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Economic Overview

For the latest updates on the key economic responses from governments to address the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the IMF's policy tracking platform Policy Responses to COVID-19.

The Covid-19 pandemic hit Bulgaria at a time when its economy was performing well. Before the sanitary crisis, a series of structural reforms, the highly successful integration of Bulgarian manufacturing firms into world production chains, and sound macroeconomic management had led to five years of growth rates above 3%, rapidly rising real wages and historically low unemployment. After falling into recession in 2020, the economy rebounded and grew an estimated 4.2% in 2021 and 3.9% in 2022, supported by robust growth in exports and by wage and social transfer increases partly compensated for increasing consumer prices. Increased EU funds absorption, notably of the Recovery and Resilience Facility, should support aggregate investment in both 2023 and 2024 when the economy is forecast to grow by 3% and 4.1%, respectively (IMF).

The country's public finances are relatively strong, with a low debt-to-GDP ratio, estimated at 22.8% in 2022. Nevertheless, the IMF expects the ratio to grow over the forecast horizon, to 25.2% this year and 26.9% in 2024. The government budget recorded a deficit of BGN 1.5 billion, around 1% of GDP in 2022 as per the latest government figures, with a forecast of 1.9% and 1.4% this year and the next respectively, according to the IMF. Energy and food prices fuelled inflation, which reached 13% in 2022 (EU Commission). Overall, HICP inflation is set to decline to 5.2% in 2023 on account of lower energy prices, before decelerating further the following year (2.2% - IMF).

The unemployment rate was estimated at 5.1% in 2022 when wage and social transfer increases compensated for rising consumer prices. In 2023, wages are expected to continue to grow firmly and underpin household consumption, while the unemployment rate is forecasted to decrease to 4.7%. Bulgaria is classified as an upper-middle income country, with a GDP per capita (PPP) estimated at USD 29,178 in 2022 by the IMF, compared to an EU average of USD 53,960. Nevertheless, income inequality in Bulgaria is among the highest in the EU, and almost 31.7% of the population is at risk of poverty (the second-highest rate in the EU after Romania).

Main Indicators 20222023 (E)2024 (E)2025 (E)2026 (E)
GDP (billions USD) 89.12103.10110.34117.50123.82
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change)
GDP per Capita (USD) 13,82116,08717,32018,55519,671
General Government Balance (in % of GDP) -1.1-2.7-3.1-3.5-2.8
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 21.821.022.925.226.8
Inflation Rate (%) n/a8.
Unemployment Rate (% of the Labour Force)
Current Account (billions USD) -0.610.000.08-2.15-0.67
Current Account (in % of GDP) -

Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database , October 2021

Country Risk

See the country risk analysis provided by La Coface.



Main Sectors of Industry

Traditionally an agricultural country, Bulgaria is now considerably industrialised. In fact, the agricultural sector only accounts for 4.4% of GDP and employs 7% of the workforce (World Bank, latest data available). The main crops are sunflower, tobacco and wheat. Around 46.5% of the country’s territory is considered agricultural land. The total number of agricultural holdings is 132,742, while the total number of registered farmers in 2021 was 76,372 (EU Commission, latest data available). According to preliminary NSI data, the total output of the agricultural industry at basic prices in 2022 stood at BGN 12,903.2 million, which was 19.7% higher than in the previous year. The increase was due to the rise in prices by 29.7%, while volumes decreased by 8.7%.

The industry represents 20.8% of the GDP and 30% of the workforce is employed in the sector. It continues to rely heavily on the manufacturing sub-sectors (metallurgical, chemical, machine-building), which are estimated to contribute to 14% of GDP (World Bank). However, the most dynamic sectors are textile, pharmaceutical products, cosmetic products, mobile communication and the software industry. Bulgaria's main mineral resources include bauxite, copper, lead, zinc, coal, lignite (brown coal) and iron ore.

The tertiary sector has more than doubled its contribution to the country’s economy since the end of the communist system, accounting for 62.3% of the GDP and employing around 63% of the workforce. Tourism is one of the fastest-growing sectors: it was estimated to contribute 3.1% of GDP before the pandemic. The sector showed signs of recovery in 2022 when Bulgaria welcomed 11 million tourists, 27% more than the previous year. According to the latest figures from the European Banking Federation, 25 banks are currently operating in Bulgaria, seven of which are foreign bank branches. The top five banks hold approximately 66.9% of all assets.

Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector Agriculture Industry Services
Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment) 6.3 30.8 62.9
Value Added (in % of GDP) 4.4 26.0 57.7
Value Added (Annual % Change) -0.8 11.9 1.0

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

Monetary Indicators 20162017201820192020
Bulgarian Lev (BGN) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 USD 1.771.741.661.701.72

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.



Foreign Trade

Since joining the European Union, Bulgaria has experienced considerable growth in trade, despite a large trade imbalance and recurring deficits. The country is very open to foreign trade, which represents 121% of its GDP (World Bank, latest data available). Bulgaria mainly exports mineral fuel, lubricants and related materials (21.7%), manufactured goods classified chiefly by material (16%), machinery and transport equipment (15.6%), and food and live animals (13,8%); while imports are led by mineral fuel, lubricants and related materials (28.9%), manufactured goods classified chiefly by material (17.4%), machinery and transport equipment (17.3%), and crude materials except for fuel (15.5% - data NSI 2022).

