Bulgarian Parliament passes 2014 Budget at second reading
Bulgarian MPs passed the 2014 Budget Act at second reading on December 9, following five days of debates and votes in Parliament. The legislature fell so far behind schedule that it announced two additional sittings on December 9 and 10 to finish the Budget votes and catch up on other legislative worked delayed by the Budget process.
Bulgaria’s 2014 Budget bill envisions a sharply increased debt ceiling and more deficit spending to fuel economic growth, which is forecast at 1.8 per cent, banking on favourable developments in the European Union, which is Bulgaria’s main trading partner, and an increase in household demand domestically.
Having spent two days, December 3 and December 4, debating the provisions of the Budget Act, MPs tried to hold all the votes on December 5, repeatedly moving to extend Parliament’s working hours, but had to adjourn shortly before midnight, ending the sitting that went on for more than 14 hours. Despite that last-ditch attempt, MPs had to postpone the ministerial Question Time on December 6, which Parliament traditionally hosts on Fridays, in favour of continued work on the Budget.
One of the key provisions voted on December 9 included the proposal to reduce the size of the taxpayer-funded subsidies for political parties – fulfilling a promise made earlier by the ruling axis, but dismissed by anti-government protest groups as “symbolic”, because it would reduce the annual subsidy given to parliamentary-represented parties from 12 leva for each vote received at the last elections to 11 leva.
Another provision voted on December 9, albeit that will affect the 2015 Budget, was that employees paid the minimum salary in 2014 will have their taxes rebated at the start of the following year. This proposal has drawn strong criticism that it would encourage tax dodging and offer a strong incentive for more employees to shift to the grey economy.
(Bulgarian Parliament. Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)