Bulgarian MPs passed the 2016 Budget Act at second reading late on December 2, following a 13-hour sitting, during which the House also passed the 2015 Budget revision, which was included in the bill. The sitting followed another, slightly shorter special sitting on December 1, when the House passed the health and pension budgets, as well as the Budget’s macroeconomic framework.
The Budget deficit target in 2016 is set at two per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), while this year’s deficit is expected to rise to 3.3 per cent of GDP, exceeding the 2.9 per cent target set by the government. Economic growth next year is estimated at 2.1 per cent and the debt ceiling is increased to 22.6 billion leva, with the Cabinet allowed to borrow up to 5.3 billion leva next year.
The state Budget bill passed with the requisite drama, with multiple amendments tabled by the opposition – mainly dealing with requests to increase funding in one area or another – were defeated as, even in a half-empty House, the ruling coalition had enough MPs to ensure passage of the bill.
Notably, the socialist splinter ABC said early in the day that it disagreed with the exact amount earmarked in the Budget, even though it was backing the bill as a whole, and would not participate in any of the item-by-item votes.
Two other amendments that are tabled routinely every year – to freeze MPs’ salaries and cut the party subsidies paid from the state budget – were likewise defeated. Although usually these amendments are tabled by a party in opposition, this year the proposals came from the nationalist Patriotic Front, which backs the government.