Dobri Mitrev, President of the Board of BIA

Dobri Mitrev has been President of the Board of BIA since 1 September 2021. Lawyer by education, Dobri Mitrev has many years of administrative experience - he was Chairman of the Municipal Council of Pernik for two terms. He has been in the BIA team since 2012. Since 2018 he has been the General Secretary, and on the 5th of December 2018 was elected a member of the BIA Management Board.

Mr. Mitrev, we have said farewell to a difficult year - both for the state and in particular - for BIA. What is your estimate for 2021?

Indeed, 2021 was an extremely difficult year - for business, for the state, for our entire society. The burden came mainly from the COVID crisis, high energy prices, a serious rise in the price of raw materials and, all against the background of a year-long political crisis, three consecutive parliamentary elections and several failed attempts to form a government. There is a saying that money loves silence - this year the noise was too much. Above all, business needs predictability, and that is exactly what we have been missing the most lately. Any business plans are practically impossible because of the uncertainty and unpredictability.

The year was also difficult for the Bulgarian Industrial Association, which suddenly lost its president Radosvet Radev in the summer. For us it was a big shock, especially since it happens to us for the second time in just three years - I am referring to the death of Bojidar Danev in the summer of 2018. I will lie if I say that we have already overcome the shock, but we are trying to move forward – in the name of our members, the organization, and our previous leaders in the person of Mr. Danev and Mr. Radev, whose path we are trying to follow. I will not hide that for me personally this is a serious challenge and a high responsibility, but I believe that we are a strong, hard-working team and moving in the right direction.

What are the key challenges for 2022?

I will refer to the data from our annual survey among our members, which unequivocally showed two main things. Firstly, that the Bulgarian entrepreneur is resilient, resistant to storms and able to cope with difficulties. Here we should note that the Bulgarian business was the least supported compared to its partners in other European countries, which put its competitiveness to a serious test. The measures for overcoming the effects of the COVID crisis in our country were few and untimely, they reached the business slowly. So, true heroism in peacetime is the survival of Bulgarian business. Moreover, entrepreneurs have not stopped developing and drawing up their investment plans for the future. That is why they deserve public recognition and respect - because their fragile economic growth is based on their efforts.

The second clear conclusion from our annual survey is that in 2022 the main concerns are again related to the COVID crisis, high prices of raw materials and energy resources. The good news is that at least we have a functioning parliament and government, to which we have high hopes of restoring calmness in the economy, as far as the international situation allows.

What are the main expectations of the business towards the new government?

The first task of the government is to implement a package of measures and actions to calm the energy market, because the current price levels are unaffordable for businesses. It is also important, while the market is in the current situation, not to stop supporting the business, because it is life-saving for it. Companies have bled out due to the COVID crisis, it left them without the necessary working capital, the reserves have been melted, there is no way to cover the unbearably high prices for electricity. In addition, we hope that the government will not succumb to populist calls for an increase in the minimum wage, because this will be another shock to the liquidity of companies, and it is also a pro-inflationary factor. Increasing incomes must be done on a market basis, according to productivity growth and taking into account the current state of the economy and, in particular, companies.

We expect the government to ease the anti-typology measures and allow the economy to work in its usual way. The health of the nation, of course, is paramount, but the health of the economy is just as important - if the economy is sick, the whole society is sick. Unlike the beginning of the crisis in the spring of 2020, we already have enough experience and information about the virus itself, its limitation, treatment, etc. In this regard, I think it is wise to look for ways to restore people's lives and work. We cannot continue to live in such uncertainty and limitations.

We expect the new government to fulfill the goals set in their management program, especially in the area of the rule of law, the reduction of administrative and regulatory pressure on business and the electronicization of administrative services. It is very important not to make drastic changes in the tax system, but for any change to go through a serious discussion with stakeholders and a qualitative assessment of the impact on the economy.

In 2022 BIA will take over the rotating chairmanship of the Association of the Organizations of Bulgarian Employers (AOBE). What will be the main priorities of the presidency?

We are about to officially announce AOBE's priorities for 2022 at the end of January, but from now on I can say that they will follow the logic of our priorities from previous years, as we have a clear, consistent policy. The key national priorities are Bulgaria's accession to the OECD, the Schengen area and the Eurozone. We will work to improve the business environment, to stabilize the energy market, to develop human resources and to improve the state of the labor market. Our focus will certainly be on the National Recovery and Sustainability Plan and the EU Green Deal, because they will have a serious long-term impact on the Bulgarian economy.

Above all, we rely on dialogue, because the most correct and workable solutions come through dialogue. Serious reforms are needed practically in all spheres of socio-economic life, and without dialogue there is no way to reach solutions that have a long-term positive effect. For our part, I can guarantee that we will make every effort to support the current government with expertise, correctness and objectivity in the assessments. We hope for a reciprocal attitude, because difficult decisions are ahead and we must all be empathetic and help according to our competencies and capabilities.

Your wishes to the Bulgarian entrepreneurs and to the readers of Noblesse Oblige for 2022?

I wish everyone to be healthy, because health and people are the most valuable capital. To those who risk their peace of mind in order to create goods and maintain jobs, I wish them to preserve their energy and faith in the future, not to succumb to difficulties and to easily overcome any obstacle. The most important thing is not to stop dreaming, because dreams drive progress.

Date: 07.01.2022

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