According to preliminary figures by the National Statistical Institute, Bulgaria’s main export destinations in 2022 (Jan-Nov) were Germany (14.2%), Romania (10.1%), Italy (7.5%), Greece (6.4%), and Turkey (5.8%); whereas imports came chiefly from Russia (11.7%), Germany (10.7%), Turkey (8.4%), Romania (6.9%), Greece (6%), Italy and Russia (5.8% each).

According to the latest figures from WTO, in 2021 exports of goods rose by 28.5%, at USD 41 billion, with imports increasing at a faster pace (+31.8%), totalling USD 46.1 billion. The country has a structural trade deficit; however, it is a net service exporter: it exported USD 10.9 billion worth of services, importing only USD 5.6 billion in 2021. The World Bank estimates that in the same year, Bulgaria’s trade balance was positive by 1.7% of GDP. Preliminary data by the National Statistical Institute show that in the first eleven months of 2022, the total value of exported goods amounted to BGN 87.4 billion, which is 40.2% more than the same period of the previous year, while the total value of imported goods added up to BGN 99.9 billion and grew by 44.1%.

Foreign Trade Values 20182019202020212022
Imports of Goods (million USD) 37,85637,66335,05646,21058,049
Exports of Goods (million USD) 33,61733,34031,95441,15750,239
Imports of Services (million USD) 5,9765,9814,7536,0486,897
Exports of Services (million USD) 10,85311,4608,34210,87512,497

Source: World Trade Organisation (WTO) ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Indicators 20182019202020212022
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 128.9124.6110.3121.0136.3
Trade Balance (million USD) -3,201-3,256-2,256-3,379-5,098
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) 1,6122,1991,3441,443459
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 5.85.2-4.310.910.5
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 1.74.0-10.411.08.3
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 63.260.754.259.667.7
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 65.763.956.161.368.5

Source: World Bank ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Forecasts 2023 (e)2024 (e)2025 (e)2026 (e)2027 (e)
Volume of exports of goods and services (Annual % change)
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change)

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook ; Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

International Economic Cooperation
Bulgaria is member of : the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, etc.

For further information, please consult the website of the Ministry of Economy of Bulgaria.


Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
Germany 14.0%
Romania 10.1%
Italy 7.5%
Greece 6.5%
Türkiye 5.9%
See More Countries 56.1%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
Germany 10.8%
Türkiye 8.4%
Romania 6.9%
Italy 6.0%
Greece 6.0%
See More Countries 62.0%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data



Political Outline

Current Political Leaders
President: Rumen RADEV (since 22 January 2017 - reelected in 2021)
Prime Minister: Galab DONEV (since 2 August 2022)
Next Election Dates
Presidential: autumn 2026
Parliamentary: 2 April 2023
Main Political Parties
Bulgaria has a multi-party system, where no single party generally has a chance of gaining power alone. Thus political parties work with each other to form coalition governments. The major political parties are:

- Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB): centre-right, it receives most of its support from nationalists and socialists
- Union of Democratic Forces (SDS): centre-right, conservative
- We Continue the Change (PP): centre, liberalism, pro-European
- Movement for Rights & Freedoms (DPS): centrist, liberal, formed mainly by the Turkish ethnic minority
- Revival: far-right, ultranationalist
- Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP): centre-left, socialist, draws its support from rural areas
- Democratic Bulgaria: centre to centre-right, liberal
- Bulgaria Rise (BV): national conservatism.

Executive Power
The President is the chief of the state and is directly elected for a 5-year term (renewable once), the same as for the Vice President. He is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and nominates the Prime Minister, who is elected by the National Assembly. The Prime Minister, as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, holds the executive powers and is also the head of the government. Moreover, the Prime Minister nominates the Council of Ministers. The Council of Ministers is the principal body of the executive branch. The Council of Ministers must resign if the National Assembly passes a vote of no confidence.
Legislative Power
Bulgaria has a unicameral parliament (called National Assembly), whose 240 members are elected for 4-year-terms by popular vote. A political party or coalition must obtain a minimum of 4% of the vote in order to enter the National Assembly. The parliament is responsible for the enactment of laws, approval of the budget, scheduling of presidential elections, selection and dismissal of the prime minister and other ministers, declaration of war, deployment of troops outside of Bulgaria, and ratification of international treaties and agreements.


COVID-19 Country Response

Travel restrictions
Regularly updated travel information for all countries with regards to Covid-19 related entry regulations, flight bans, test and vaccines requirements is available on TravelDoc Infopage.
To find information about the current travel regulations, including health requirements, it is also advised to consult Travel Regulations Map provided and updated on a daily basis by IATA.
Import & export restrictions
A general overview of trade restrictions which were adopted by different countries during the COVID-19 pandemic is available on the International Trade Centre's COVID-19 Temporary Trade Measures webpage.
Economic recovery plan
The summary of the EU’s economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic is available on the website of the European Council.
For the general overview of the key economic policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic (fiscal, monetary and macroeconomic) in Bulgaria, please consult the country's dedicated section in the IMF’s Policy Tracker platform.
Support plan for businesses
For an evaluation of impact of the Covid pandemic on SMEs and an inventory of country responses to foster SME resilience, refer to the OECD's SME Covid-19 Policy Responses document.
You can also consult the World Bank's Map of SME-Support Measures in Response to COVID-19.