Банкеръ Weekly

Briefs

FIRING IN PARLIAMENT BECAUSE OF THE DEBT COMMISSION

In the 1990s, the heirs of the Bulgarian Communist Party did nothing to pay off a dollar of Bulgaria's debt. Today the same people pretend to be concerned by making sensations and ignoring the damage they do with their lies and speculations. This is what the Minister of Finance Milen Velchev responded to the new wave of accusations that came from the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) on occasion of Bulgaria's foreign receivables. In order for the situation to become clearer, Mr. Velchev proposed that a parliamentary commission be established and authorised to analyse all actions of the governments in the past fifteen years dedicated to the collection of the money given to other countries. The minister also insists that investigation begins on how these debts have been accrued.On the first day of the new session of the National Assembly the socialists put forward a draft resolution for establishment of a temporary inquiry commission that would inspect the management of state receivables. The draft got principle support and was included in the Parliament's voting weekly agenda but not at first place. It means that the actual establishment of the commission will be delayed by two weeks at least, MPs from the left opposition claim.Instead of asking questions, Minister Velchev should give answers. He has no right to propose the establishment of a parliamentary commission, Roumen Ovcharov, Chairman of the Coalition for Bulgaria parliamentary group told the BANKER weekly. He added that the left wing was the real author of the idea to create a parliamentary commission that would review the country's foreign receivables deals, because it has been asking to make things clear for two weeks now. The socialists are most concerned about whether any deals have been signed for the Bulgarian receivables, what is the amount owed to Bulgaria at present, and who are the agents in the collection of the foreign receivables.Then Mr. Ovcharov said that the commission should find out if the Government and the Ministry of Finance had observed a decision taken by the Council of Ministers in March 1998 when collecting foreign countries debts to Bulgaria. According to that decision, any sale or purchase of receivables must be approved by the Parliament. The rulers are either violating that decision or have cancelled it silently, the BSP leader Sergey Stanishev said.However, government financial experts reacted by saying that the collection of Bulgaria's receivables from third countries has been regulated by bilateral agreements and not by trade deals.The debts resulted from BSP's policy by 1989 and it was the taxpayers who paid for everything, the Chairwoman of the Parliamentary Budget and Finance Commission Nina Radeva said. She said she was reserved about the actual work that a commission of the kind would be able to do until the mandate of this Parliament expires. There is no point in arguing who initiated the idea for its establishment, Mrs. Radeva said.According to Roumyana Georgieva from the group of Novoto Vreme, things had to be made clear back in 2001, when the Government of the National Movement Simeon II (NMSII) came to power. Moreover, a strategy could have been prepared for how the receivables would be managed. The group also claims that BSP has only offered general motives for its draft resolution. But it insists that full analysis be made of the period in which Bulgaria's foreign receivables have accumulated, as well as of the terms of the deals signed with debtor countries, and how much of the debts have been paid off to Bulgaria so far. According to former Ministry of Finance officials familiar with the settlement of the foreign receivables, if the Parliament creates a special commission its members will have to study a huge amount of documents and listen to all the people who have worked on the deals. That is why the commission is not likely to finish its work by the end of this Parliament's mandate.In the general hysteria there is one important issue that politicians fail to see but state financiers have no interest in discussing. It has something to do with the offers that various companies have made to the Government for collecting the debts of other countries. Of course, in return for a certain amount. Some businessmen who took part in such negotiations recommend that the MPs check if there have been any offers with more favourable conditions than the agreements reached at the end. If that's true they should find out the reasons why these offers have been rejected. In fact, if the MPs really want to know if the deals signed for Bulgaria's foreign receivables have served private interests and if the talks potentially led with debtors at this moment aim at benefiting third parties, they should better analyse the proposals received by the finance ministry during the years. Back two centuries ago, the French statesman Laffayette said: If you want the Parliament not to do a job, create a special commission for the purpose. Few people doubt that his words are an axiom for the Bulgarian National Assembly. Therefore, even if a special commission is established to arrange the foreign receivables, it is to be doubted if it will ever tell the public the truth about them.

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