Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev said on August 7 that he vetoed parts of the Budget revision bill, which Parliament passed at second reading before it went on summer recess on August 2.
The parts vetoed by Plevneliev, however, were the key provisions of the Budget revision – the reduced revenue target, increased spending and the increased borrowing ceiling for this year.
In a special address broadcast by Bulgarian National Television, Plevneliev said that he supported parts of the bill, including the package of increased state aid to vulnerable social groups, but underlined that this package was only a small part of the revision.
“I respect the right of every government to carry out the policies for which it was elected. I have no objections if these policies are carried out through a Budget revision and taking on new debt. But I do not accept the arguments that take advantage of our fellow citizens who are in a vulnerable position,” Plevneliev said.
“The public should not be led to believe that [the social package] is the paramount goal of the Budget revision, because this social package is only a small part of the new spending envisioned in the bill,” he said.
“We wish to know more about all the spending and we wish to know more about the new debt envisioned in the bill and, of course, how this public resource will be managed for the rest of the year. At the same time, I do not see in the bill passed by the National Assembly a serious claim to pursue reforms to support employment, competitiveness and economic growth,” he said.
Concerning the revenue side of the revision, Plevneliev said that it was “premature and lacking ambition” to reduce the revenue targets for the year, which was also at odds with the ruling coalition’s stated intention to fight contraband and raise revenue collection.
“The customs administration and the National Revenue Agency have ha management vacancies for more than a month and a half, while the State Agency for National Security and the Chief Directorate for Combatting Organised Crime are still in process of transformation. I expect the Government to make the effort and improve the work of the revenue collection agencies before releasing them from the responsibility to get higher revenue,” Plevneliev said.
With regard to the spending side of the Budget, he said that it lacked any transparency or arguments for the revision.
“Let it be clear to everyone that the bill passed by the National Assembly, in its spending section amends only the figure allocated to urgent and unforeseen spending. What does this mean? It means that none of the arguments given in the reasoning for the revision, nor those circulated in the public space concerning this revision, are included in the law, and the Cabinet can spend the increased amount as it sees fit,” Plevneliev said.
“The fair approach is different – to have transparent spending, to have the law specify which department will receive how much and for what. That is the reason why there is a Budget and why it is passed by law, rather than give the government all public funds at the beginning of the year and have it spend some 30 billion leva throughout the year as it sees fit,” he said.
Concerning the provision to increase the annual borrowing ceiling by one billion leva, Plevneliev said that he did not oppose it in principle, but objected to how the money would be spent.
“I do not oppose taking on more debt – take not one, but two billion leva if you wish – but I oppose it if is used not to generate new economic growth and creating new jobs, but to finance current spending needs. I believe that financing current spending by taking a loan is dangerous,” he said.
Plevneliev said that his reasons for the veto were entirely a matter of principle, not politically-motivated. In recent weeks, since announcing his readiness to veto the Budget revision in a television interview, the President has been the target of numerous attacks from Cabinet ministers and other senior politicians in the ruling coalition, who said that Plevneliev was engaging in political games and opposed the revision for political reasons.
Socialist politicians said that a veto on the Budget revision would be without precedent and exceeded the President’s powers, because only the Cabinet had executive power concerning budgetary procedures.
Plevneliev answered such criticism saying that the President the constitutional right to veto any law, not only when he believed the bill to be unconstitutional, but also when he considered the case to be appropriate.
He said that he would defend his right to veto any law if he had objections. “The real precedent would be not if the head of state imposed a veto on the Budget, but if he had objections and did not voice them,” Plevneliev said.
“A campaign is underway to denigrate and delegitimise the president. I will bear it all in the name of the citizens,” he said.
(Photo: V Nikolov/president.bg)