Bulgarian Parliament approves 2019 Budget Act at first reading

Bulgaria’s National Assembly passed the 2019 Budget Act at first reading on November 7, with 115 MPs in favour and 85 opposed. A day earlier, Parliament held a special sitting to approve the social security and healthcare funds’ budget for next year.

On both days, the opposition socialists and Movement for Rights and Freedoms – the two parties to vote against the bill – attempted to scupper the sittings by failing to register their attendance, but the ruling majority had enough MPs to secure the quorum.

That set the tone for the usual confrontation that usually accompanies any debate in the National Assembly. In a lengthy introduction, Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov rejected criticism that the bill was full of electoral handouts, re-iterating the government’s resolve to see out its full term, which ends in 2021. (Bulgaria will hold, however, European Parliament election in late May and then local elections in autumn.)

For a second year running, the draft Budget envisions hefty spending increases, with salary and pension hikes, which Goranov attributed to the strong economic growth in Bulgaria and improved tax collection.

Predictably, the criticism against the bill echoed points made each year by the opposition – the Budget did not pursue reforms, it would not stimulate the economy enough for Bulgaria to catch up with the EU average and it would exacerbate social inequality instead of bridging it.

The second reading of the Budget bill will be later this month, as Bulgarian law mandates that the Budget has to be passed by the end of November. Unlike at first reading, where the bill is voted in bulk, at second reading the vote will go article by article, including on any amendments filed between readings.



The Sofia Globe staff

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