FOREX RESERVES IN 2004 EXPECTED AT EUR5BN AT LEAST
The forex reserves of the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB), monetary gold excluded, will be at least EUR5BN next year, central bank's Governor Ivan Iskrov announced when approving its 2004 budget in Parliament. At December 12 BNB's forex and foreign securities totalled EUR5.06BN, which means that Mr. Iskrov does not expect any significant change in the reserves. Central bank's forecast about the deficit in the current account of the payment balance - 6.8% of the gross domestic product (GDP) is higher than the projections of the Finance Ministry - 6.2% of GDP. BNB's expectations about the other macroeconomic indicators are the same as those of the Finance Ministry - 5.3% economic growth, 4% average annual inflation, and USD/BGN exchange rate of 1:1.8.The central bank will remit BGN170MN to the Treasury, its Governor announced. Almost the same amount - BGN169MN - figures in the report, presented to the MPs. But the Finance Minister's report on the 2004 budget projects BNB's remittance at BGN156MN. Had the deputies noticed that difference on time, they would have certainly make a proposal for utilization of this additional money. BNB's budget envisions an increase of its expenditures by 15% (BGN8,552,000). The higher amount is due to the money, earmarked for maintenance of money turnover, that will go up by BGN5.2MN or 28 per cent. Investment expenses will go down from BGN15.7MN to BGN14MN, which is due to the delay of the main projects for the introduction of info systems for financial analysis and risk management. No lay-offs of BNB's 1,012 employees are planned, Mr. Iskrov pointed out.