Plamen Oresharski, who sits in the prime minister’s chair in the Bulgarian Socialist Party government, told members of Parliament of the government’s “achievements” in what he described as a report-back after a month in office.
Oresharski’s statements came against a background of continuing anti-government protests, as tens of thousands of Bulgarian turn out daily, the only achievement they require from the government being its resignation.
The House he addressed was without its full complement, given the continuing boycott of proceedings by GERB, the former ruling party that won the largest share of votes in the May 2013 elections but had no allies with which to form a government.
Oresharski said that the government “clearly hears the demands of the protesters, both in February and today” but it also hoped that they would acquaint themselves with what the government had been doing.
He said that the government’s first task had been to prevent a new increase in the price of electricity and to come up with a new model for deciding electricity prices.
Legislation on electricity had been adopted which, according to Oresharski, made it possible to unclog electricity exports that had been blocked until now, to achieve a “reasonable price” for consumers and to achieve stabilisation.
The price of electricity for end-users would not increase, according to Oresharski.
While Oresharski’s speech apparently was intended as a list of things that had been done, it included things that the government is talking about doing.
These included the intention to amend public procurement legislation “to ease the access of smaller business and ensure more transparency in tenders”.
He said that working meetings had been held with employers’ organisations, tourism industry associations, leaders of trade unions, the association of municipalities and non-government organisations “to discuss and outline measures to overcome the crisis”.
Oresharski did not mention that one of the employers’ association had called for early elections, another for ahead-of-term elections next year, that the unions had called for the convoking of a Grand National Assembly and threatened a national strike if this did not happen, and that a large number of NGOs had rejected his invitation for talks – given that they want the government to resign.
He said that one of the tasks for the government was assistance to the socially poor. One of the measures was an increase in maternity benefits for parents of children aged between one and two.
Another measure was an increase in the amount of financial assistance to households with children who will be entering first grade. The sum of this one-off benefit was increased from 150 leva (about 75 euro) to 250 leva.
The third measure on the social front was expanding the energy benefits system and an increase in the households receiving heating benefits, Oresharski said.
The government had prepared a package of initiatives to assist youth employment and financing for employing 1200 youths had been provided, he said.
On the topic of adjustments to the 2013 Budget, a subject on which the socialist government lurched from one mixed signal to another until finally confirming that it would change the budget, Oresharski said that the “main arguments were not related to the intention to spend more, although the condition of the economy requires this”.
“A budget review is necessary to introduce more realism and keep promises,” he said.