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Bulgaria

Basic Information

Area: 110,910 km²

Calling code: +359

Population: 7,640,238

Official Language: Bulgarian

Time zone: EET (UTC+2), Local time: 05:58

Overview

The Republic of Bulgaria is located in south-eastern Europe, and covers a total land area of 110,879km2. It shares its boundaries with five other countries: Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Turkey, and it has 345km of coastline which borders the black sea. Bulgaria is home to 7.2 million people, 71% of which inhabit urban areas. The most important commercial and economic centre is the capital city of Sofia, which is located in Western Bulgaria, along the banks of the Vladaya River. An estimated 1.2 million people live in the city, making it the 12th largest city in Europe based on the population figure; other large cities of importance are Plovdiv, Varna, Burgas, Ruse and Stara Zagora.

Bulgaria is divided into 28 regions for administrative purposes, the largest being Burgas, which covers 6,478km2. In 2007 Bulgaria became a full member of the European Union, and it aims to join the eurozone by 2013, currently it uses the Bulgarian leva (BGN) for its currency.

Economy

The service sector is of the most importance in terms of the amount of money it contributes towards Bulgaria's GDP figure of $90.5 billion. The prime economic centre is in Sofia, where many large international corporations such as IBM, SAP and Hewlett-Packard are located, it is also home to the headquarters of all of the countries national banks. Bulgaria's economy experienced rapid growth from 2004 to 2008, when it received a large amount of foreign investment, this has slowed recently although the economic outlook is bright.
Over 40% of all land in Bulgaria is arable, most agricultural land is used for growing wheat, sunflowers, maize, grapes, tomatoes, barley and tobacco, and most exported foodstuffs go to Greece, Germany, Turkey and Italy.

The stunning snow filled winter resorts of Pamporovo and Chepelare, along with beautiful coastal regions such as Albenal and Sozopol help attract foreign visitors all year round. Bulgaria has recently invested money into improving the transportation infrastructure, in a bid to bring more tourists to the country.

Infrastructure

Bulgaria's positioning makes it a hub for transport between Europe and Asia. There is a large transportation network which spans the country, and travel is possible by plane, road, bus, boat and train. A total of 212 airports operate from within Bulgaria, the largest being Sofia International Airport, which is situated 5km east of Sofia city centre and handles over 3 million passengers annually. There are five other large international airports which are located in Burgas, Varna, Plovdiv, Rousse and Gorna Oryhovista.

Bulgaria has over 6,500km of railways operating in the country, over 60% of which are electrified. A $3 billion project is currently underway which will see the completion of a new high speed rail system which will offer frequent services between Sofia and Vidin. The roadways are well maintained, with a 40,000km network of roads which allow for easy access to the neighbouring countries of Romania, Greece and Turkey.

Seaports are essential to the export of commodities - with $416.23 billion worth of goods exported from the country in 2009. There are two major ports in Bulgaria: Burgas Port and Varna Port.

Workforce

Bulgaria has a total labour force of 3.2 million, of which 56% work in the service sector, 27% work in industry, and just over 7% work in agriculture. There is a large immigrant population living and working in Bulgaria, with only 85% of the total population being of Bulgarian nationality, while the remaining minorities consist of Turks and Romanians. Most of the workforce speak the official language of Bulgarian, while 9% speak Turkish as their first language and 4% speak Romani.

The Ministry of Education and Science oversees the entire state-owned education system, which is provided free of charge to all citizens under the age of 16. After completion of primary and secondary levels, the students can then choose to continue with further education in one of the many colleges, universities and higher education institutes. The Sofia University was founded in 1888, making it the oldest in the country. It offers three degree programmes (bachelor's, master's, doctoral), and has a total of 14,000 students currently enrolled in programmes. Bulgaria has a high national literacy rate of 98.2%, and an unemployment figure of 7.7%.

Business Costs

Most costs in Bulgaria are extremely low for the business owner. The cost of office rental space is the highest in the capital city of Sofia - where it costs an average of $26.73 per square foot per annum, which puts Sofia almost at the bottom of Cushman & Wakefield's Office Space Around the World list, on par with cities such as Bangkok and Jakarta. Utility costs such as water and electricity for office leases are also low.

What makes Bulgaria such a favourable place for foreign investment is that it has one of the lowest rates in the world for corporate tax - with a low 10% tax on all annual profits for most companies. There is a slightly higher rate that applies to gambling or insurance related businesses. Personal taxes are also set at the flat rate of 10%, regardless of the amount of income earned by the individual. All foreign nationals who are employed in Bulgaria are only required to pay taxes on income earned in the country - unless they exceed 183 days per year of residency. VAT rates are higher, with a 20% rate payable on most goods and services, but there is a discounted rate of 7% which is available for books, newspapers and some essential foodstuffs.

All legal contracted workers in Bulgaria are entitled to a minimum wage that is set at 240 leva per month, which is the current equivalent of $163.71 per month, while the national average wage is just $4,039 a year.
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