Bulgaria is the fastest growing economy in the European Union
Bulgaria's economy grew by six per cent year on year in 2008, dragged down by the fourth-quarter slowdown to 3.5 per cent, half the figure recorded in the last three months of 2007, National Statistical Institute data showed on March 11.
The fourth quarter figure was lower than the 3.6 per cent estimated by the NSI in February, but was enough to make the country the fastest growing economy in the European Union. More than half the bloc's member states are in recession, but Bulgaria has so far avoided the worst of the downturn.
The sharp drop in the last three months of the year pushed economic growth below the 6.4 per cent targeted by the Cabinet for 2008. Through the first nine months of the year, Bulgaria's economy grew by seven per cent.
In real terms, Bulgaria's gross domestic product (GDP) in 2008 was 66.73 billion leva or 34.12 billion euro. Per capita GDP was 8711.5 leva or 4454.1 euro.
Agriculture posted the highest growth, 24.6 per cent, after a bumper harvest, but the sector accounts for only six per cent of GDP. Services accounted for half of the total GDP, growing by 5.9 per cent, while industry posted a three per cent increase.
Consumption, which has been the main driver of economic growth in recent years, posted a 3.9 per cent increase for the year and only 1.4 per cent in the fourth quarter.
For 2009, the Cabinet targets economic growth of 4.7 per cent, a figure criticised as overly optimistic both at home and abroad. The central bank's forecast is 2.1 per cent, close to the 1.8 - 2.0 per cent estimated by the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund.