MPs Demand More Spending during Listless Budget Revision DebateDomestic | July 8, 2010, Thursday // 14:51| views
Bulgaria's Finance Minister Simeon Djankov stands lonely during the second reading debate of the 2010 Revised State Budget. Photo by BGNES
Rather lethargic attitudes and apathetic statements with well-known demands for greater state spending marked the debate at the Bulgarian Parliament for the second reading of the 2010 Revised State Budget Act. The bill was already approved in a similarly spiritless debate at first reading at the end of June.
The bill, which is the first revision of a Bulgarian state budget law since the horrendous domestic economic crisis in 1997, is supposed to tackle the unfavorable effects of the global economic crisis – to optimize state spending while also providing for crucial structural reforms.
During the debate on Thursday, however, the plenary hall of the Bulgarian Parliament remained half empty, and even the Bulgarian Finance Minister Simeon Djankov, who was looking over the MPs, abstained from replying to the demands for more spending made by the opposition.
One of the Co-Chairs of the rightist Blue Coalition, Martin Dimitrov, has urged the Cabinet to reduce state spending further arguing that the revised budget bill was not going to help the state cut its 2010 budget deficit. The Blue Coalition, which in principle supports the ruling party GERB, has criticized the government over the provisions of the budget revision, and has threatened not to back the bill at second reading.
MP Dragomir Stoynev from the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party retorted that the Blue Coalition must finally make up its mind as to whether it is part of the ruling majority or is in opposition.
Former Labor Minister in the Socialist-led government Emiliya Maslarova demanded BGN 142 M more for social spending, while her colleagues, Socialist MPs, Stefan Danailov, Petar Korumbashev, and Angel Naydenov asked for BGN 2 M for film-making because otherwise the sector was going to die down in Bulgaria.
Angel Naydenov explicitly declared that the intended cut of BGN 138 M of the state subsidy for the local authorities will have disastrous effects, and urged the government not to go ahead with it.
The GERB MP and a former mayor Lyuben Tatarski has snubbed criticism about the cuts of state money for the municipalities by saying that the smaller municipalities, instead of complaining they will go bankrupt, should look for ways out themselves.
The debate of the budget revision at the Parliament was extremely slow as the MPs, despite lacking much zeal in their statements and being too few in number, spend four hours debating the first article of the bill.
The Co-Chair of the Parliamentary Group of the ruling party GERB Krasimir Velchev suggested that the debate should continue until the revised budget for 2010 is adopted; the proposal was approved meaning that the bill will have to go through by the end of the day on Thursday.
Velchev did admit that the government was having problems with the revenues envisaged in the state budget – especially with the smaller income from VAT and excise taxes. He defended the approach of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, who relies heavily on the work of the Interior Ministry and police services in order to increase the amount of the collected taxes.
“A policeman’s thinking does not lead to increasing state revenues. If you are so good with the police operations, why are you reducing the income part of the budget by BGN 1.5 B?,” retorted Socialist MP and former Interior Minister in the Socialist-led government (2008-2009) Mihail Mikov.
Bulgaria’s Defense Minister Anyu Angelov made what was perhaps the most interesting statement during the debate, defending the spending under a deal with Eurocopter for the delivery of 18 helicopters to the Bulgarian Air Force and Navy.
“The Bulgarian state has paid EUR 300 M already, and has to pay EUR 200 M, unless we want to lose the money we have paid, and the helicopters we have received. We have the grounds and the good will to negotiate with Eurocopter. If we have to, we will engage the Prime Minister in the negotiations, not just for the helicopters but also for the Spartan airplanes,” said Gen. Angelov about the Eurocopter deal made by the former government, which the struggling Bulgarian Defense Ministry now has a hard time paying for.
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