Банкеръ Weekly

Briefs

BULGARIA HAS HAD A BUDGET STILL BEFORE IT HAD A FINANCE MINISTRY

The first budget of the modern Bulgarian State was worked out still before there was a finance ministry as an institution. In a document about the activities of the temporary Russian administration in Bulgaria the expenditure account is referred to as the budget for the fiscal 1879 -1880. On these grounds the Supreme Accounting Office later on acknowledged that document as the budget of the Principality of Bulgaria, projecting expenditures only, amounting to 21,485,000 French francs.On April 16, 1879, the Constituent National Assembly approved the so-called Tirnovo Constitution of the Principality of Bulgaria and the first Bulgarian government was appointed on June 5, 1879. One of the six newly-set ministries in that cabinet was the Finance Ministry, headed by Grigor D. Nachovich. Its tasks included the establishment of financial institutions in the country in accordance with the Tirnovo Constitution. In a number of articles the Constitution stipulated the drafting of rules for working out and implementing the country's budget. E.g. article 69 reads that the citizens are obliged to pay taxes, set up by a law of the National Assembly. The drafting of an annual budget for the State's revenues and expenditures was stipulated in articles 119, 120, 121 and 122. On June 3, 1880, prince Alexander I Batenberg approved the first budget with a revenue and expenditure side for the March 1, 1880 - March 1, 1881 period, with revenues of 23,114,500 French francs and expenditures of 27,306,267 French francs. The second budget document of the Principality of Bulgaria was also worked out in French francs, but it already included the two important sides - revenues and expenditures, and was prepared according to budget rules, drafted by the financial councillor Kaye. The sections in the revenue side included explanations about the legislative grounds, on the basis of which some taxes were collected, and about how the revenues of the Principality were calculated. The various items of the expenditure side point to the legislative grounds for making the different kinds of expenses. The section about the Finance Ministry included the exact number of its employees, their positions and salaries (beginning from the minister, chief secretary, councillors, heads, and legal advisеr, to the clerks and guards). The same was done regarding the provinces, customs and treasuries. The attitude to the other ministries was analogical. On December 17, 1880 prince Alexander I Batenberg approved the budget for the March 1, 1881 - March 1, 1882 period, with revenues of 28,154,280 levs and expenditures of 29,143,814 levs. Unlike the previous budget, it was worked out in Bulgarian currency, and the expenditures of the council of ministers were in a separate division. On the same date - December 17, 1880 - the then finance minister Petko Karavelov moved the already applied budget rules (drafted by the financial councillor Kaye) for consideration and approval by the national assembly. The first law on the structure of the budget was thus passed (Official Gazette Issue 54, dated December 20, 1880), implementing the requirements of the Tirnovo Constitution. Under that act, the annual budget is composed of the individual financial accounts of each ministry (the so-called treasuries). The finance minister manages the budget revenues. He opens budget credits (the right to make expenses) for each minister. The financial year begins on January 1 and ends on December 31, and the budget management is defined each 17 months, i.e. till June of the following year. The first three budgets of the Principality of Bulgaria were comparatively small and covered the most urgent needs of the State. The government was preoccupied with the settlement of political issues, which the Berlin Treaty had set to the Municipality of Bulgaria, e.g. the State's structure and the unification of the Bulgarian people. They found a reflection in the budget expenditures as well. The country's revenues were fluctuating and depended on the situation on the market of agricultural products. At the same time the tax system began to be gradually modernized. Still during the years of Russian military administration, the Ottoman fiscal monopolies on tobacco and alcohol were replaced by excise duties and payment for getting patent rights for the production and sale of tobacco goods, alcohol and spirits. In order to achieve greater justice in the taxation of incomes, progressive taxes were introduced, as well as a tax-free minimum income for the poor social strata.The 1883 budget was presented on February 18, 1883 in Report No 1142, addressed to His Royal Highness Alexander I Batenberg, and signed by the then prime minister major-general General Sobolev, the defence minister, the finance minister, the minister of foreign affairs and religions, the minister of justice, and the minister of education. The budget was approved on February 24 by a decree of prince Alexander I Batenberg. Its expenditure side totalled 31,502,427 levs, and its revenues side was 30,568,280 levs. An amount of 934,147 levs was written on a separate line of the revenue side, and it was specified that it should cover the arrears of taxes from previous years. The revenue side included the following direct taxes: land tax, tax on vineyards, real estates tax, and tax on livestock. The expected proceeds from customs duties werе estimated at 4 million levs. Additional proceeds of 1.5 million levs from coining Bulgarian silver coins (of 50 stotinki, 1 lev and 2 levs) were included in the budget. The civilian list of His Royal Highness - 600,000 levs - figured in the first place and on a separate line of the expenditure side. The expenses of the national assembly were estimated at 200,000 levs. The expenditures of the council of ministers were included in a separate table and it was specified that the costs for journeys, business trips, orders, remuneration, allowances and telegrams, amounting to 150,000 levs, would be at the disposal of His Royal Highness.Thus, in the very first four years of its existence one of the most important and at the same time most hated state institutions - the finance ministry - began to work according to modern (for that time) European rules. Within the 125 years of its existence this institution has undergone many vicissitudes, several state bankruptcies, financial scams, and even close-down in 1980 when it was included in the structure of the state planning committee. Within that period the ministerial post was occupied by a number of prominent Bulgarian politicians, whom Simeon Radev calls builders of modern Bulgaria. The State's finances were managed by Georgi Nachovich, Petko Karavelov, Georgi Zhelyazkovich, Todor Bourmov, Vassil Radoslavov, Ivan Evstatiev Geshov, Andrey Lyapchev. Some of them were premiers and lead the country during some of the most glorious and most tragic days of its history. In fact, the finance ministry has been one of the emblems of Bulgarian State. Therefore, its operation has always been a faultless indicator of the strength and weakness of our State.

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