Bulgaria ups growth forecast to 3.6% in 2019: finance minister

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria has raised its economic growth forecast for 2019 to 3.6% from a previous estimate of 3.4%, Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov said on Saturday.

Bulgaria, a member of the European Union member which wants to adopt the euro currency, reported economic growth of 3.1% in 2018 and has previously forecast growth of 3.3% in 2020.

“We expect the economy to achieve a growth of 3.6% this year, one of the best in the European Union,” the minister said.

Bulgaria, which has already pegged its lev currency to the euro, wants to join the euro zone’s obligatory two-year “waiting room”, the ERM-2 mechanism, in the spring of 2020.

Goranov said the accession process was going ahead “according to the preliminary consultations with our European partners”. He said Bulgaria aimed to adopt the euro on Jan. 1, 2023.

After health checks by the European Central Bank on six banks this year as part of Sofia’s plans to adopt the euro, two local banks have been working to increase their capital.

S&P Global Ratings’ raised its long-term foreign currency rating for Bulgaria to BBB/A-2, citing the Balkan state’s strong fiscal performance.

Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Edmund Blair