The Institute for Market Economics published its sixth annual analysis of the economic and social development of the 28 districts in the country “Regional Profiles: Indicators of Development 2017”. The analysis includes 65 indicators in 12 categories: Income and Living Conditions, Labor Market, Investment, Infrastructure, Taxes and Fees, Administration, Demography, Education, Healthcare, Security and Justice, Environment, Culture.
The districts with the strongest economy this year are Sofia (capital), Gabrovo, Stara Zagora, Varna and Ruse due to significant investments, strong labor market and high income and standard of living. Once again, Sofia is the richest region with the country’s highest GDP per capita of BGN 26 690 or more than double the national average – BGN 12 339 per capita. In the light of considerable salary growth across the country, the pace in the capital is the most dynamic – since the start of the year Sofia is the only region with salaries higher than the average for the country and holds 50% of the high paid positions with remuneration exceeding BGN 1 000. The gross salary in the capital increases rapidly to reach BGN 14 531 per year, with BGN 10 535 for the country (according to data from 2015).
In addition, Sofia is also the region with the highest investment activity. The relative number of working enterprises reaches 85 per 1 000 people, with 55 per 1000 people in the country in 2015. At the same time, investments in tangible fixed assets (TFAs) record a slight decrease, but remain double the average for the country with a value of more than BGN 6 000 BGN per person, with less than BGN 3 000 per person for the country.
The capital is also the region with the highest Internet access and the largest share of population using it. In 2016 households with Internet access in Sofia were 69.4% (with 63.5% for the country), and the share of Internet users – 75.8% (with 62.6% for the country).
The capital is still the region with the highest burden of the main local taxes and fees in 2017. By contrast to the country’s trend, the tax burden has not increased in the last few years, which provides a stable and predictable tax environment.
The other criterion with weak assessment for Sofia is Security and Justice due to the low clearance crime rate and the growing number of pending criminal cases.
According to the main conclusions of the IME report, in 2016 and 2017 there is a recovery in the Bulgarian economy in line with the development in Europe. The economic growth for 2016 was 3.9% and it is expected to go up to 4% for 2017. The employment rate of people aged 15-64 hits record high 68.5%. Again, there is a sharp contrast between the regions in terms of well-being. The difference in GDP between the richest district (Sofia) and the poorest (Sliven) reaches 4.5 times and in view of the economic recovery, it is expected the differences between leading municipalities and those lagging behind to increase. The labor market is stable at a national level, but in fact, 70% of the new jobs in the last 12 months are in the capital, Sofia region, Plovdiv and Stara Zagora. Only in Plovdiv the job positions have increased for one year more than those in the whole Northern Bulgaria. There are municipalities that seem permanently isolated from the broad economic processes. The districts with the weakest economic indicators for the last 12 months were Pazardzhik, Silistra, Sliven, Kardzhali and Vidin.