Bulgaria still plagued by corruption: Report France_Presse - 2002/2/12
Bulgaria remains plagued by corruption, while the black economy makes up between 27-35 percent of its gross domestic product, the Bulgarian NGO Coalition 2000 warned in its annual report Monday.

Corruption is a "top problem for the Bulgarian economy" which must be resolved "without delay", wrote the non-governmental organisation, which was set up in 1999 to fight corruption.

"The existence of a black economy is directly linked to corruption in the business world and in fiscal administration," the report said.

"Massive" numbers of rich businesses and taxpayers save on taxation by paying bribes "much lower than the savings made" by not paying taxes, the report said.

Some 25 to 35 percent of Bulgarian trade is carried out through illegal channels, it added. It listed privatisations, procurement contracts and taxation as procedures most likely to "generate corruption".

Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg, who took office last July, has vowed to free Bulgaria from corruption as part of efforts to prepare for EU membership. Balkan neighbours Bulgaria and Romania -- which has also recently faced renewed criticism of corruption -- are at the back of the EU entry queue.

Last week investors warned Bulgaria that it lacked the openness and freedom from corruption to attract foreign investment in spite of government claims that the European Union hopeful is winning the fight against corruption.

The government has sparked a number of investigations into political and economic corruption, and drastically reformed customs controls in a bid to fight illegal trafficking across Bulgaria's borders.

"The anti-corruption measures taken in 2001 were modest, but their effect has been fairly positive," the Coalition 2000 report said.

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