Bulgarian MPs Pass 2013 Budget Amidst Scandals
Bulgarian Finance Minister Simeon Djankov smiling during the Parliament's debates on the 2013 budget. Photo by BGNES
Bulgaria's Parliament adopted Thursday the country's 2013 State Budget Act at second reading after a debate marred by scandals.
According to the provisions of the budget, Bulgaria's GDP is expected to grow by 1.9% in 2013, reaching BGN 81.486 B.
The exports of the Bulgarian economy are projected to grow by 8.1% year-on-year, while the employment level is expected to stablize at the 2012 figure – 12.4% unemployment. Imports are expected to increase by 10.5% year-on-year.
As a result, Bulgaria's current account balance will reach a deficit of 2.8% of GDP and will keep growing in the medium run.
Planned revenues in the 2013 budget are BGN 18.4 B – of them, BGN 16.6 B from taxes, and the expenditures are BGN 19.2 B – of them the funds owed to the EU amount to BGN 908 M, transfers – to BGN 10 B, and other expenditures – BGN 8.1, thus the budget gap in 2013 will be BGN 802.6 M.
The second-reading debates for the 2013 State Budget Act continued for more than 13 hours, amidst chants for the resignation of Finance Minister Simeon Djankov on part of the opposition, with Djankov in turn describing the opposition MPs as drunks and apologizing after that.
The turmoil during the debates forced Parliamentary Chair Tsetska Tsacheva to declare a break, which is when Djankov's apology came in.
While the MPs where debating the budget for 2013, outraged Bulgarian mothers rallied outside the Parliament building with their babies dressed in clothes saying, "There is no budget for me!" protesting the ruling party GERB's decision not to increase the monthly maternity allowances from their present level at BGN 240.
In spite of their attempts to enter the Parliament with their babies, the mothers were not received by GERB MPs.
In the first day of the budget vote, after heated debates, the MPs passed the budget of the National Health Fund (NZOK), of the State Public Coverage, and the budget frame, and started working on the State budget.
Under the 2013 NZOK budget, health insurance contribution was kept at 8%. The NZOK debate caused the most clashes between MPs from the ruling Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria party, GERB and those from the opposition. The latter proposed to introduce a lower fee for retired people for a general practitioner exam, but it was rejected.
The opposition, left-wing Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP, presented an alternative budget plan, asking to increase the forecasted revenue from tax collection, particularly from excise duties.
The MPs also passed the subsidies for the State-owned Bulgarian National Television, BNT (BGN 70 M), Bulgarian National Radio, BNR (BGN 42 M) and the BTA news agency (BGN 4 M).
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