About one-fifth of all Bulgarian municipalities are nearly in a state of bankruptcy over rising debts and stagnating income.
Some 50 of the 264 municipalities in Bulgaria have seen distraints and restrictions placed on their bank deposits and assets over money they owe to state-owned and private companies, the bTV channel reported.
These debts include BGN 20 M under the EU SAPARD Program that have to be refunded to the State Agriculture Fund in Sofia, the government body managing the EU money for the agriculture sector.
Even though the municipalities in trouble are mostly among the poorest rural ones, some medium-sized ones are also on the list. According to preliminary data of the Bulgarian Finance Ministry, municipalities such as Karlovo, Lom, Kresna, Haskovo, Bobovdol, Primorsko, and Hadzhidimovo have had their bank accounts blocked over debts.
The accounts of larger municipalities such as Silistra, Vidin, Veliko Tarnov, Sevlievo and Momchilgrad have recently been unblocked. Yet, the number of local authorities with facing near bankruptcy is expected to go up.
"Twenty more municipalities are about to join the list especially because they have long-overdue debts to restore SAPARD funds," said Ginka Chavdarova, Executive Director of the National Association of Municipalities in the Republic of Bulgaria.
"We are not going to tolerate such irresponsible attitude by the local authorities in which their mayors and councilors waste money that we then have to cover," Vladislav Goranov, Deputy Finance Minister is quoted as saying.
The Bulgarian government is expected to set up a special fund for compensations and correcting payments by the local authorities in order to cope with the deteriorating situation. /Source: Sofia News Agency/