The Bulgarian Socialist Party cabinet was scheduled to vote at a special meeting on July 22 2013 on a revision to the national Budget that will bring debt of a billion leva and that its critics describe as a “plunder that will benefit the mafia” and that they hope President Rossen Plevneliev will use his veto against.
Petar Tchobanov, occupant of the finance minister’s chair in the government that took office in May and that has been the subject of more than a month of popular protests demanding its resignation, said on July 20 that the plan was to put the revised Budget to Parliament for adoption as soon as possible.
In the Parliament elected in May, the socialist party and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms together hold half the seats, operate with the tacit if officially denied support of ultra-nationalists Ataka, while the party holding the largest single share of seats – former rulers GERB – is conducting a continuing boycott.
Tchobanov said that in Budget 2013, approved by the previous Parliament, there were many activities that were under-financed, spending that was poorly planned, while there were items for which no provision had been made.
He said that the new billion leva (about 500 million euro) debt would not be spent by the end of 2013 but would used as a “buffer” to stave off the need to take new loans at the start of 2014.
About 40 million would be used for spending to assist the most vulnerable Bulgarians, there would spending on hospitals, to meet commitments undertaken by the Marin Raykov caretaker cabinet that was in office from mid-March to late May, while revenue from carbon trading would be used to cover spending resulting from Energy Act amendments billed by the current government as intended to cover in part electricity costs to benefit consumers.
At a news conference on July 21, the Reformist Bloc, a nascent grouping of extra-parliamentary right-wing parties, called on Plevneliev to veto the Budget amendments.
Under Bulgaria’s constitution, the head of state may return legislation to the National Assembly for reconsideration, although Parliament may override this veto by a simple majority of MPs.
The Reformist Bloc said that the new billion leva borrowing would lead many Bulgarians to bankruptcy, would put the Bulgarian state into a spiral of debt, and would benefit only the mafia oligarchy.
They said that at the moment the fiscal reserve of the country was more than 5.8 billion leva, which meant 1.8 billion leva more than the minimum allowable reserve, which the government was planning to spend half of what was held in reserve.
The Reformist Bloc described the step by the government in which Plamen Oresharski, a former finance minister, holds the post of prime minister, as having no clear purpose and as a short-term measure.
Martin Dimitrov, leader of the Blue Unity party, urged Plevneliev to stop what Dimitrov called a scheme to drain the budget. He said that the Budget adjustment was the first step that the government was taking on the path of Zhan Videnov – a reference to the early 1990s socialist government that brought Bulgaria to its knees economically and financially.
Radan Kanev, leader of the Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria, said that instead of the higher revenue collection promised by the Bulgarian Socialist Party ahead of the May 2013 elections, there was an allocation of funds with no clear purpose: “This is the behaviour of a family who takes a loan to put money in the closet”.
The Reformist Bloc said that the Budget adjustment amounted to an attempt by the government to buy time, at the expense of all Bulgarian citizens, taxpayers and businesses.
(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)