Ban on Privatization of Medical-Treatment Facilities to Be Lifted

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Ban on Privatization of Medical-Treatment Facilities to Be Lifted

Revisions of the Privatization and Post-privatization Control Act, which Bulgaria's Parliament
debated on first reading on Thursday, provide for lifting of the ban on privatization of medical-treatment facilities, BTA reports.

However, 64 general, university and specialized hospitals of national importance are added to the list of commercial corporations which may not be privatized.

Under the Bill, moved by the Council of Ministers, a medical-treatment facility will be obligated to carry out medical-treatment or social activities for a period of 15 years after its commercial corporation is privatized.

The draft legislation provides that the money proceeds from the privatization of self-contained parts of medical-treatment facilities be credited to an account of the facilities themselves, become their property, and be spendable solely to finance activities and on investments directly related to their objects, after approval by the owner of their capital.

Addressing the legislature during the debate of the revisions, Economy and Energy Minister Peter Dimitrov said that the ban on privatization is proposed to be extended to nine sports facilities, including the Vassil Levski National Stadium, the Belmeken Sports Complex and the Serdica Velodrome in Sofia. Other additions to the list are eight corporations, including the Maritza East Mines, which will become subsidiaries of the future Energy Holding Company.

Dimitrov said that 39 state-owned companies will be removed from the list, including Avtomagistrali, Technoexportstroy, the six free trade zones, as well as 20 corporations which have already been expunged for various reasons. Under the revisions, 37 majority state-owned blocks of shares will be sold as well, including shareholdings in the Bobov Dol Thermoelectric Power Plant, the Vazov Engineering Works, the Pernik and Shoumen district heating companies, and the Bulgartabac Holding Group. The Minister noted that 183 minority stakes held by the State will also become subject to privatization: the approximately 30 per cent in the six electricity distribution companies, the 42 per cent in the Sofia District Heating Company and the 25 per cent in Kremikovtzi.

Dimitrov told the MPs that 91.49 per cent of the state-owned assets have already passed into private hands, and the primary goal: fast privatization of state property, has already been achieved, which is why the target now is to complete the process.

The Bill proposes that as from January 1, 2009, 50 per cent of the privatization proceeds go to the State Fund Guaranteeing Sustainability of the State Pension System (a special buffer
fund designed to plug temporary discrepancies between contributions and disbursements in the pay-as-you-go system).
Dimitrov said that he has differences on the matter with Finance Minister Plamen Oresharski. The Economy Minister argued that this revision must enter into force upon the promulgation of the amending bill, so that more substantial resources could be channeled to the buffer fund.

According to another provision of the bill, a single-stage competitive bidding with public invitation to tender will be possible where preparation of tentative tenders is not needed for the purposes of this privatization procedure.

Parliament also debated other draft revisions of the Privatization and Post-privatization Control Act, moved by Petya Gegova, Marina Dikova and Olimpi Kutev MPs of the National Movement for Stability and Progress. The revisions, which are not seconded by the parliamentary Economic Policy Committee, envisage a change in the basic monthly remuneration of the chairpersons of the supervisory boards and the executive directors of the Privatization Agency and of the Post-privatization Control Agency.

"The underlying idea of the revisions proposed in the privatization bill is to improve the quality of health care," Health Minister Radoslav Gaidarski commented to journalists. He argued that through de-etatization, a lot more money will go to the health facilities.

The Minister noted that no one can say exactly how many hospitals will be sold. He sees the 15 years during which the privatized medical-treatment facilities may not change their medical-treatment and social activity as a sufficiently long period to see whether a hospital is good and whether it is needed in a specific region.

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