Bulgaria’s National Assembly passed at second reading the revision of the 2021 Budget Act. The final provisions were voted at close to 2am on September 11, following a marathon sitting that capped a week-long legislative process that was frequently ill-tempered and threatened to go off the rails on a daily basis.
The revision was off to an inauspicious start from the start, when MPs debated the social security budget on September 7 and passed three conflicting amendments concerning pension hikes – one-off boosts of 120 leva and 100 leva to all pensions for the last three months of the year, as well as a 12.5 per cent overall pension increase.
This would have required more than double the amount budgeted for pension hikes by the caretaker Cabinet’s Budget revision proposal, if the overall pension increase went into force as scheduled on October 1.
After two days of wrangling in Parliament’s budget and economic affairs committee, the solution approved by MPs to settle the issue was to keep the 120 leva pension increases for the last three months of 2021, dropping the 100 leva boost, and postponing the 12.5 per cent increase for December 25.
The National Health Insurance Fund budget also required repeated meetings of the budget committee to rebalance the bill, after several proposals that increased the spending side were passed on the House floor.
The bill was finally approved by MPs on September 10, with the revenue and central Budget transfers raised by about 100 million leva, compared to the amounts voted at first reading.
MPs spent the rest of the sitting on September 10 on the bill amending the state Budget. By the time the voting ended, the spending side of the Budget ballooned by 2.3 billion leva, including 1.7 billion leva for the Cabinet to allocate on measures meant to lessen the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, while the revenue side was increased by 2.5 billion leva, which were expected to come from improved tax collection.
The initial bill tabled by the caretaker Cabinet raised revenues by 1.33 billion leva and spending by 1.46 billion leva, including the 1.16 billion leva new budget item for compensatory measures in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic.
With Parliament passing the Budget revision, this clears the way for Bulgaria to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on the same day, November 14. President Roumen Radev had previously said that he wanted the National Assembly to pass the bills before he dissolved Parliament.
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