Dimitar Nikolov, Mayor of the Burgas Municipality, in an interview for Radio Focus’ morning broadcast Good Morning, Bulgaria.
Focus: Bulgarian Minister of Finance Simeon Dyankov and his deputy Vladislav Goranov presented the system for evaluation of the financial stability and discipline of the municipalities in Bulgaria, according to which Varna, Pernik, Vidin, Kardzhali, and Plovdiv were the municipalities with biggest increase of overdue payments over the last year. Out of all municipalities with population of more than 50,000 people, the best scores, for last year, in the new system were achieved by Burgas, Blagoevgrad, Stara Zagora, and Asenovgrad, while for this year the best scores were achieved by the Burgas, Ruse, Stara Zagora, Blagoevgrad, and Dimitrovgrad municipalities. Mr Nikolov, what is the recipe for success of your municipalities, as you are among the outstanding municipalities with regards to financial stability for a second year running?
Dimitar Nikolov: There is no specific recipe. Maybe the serious financial discipline and absolute control on the revenues and expenses of the municipal budget, as well as the responsible spending are some of the main reasons why we do not have any problems with overdue payments.
Focus: Does the revenue from tourism help you a lot in this regard?
Dimitar Nikolov: No, the revenue from tourism is among the less significant revenues that we rely on. In general, our own revenues have been growing each year, and we control our debt; as our debt to own revenues ratio is below 7%, which is well below the risky level.
Focus: You were praised for your excellent work with regards to EU funds absorption. How many projects for EU funds have you filed since the beginning of the year?
Dimitar Nikolov: I cannot say the exact number of projects, as they are many, but I can tell you that we have signed contracts for more than BGN 300 million, which are currently being executed, out of which the major projects are connected with the water cycle in Burgas, regional waste depot, integrated public transport, and reconstruction and modernisation of St. Anastasia Island. We have a lot of projects.
Focus: I suppose that you experience certain difficulties because of the crisis. What is, most often, the nature of these difficulties?
Dimitar Nikolov: Our difficulties are connected with the collection of local taxes, but I am not very concerned about this sphere. Our current level of tax collection is 95.7%. The businesses experience difficulties with regards to delayed inter-company payments, which also reflect on the payments to the local budget. Recently, however, we introduced a system for financial management and control, which strictly monitors each payment. Maybe our colleagues from the financial directorate are working with stronger commitment, which improves our results.
Focus: How is the summer holiday season going?
Dimitar Nikolov: It is going well. Our only problem is connected with the traffic and road safety spheres, as the traffic is very intense – some tourists are returning to their homes after their holidays, while others are just arriving. We are in the peak of the season after all. The capacity of the tourist accommodations is full; all restaurants, food establishments and entertainment places are packed. We have a very rich cultural programme. The traffic on our airport is overloaded, on the edge of its capacity, if I can say so. Basically – a normal holiday season.
Focus: How is the security situation after the terrorist attack from last month?
Dimitar Nikolov: Everything is fine. We can say that we have registered a growth of flights of more than 9%. The capacity of the tourist accommodations was also increased from last year. The results of this summer holiday season are a positive ray of light, on the background of all dramatic figures connected with economic downturn, crisis, recession, and etc.