends in bilateral commercial relations if its activities are based on the practical experience of Bulgarian firms, which have already set foot on the market in Belarus, Luchezar Dulev, a partner in the company Brestinvest (operating in the town of Brest) said. Mr. Dulev proposed that a Bulgarian business centre should be set up there.The Bulgaria-Belarus association is to begin collecting database on trade companies in the two countries' various sectors of the economy. Among the organisation's aims are: the development of economic relations, attraction investments, cooperation in the leisure industry, in the social and cultural sphere, organization of joint business meetings and forums, and realization of various educational programmes. Investments from Belarus, attracted to Bulgaria in the 1993-1999 period, total USD280,340.Despite the fair bilateral relations in the sphere of culture and politics, however, trade turnover between Bulgaria and Belarus has been persistently declining. In 2001 Bulgaria exported to Belarus goods worth USD7,814,000, while imports from that country totaled USD11,444,000. Bulgaria's trade deficit with Belarus dropped almost twice as compared to 2000. According to National Statistics Institute (NSI) data, Bulgaria's exports to Belarus in the first quarter of 2002 amounted to USD1,512,000, and imports from Belarus into Bulgaria were worth USD1,332,000. A decline was registered in leisure industry as well. In 2001 Bulgaria was visited by 15,386 guests from Russia's neighbour, down from 15,628 in 2000, which were 30.11% less than in 1999.According to the founders of the the organissation, one of the reasons for the bad economic relations between the two countries is that Bulgarian business is not yet appraising correctly the opportunities, offered by the Belarus market. The latter has five free economic zones with a number of concessions for the investors. In these regions firms are exempt from profit taxes within a period of five years, income taxes have been fixed at 15% (as compared to 25% in the other parts of the country), and VAT rate is 10% (against 20% in the other parts of th country). An additional privilege is the fact that Belarus is within Russia's customs' space.Ten trade representative offices of Bulgarian companies have been opened in Belarus so far. Ten companies with 100% Bulgarian capital and eleven with joint capitals are operating as well. In Bulgaria there are six trade representative offices of Belorusian companies, five 100% Belarus firms and eight JVs.