Bulgarian MPs passed the 2015 Budget Act at second reading in the early hours of December 20, following a marathon 17-hour sitting, during which the House also passed the state health and pension budgets for next year.
Parliament finished voting shortly before 2am on December 20, repeatedly extending its working hours, rather than holding a special sitting on December 20. The legislature fell so far behind the schedule, which calls for the Budget to be passed by end-November, because early elections on October 5 and protracted government formation talks resulted in a late start to the Budget drafting process.
Bulgaria’s 2015 Budget bill envisions a three-per cent deficit and economic growth is estimated at a conservative 0.8 per cent, as well as debt ceiling increase to 24.5 billion leva. It includes a minor pensions increase of 1.9 per cent next year, and will raise the minimum salary from 340 leva to 380 leva.
Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov said that “I will not claim that it is a good Budget, but this is a realistic Budget” meant as a “return to normality”.
The state Budget bill passed without much drama, unlike the social security budget earlier in the day, which had all three government coalition partners to Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB vote against a controversial amendment giving anyone born after December 31 1959 a one-off choice to switch from their private pension fund to the National Social Security Institute (NSSI).
The amendments – opposed on the grounds that they were rushed and adopted without their financial impact being clear – passed with the support of opposition Movement for Rights and Freedoms, but both Borissov and Goranov said that the bill could be amended further in the coming months.
Before that, Parliament had another awkward moment where GERB MPs appeared to oppose the Cabinet in passing an amendment that limited the maximum taxation threshold at 2400 leva – whereas the government draft called for increasing the taxation ceiling to 2600 leva. After a sharp rebuke from Deputy Prime Minister Ivailo Kalfin, the amendment was re-voted and defeated.
(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)