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Finance minister of the year 2002: Veltchev takes his debt skills back home

When investment bankers decide it is time to leave their industry, many take extended leave or choose to retire altogether. Milen Veltchev went straight to being Bulgaria’s finance minister.

Until last year Milen Veltchev was vice-president in emerging markets at Merrill Lynch in London; since July 2001 he has been finance minister of Bulgaria. Indeed he mentions in his CV that he is the only Merrill Lynch banker to have become a finance minister apart from Donald Regan, who became US Treasury secretary under Ronald Reagan in 1981 and championed the president's tax cuts. Veltchev concedes that adapting to the new role has been testing. His only other government job was seven years ago when he was a diplomat in Bulgaria's foreign affairs ministry before joining Merrill. "A big personal challenge has just been to make the transition from investment banker to politician, to become a member of the cabinet, to learn to work with the often unwieldy bureaucracy and to put it to work in the right direction," he says.

His list of achievements in the past year is pretty long. After extensive negotiations, he secured a SDR240 million ($317 million) standby loan agreement package for Bulgaria last November from the IMF, which approved the second tranche of this loan this July.

He has restructured and reduced Bulgaria's overall debt levels and is making progress in encouraging businesses by reducing their tax burden while maintaining a low fiscal deficit.

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