About 35% of projects approved under OP competitiveness remain unfulfilled

About 35% of projects approved under OP competitiveness remain unfulfilled

Bulgaria's Deputy Economy Minister Evgeni Angelov said on October 5 2011 that between 30 per cent and 35 per cent of approved projects under the EU's Competitiveness operational programme remain unfulfilled.The statement came two days after bloc's statistics bureau Eurostat published a report saying that Bulgarian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) had suffered the biggest difficulties in accessing bank financing among European states between 2007 and 2010. The share of unsuccessful loan applications filed by local SMEs soared to 36 per cent in 2010 from three per cent in 2007.The high share of unfulfilled projects is a result of applicants' lack of resources for own financing, Angelov said on the sidelines of a conference on EU financing and competitiveness.Another concern is the high loan interest rates offered by banks to SMEs for covering their part of the financing, of about 10 per cent to 12 per cent, Angelov said. That way, applicants waste time and money on drafting their projects, the administration waste resources for project assessment and eventually the projects never get implemented, the Minister said.To prevent such problems in the future, the country plans to implement a new assessment method for projects approved under the programme, which is currently being drafted jointly by the Economy Ministry and European Commission representatives. The scheme will be joined by about 10 banks, which will also take part in project evaluation to unlock financing.According to UniCredit Bulbank CEO Levon Hampartzoumian, who took part in the conference as moderator, "the key to the successful absorption of EU programmes is finding a way for banks to outsource as many programmes such as competitiveness and those related to agriculture."The country has so far paid out 626 million euro of the funds allocated under the competitiveness operational programme, which has a budget of 1.2 billion euro. (Source: The Sofia Echo)

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