ABEO: Energy remains the "hot potato" for business this year as well
The business will work on 44 measures in six key areas for the Bulgarian economy
The Association of Bulgarian Employers' Organizations (ABEO) will work on 44 measures in six key areas for the Bulgarian economy, including business environment and economy, energy and green transition, education and labor market, social policy, European policies and investments. This was announced by the association at its press conference. It was attended by the heads of the four nationally representative employers' organizations, members of ABEO - Vasil Velev - Chairman of the Board of the Association of Industrial Capital in Bulgaria (AICB), Dobri Mitrev - Chairman of the Board of the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce (BCC), Tsvetan Simeonov - Chairman of the Board of the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) and rotating chairman of the ABEO for 2023, Evgeniy Ivanov - executive director of the Confederation of Employers and Industrialists in Bulgaria (CEIB).
In the opening speech at the opening of the press conference, the chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Tsvetan Simeonov, pointed out that the member enterprises of the ABEO produce 86% of the country's gross domestic product and employ 82% of all employees. The formulated priorities for 2023 aim to direct the attention of the institutions to the implementation of policies of key importance to Bulgarian business. They have a wide scope and horizon, in accordance with the dynamics and challenges facing our country.
"National priorities are invariably the focus of ABEO's attention. Bulgaria's admission to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has a horizon of January 1, 2026, but in order to join this period we must take certain steps along the route every year. In order to achieve the other two goals - the admission of Bulgaria to the Eurozone on January 1, 2024 and our admission to Schengen by the end of the year, efforts must be made by the political class, businesses and people," AICB Chairman Vasil Velev pointed out. . There are still certain challenges on the way to the Eurozone - to restore macroeconomic stability, to reduce the deficit, to improve debt management. The chairman of the AICB called for an end to the irresponsible spending of money, more targeted social spending and once again repeated the ABEO's call to businesses in the face of falling energy prices to reduce the prices of goods and services sold.
The chairman of BSK Dobri Mitrev presented the priorities of ABEO in terms of business environment and the development of the economy. "Measures to limit the growth of inflation are extremely imperative in terms of both our membership in the Eurozone and the well-being of our country. If we succeed in the first months of this year to suppress the growth of inflation and reduce it to tolerable levels, Bulgaria has every chance to be a full member of the eurozone from January 1, 2024," noted the chairman of the BSK. ABEO expects in 2023 real policies for the construction of electronic governance in all areas, transition to real program budgeting, application of the cost-recovery principle when determining state fees, taking real actions to apply the "polluter pays" principle when determining the amount of the fee for household waste, preserving the existing tax model, limiting the so-called environmental racket against business, hindering the investment process and growth in the mining, processing, construction and tourism industries. Addressing the traffic problems at the border points, promoting investments in rail, sea and river transport are also among the priorities of the ABEO.
Evgeniy Ivanov - executive director of KRIB, presented the priorities of ABEO in the field of energy and the green transition. "We are starting a difficult year. We hope that if we manage to implement at least part of the priorities in this sector, we will congratulate ourselves at the end of the year with a result that affects the pocket not only of businesses, but also of households. Energy is the "hot potato" in the economy. The first main priority is correcting distortions in the wholesale electricity market at extreme prices by compensating consumers in the free market, incl. the adoption of a mechanism and procedures for signing long-term contracts for energy-intensive enterprises", pointed out the executive director of KRIB. Other priorities of the ABEO in the energy sector are: creation of a functioning compensatory mechanism due to the high prices of natural gas for consumers and refraining from applying the clauses in contracts with final customers "take or pay"; formation of a national market for greenhouse gas emissions; drawing up a national Strategy for sustainable energy development until 2030 with a horizon until 2050; development and systematic implementation of a Road Map for the transition to climate neutrality; promoting the production and storage of electricity from renewable energy sources for own consumption; increasing the capacity and activity of EWRC to investigate and sanction market abuses and market concentration. Emphasis is placed on activating the operational work of the Advisory Council for the European Green Deal, with a view to achieving a structured approach in the formation of national policies under the so-called green transition.
"In conditions of decreasing unemployment, shortage of qualified workforce and aging of the population, the efforts of ABEO will be aimed at improving the adult education system and achieving synergy with the policies of the institutions", said Tsvetan Simeonov, chairman of BTPP, presenting the priorities in the field of education and the labor market. "A key task is to continue efforts for a real connection and dialogue between education at all levels and business, analysis of employers' needs for labor in the short and long term," added Simeonov. Among the priorities are also: development of a program and a package of measures to attract talents; increasing the digital skills of the population; improving the opportunities for attracting foreign students and ensuring the possibility for foreign citizens who have obtained their higher education in Bulgaria to gain access to the labor market in Bulgaria. Simeonov drew attention to easing the procedures for importing workers into the country from as many destinations as possible and measures to promote their sustainable employment in Bulgaria.
AICB chairman Vasil Velev presented the priorities of ABEO in the field of social policy, European policies and investments. "The social policy that is carried out in our country sends wrong messages and leads to the decline of morals. She says no need to get educated, no need to qualify, no need to work hard. The government will increase wages with money that we will borrow. Or it will give you generous social benefits regardless of the assets you have. This is both in terms of the pension model and the minimum wage. This policy leads to the demotivation of people to qualify and perform quality work, to the expectation that the mother country will take care of itself with money that it does not have and will take from those who work well or will borrow," said Vasil Velev. Among the priorities of the ABEO in the social sphere are: finalizing the negotiations on the development and adoption of a transparent mechanism for strengthening the contractual principle in determining the minimum wage for the country, consistent with Convention No. 131 of the ILO and the correct transposition of the Directive on adequate minimum wages, taking into account , that the indicators included in it are recommended and not mandatory; development of the pension model, stimulating workers to insure themselves on their real incomes, support and development of private pension funds and increasing public awareness of the capital pillar of pension insurance; limiting the practice of continuous changes of state policies in the pension model, revising the state policy related to the State Fund for Guaranteeing the Sustainability of the State Pension System (SFGSSPS) regarding the stability of the pension system in order to be a real buffer.
In the field of European policies and investments, emphasis is placed on improving the coordination procedure with the social partners on the key files for business, subject to discussion by the EU Council of Ministers; creation of an Advisory Council to monitor the implementation of the NPVU; initiation of negotiations on a "New Social Contract" for Bulgaria, in accordance with the initiative of the new Director General of the ILO to prevent the politicization of labor relations, renegotiation of the NPVU in its part on the reduction of carbon emissions from electricity production by 40%, based on 2019 so as to prevent the destruction of much of the electricity generating capacity and divert funds from the failed 6000MWh National Electricity Storage Infrastructure project to a grant scheme for energy storage systems from renewable sources, built for own needs in enterprises. It is insisted on strict compliance with the deadlines for the opening of the remaining procedures under the NPVU and the Operational Programs.