On Thursday, Bulgaria welcomed European leaders and US senators in Sofia for a two-day "Three Seas Initiative" political and business forum. US President Joe Biden addressed the participants from the 12 countries via a pre-recorded video message. He pledged that "USA will be your trusted partner at every step, including in transparent investment and the eradication of corruption". Read more about the forum in our weekly roundup newsletter tomorrow.
40% of public funds in the past 3 years spent waywardly, Finance Minister says
Caretaker Minister of Finance Assen Vassilev said that 40 percent of the 15,5 billion euro incurred in capital costs between 2019 and 2021 had been spent in an "intransparent manner and with no control".
Only 9,5 billion euro from this sum had been allocated through normal public procurement procedures, while 4,2 billion had been directly allotted to companies and 2 billion had gone to companies that were the sole bidders in a procurement procedure. The leader in the latter two sections are the Avtomagistrali ("Highways") state company, which has subcontracted over 2,7 billion euro worth of construction contracts to private companies without following standard tender rules.
F-16s delivery on hold due to lagging upgrade of the Graf Ignatievo air baseThe delivery of the first six new F-16 Block 70 jets worth over 1 billion euro might be postponed due to a 6-8 month delay in the preparation of the Graf Ignatievo air base that would host them, caretaker Defense Minister Georgi Panayotov said.
The planes ought to arrive in 2023, but the extension of the runway of the base and the upgrade of the facilities for the new aircraft have been delayed by lack of funds and inexperienced companies subcontracting activities after failing to win the tenders transparently, the Minister added. Former Defense Minister Krassimir Karakachanov later refuted all claims, saying there is enough money allocated for the upgrade of the airfield and part of it would come from NATO.
Health Ministry announces plan in case of Covid-19 upsurge
A year-and-a half into the pandemic, Bulgaria finally announced its contingency plan for future Covid-19 upsurges. Health Minister Stoycho Katsarov published four-tiered guidelines in the event of soaring hospitalizations. In the second highest, red tier, restrictions would be imposed on public gatherings, and bars and clubs closed on a regional basis. If the highest, dark red tier (over 9,000 people hospitalized) is reached, schools will close and restaurants would only make home deliveries. There would be a milder regime for public and private institutions which have their personnel and clients vaccinated even if the epidemic reaches a higher tier.