Bulgaria’s National Assembly voted on January 21 a bill extending the duration of the provisions of the 2021 Budget Act until March 31 2022.
Owing to three parliamentary elections in 2021 and two short-lived parliaments that failed to elect a government, it was not until December 13 that Prime Minister Kiril Petkov’s Cabinet took office, leaving it no time to put forward a 2022 Budget bill before the end of last year.
Bulgaria’s law on public finances makes allowances for such a scenario and states that in this case the budget revenue is collected in accordance with existing laws, while spending is limited to the amount that was allocated in the same period of the previous year, but not higher than the revenue collected this year.
This kind of extension is allowed for up to three months, not counting any period of time without a sitting National Assembly, a stipulation that does not apply to the current situation.
The bill passed after a lengthy debate in Parliament, which saw MPs from the four parliamentary groups in the government coalition and opposition parties repeatedly exchange mutual recriminations for the 2022 Budget Act delay.
Even as Parliament discussed the bill, Finance Minister Assen Vassilev held an unannounced news conference to present the 2022 draft Budget Act.
Vassilev said that the bill has been finalised – it has been posted on the Finance Ministry’s website for public consultation, with a deadline for comments set for January 24 – and said that he expected the Cabinet to approve and table the bill to Parliament by January 31.
Given the short amount of time to draft the bill, it included only a small part of the public policies agreed during the talks to form the government coalition, Vassilev said.
The rest of those policies would be incorporated into the 2022 Budget Act in a budget revision scheduled for “the middle of the year,” Vassilev told reporters.
As it stands, the ministry’s draft budget envisions a deficit of 4.1 per cent of gross domestic product – 2.5 per cent when excluding measures meant to diminish the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic – and 7.3 billion leva, or 3.7 billion euro, in new government debt, while targeting 4.8 per cent economic growth in 2022.
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