Bulgaria’s National Assembly passed the 2022 Budget Act at first reading on February 10, with 129 MPs in favour and 99 opposed. A day earlier, the MPs passed at first reading the separate social security and healthcare funds’ budget bills.
The bill drew harsh criticism from the two largest opposition parties, GERB and the predominantly ethnic Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), for the high budget deficit target and increased government debt.
Finance Minister Assen Vassilev defended the bills, saying that the bulk of the increased spending was due to an extensive investment programme.
He said that the government was intentionally departing from the more conservative fiscal policies pursued after the country joined the EU in 2007, arguing that those policies resulted in thousands of Bulgarians leaving the country to work abroad.
“This budget aims to make the investment and public environments at least equal to those in Europe,” Vassilev told MPs during the debate on the bill.
The 2022 Budget has been delayed, owing to three parliamentary elections in 2021 and two short-lived parliaments that failed to elect a government. The current administration of Prime Minister Kiril Petkov took office in mid-December, leaving it no time to put forward a Budget bill before the end of last year.
Last month, the National Assembly approved a bill extending the duration of the provisions of the 2021 Budget Act until March 31 2022, giving Parliament additional time to debate and pass the new budget.
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