The Bulgarian-Swiss Chamber of Commerce Chairmen, Mr. Bonev: We adapted our communication channels to maintain a direct dialogue with members

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Exclusive: Interview with Mr. Boni Bonev, Chairman of the Bulgarian-Swiss Chamber of Commerce (BSCC): During the last decade BSCC increased the number of its members to about 120

The ”Trade and Investment Promotion Digital Platform” had the honor to interview Mr. Boni Bonev, the Chairmen of the Bulgarian-Swiss Chamber of Commerce, also Member of the Board of Nestle Bulgaria AD. We asked Mr. Bonev to share his extensive experience in the fields of trade and investment and provide us with his insight on the current economic situation in Bulgaria, as well as on the work of BSCC.

  1. Mr. Bonev, as the Chairmen of the Bulgarian-Swiss Chamber of Commerce, which was founded back in 1994, can you please tell us how has the role of this organization evolved over the last 26 years?

In 1994, upon the initiative of Swiss and Bulgarian organizations and companies, the Bulgaria-Switzerland Business Club was established in Sofia. The purpose of the club was to improve the economic relations between both countries and the exchange of current information between members and interested circles. In 2004, due to the increased interest towards establishing business contacts and with the aim of assisting enterprises from both countries, the members of the Business Club took a decision to transform it into a Chamber of Commerce. During the last decade BSCC increased the number of its members to about 120. These are Swiss SMEs, big international companies with Swiss
origin, as well as Bulgarian enterprises working with Swiss partners.

The Chamber is also expanding its service portfolio and offers support to members and non-members from both countries. BSCC has developed strong cooperation with Swiss business organizations, such as Switzerland – Global Enterprise, Chamber of Commerce Switzerland – Central Europe and others. In Bulgaria, BSCC maintains excellent relations with governmental institutions, employers’ associations and local authorities, business organizations and other international chambers. We are working very closely with the Swiss Embassy in Sofia and with the Bulgarian Embassy in Bern.

Learn more about chambers of commerce here.

2. What is the current situation in Bulgaria and which measures have been implemented to alleviate the impact of corona virus on the economy and FDI?

Just like everywhere else in the world the Corona virus has had a disastrous effect on the Bulgarian economy and its negative impact cannot be measured at the moment for the solution to the virus is not even on the horizon yet.  On the health side the numbers clearly show that the country’s leadership did an excellent job. The measures that were undertaken saved lives and minimized the number of people who were infected by
the virus which makes Bulgaria one of the least affected countries to date.

On the economy side, despite of the efforts of the local enterprises to continue operating, the state of emergency, which was declared all over Europe and the rest of the world, influenced a sudden drop of activity. As per the financial and market analysts Bulgaria will go through a very deep, but short crisis. It is expected that the GNP will drop by more than 7% in 2020. There will be bankruptcies and loss of jobs. Compared to the crisis of 2009 this time mistakes will not be made though. Europe is reacting with an unprecedented speed. Half a trillion Euros will be provided for investment. The local banks do not have issues this time and will be able to support the economy. There is liquidity and capital and there will be no restrictions. Interest on loans is and will remain low. A number of fiscal measures that help the economy have been put in place by the government and we expect that additional such measures will be adopted in the near future. All these factors create a very good foundation for a swift recovery of the economy.

BSCC has sought to reorganize its online resources for the benefit of its members, thus providing them with a platform to disseminate and receive useful and interesting information

3. How did BSCC adjust its strategy during the COVID-19 pandemics to provide support to the member-companies? 

BSCC has sought to reorganize its online resources for the benefit of its members, thus providing them with a platform to disseminate and receive useful and interesting information. We adapted our communication channels so we had the opportunity for a direct dialogue on current issues. We shared important information about online events and webinars, articles, news, changes in the regulations in both countries, etc. Thus, we remained supportive to our members. Just after announcing the State of Emergency in Bulgaria we designed a questionnaire for our members to examine how has the COVID 19 pandemic impacted their business activity. We have also asked them to share what measures for a swift overcoming of the effects of the crises they would recommend to the Government, as to support their business operations. At the same time, we strengthen our cooperation with the other most active bilateral chambers in Bulgaria, so to combine efforts in advocating for the benefit of our members. This initiative allowed us to have better representativeness in communicating with the State institutions.

BSCC, despite of its limited resources, has a number of initiatives that contribute to a better society and a better business behavior.

4. The Bulgarian- Swiss Chamber of Commerce is one of the rare business organization with the UN Global Compact membership. Could you please let us know more about this aspect of BSCC’s work?

BSCC’s main goal is to contribute for the development of the economic relations between Bulgaria and Switzerland and this goal will remain unchanged in the future. At the same time the Chamber wishes to contribute with additional added value to its members and the business community in general by promoting qualities and values that lead towards sustainable development. BSCC strongly believes that only enterprises that promote highest standards of integrity, precision, quality, ethical behavior, support the communities where they operate and care for our planet can be sustainable.

The 10 Principles of the UN Global Compact are an excellent guide for reaching and constantly improving these standards. BSCC, despite of its limited resources, has a number of initiatives that contribute to a better society and a better business behavior. To name a few, BSCC supports the Roma minority integration in the country education system and economy, participates actively in the introduction of the dual track principles in
the Bulgarian vocational education system following the Swiss model and has an agreement with the municipality of Lausanne whereby more than 6700 high quality recycled computers have been donated to date to hospitals, orphanages, municipalities, universities, schools etc. within the frame of a project called Restart.

BSCC also actively participates in a joint initiative of UNICEF aiming to establish an
Advisory Council on Business and Children. UNICEF’s Better Business for Children framework builds on existing work with business and governments to achieve respect for children’s rights across business operations and supply chains. It is an honor and a duty for BSCC to be member of the UN Global Compact and to promote its principles whenever possible with the aim to build a better world for all.

5. To what extent has the COVID-19 situation accelerated the digitization of BSCC? How do you see the work of BSCC in the future?

The State of Emergency has led us to rethink the importance of the opportunities that the digital world offers us. Many of the Chamber’s operational activities can be carried out online, and in some respects remote contact speeds up administrative services and decision-making related to the Chamber’s activity. The regular meetings of the BSCC Managing Board are held online. We intensified the outgoing communication through our LinkedIn page. Moreover, we created a closed LinkedIn group for BSCC members only, where we are able to maintain an open dialogue. We have partnered with some of our
members in promoting and developing online events. We are also actively participating in digital working groups with governmental institutions and other partner organizations. We have happily accepted invitations for taking part in online conferences, forums, summits on a national and international level. Despite the vast opportunities provided by digitalization, we look forward to the opportunity for personal contact with our members.

Discover the Bulgarian-Swiss Chamber of Commerce HERE.