THE BUDGET SOLITAIRE WORKED OUT
A SERIES OF BLUNDERS MADE THE BUDGET PROCEDURE A FARCEThe Parliament adopted the 2005 budget macroframe on second reading with 124 votes in favour, 91 opposing and 4 abstaining. The budget stipulates revenues amounting to BGN10.432BN against expenditures and transfers amounting to BGN10.467BN. The 2005 budget deficit will amount to BGN35MN. Moreover, the plans include a proposal made by the group of Novoto Vreme for increasing the education costs by BGN130MN.A month ago the Minister of Finance Milen Velchev announced in public that he was presenting to the National Assembly a budget of a deserving and wiser European country full of justifiable self-confidence.It turned out, however, that the close ranks of numbers in the new financial constitution of the country have been arranged in a way to attract enemies instead of supporters. Even some of those who prepared the state calculations demonstrated they were dissatisfied. The problem about the money planned for the judicial power blew up passions in Parliament in the course of two days before coming to a happy end, i.e. getting a solution in favour of Minister Velchev team's calculations. Another scandal arose because of the fact that figures in the part for judicial budget expenditures as proposed by the Budget Commission differed from those the Chairwoman of the Commission Nina Radeva read to the audience. The representatives of the United Democratic Forces (UDF)found some procedural mistakes in the preparation of the calculations. The Cabinet proposed that the magistrates receive BGN230MN - about 12% above the amount they received in 2004. BGN17MN of that money will be provided to the Supreme Court of Cassation, BGN7MN - to the Supreme Administrative Court, and BGN51MN - to the Prosecution Office.At the same time, the Supreme Judicial Council asked for BGN328MN, i.e. BGN98MN above that amount. According to the legislation, the Supreme Judicial Council presents the budget of the judicial power to the Council of Ministers which in turn is obliged to introduce it to the National Assembly without making any corrections. What the Cabinet does is simply prepare an opinion on the numbers.The members of the UDF group warned the majority that the Government was not allowed to cut the money for the magistrates and therefore risked the Constitutional Court cancelling the state budget.The Parliament Chairman Ognyan Gerdzhikov explained that the Government's opinion for launching less money to the judicial power was actually an alternative proposal that would be voted by the Parliament. All other obstructions are merely political speculations, he said.As a starting point for preparing the calculations, the Government used the adopted three-year budget forecast for the period 2005-2007 as well as the 2005 expenditures of the first-rate budget regulators approved by the Council of Ministers. Two forecasts have been made about the growth of the gross domestic product (GDP). In case of a BGN1.66 per dollar rate and USD43 per barrel its growth will be 5.5-5.6% and in case of USD50-51 per barrel it will be five per cent. The budget deficit is 0.5% of the GDP. The Government calculated that its forecast amount was BGN41.34BN.Capital expenditures will be 21% higher in 2005 compared to the current year and will amount to BGN1.609BN. Twenty-five per cent of them will be financed by the programs PHARE, ISPA, and SAPARD which means that the funds will be better utilized.The national debt will be 41% of the GDP, while the expected 9% nominal growth of GDP will make it fall to 37 per cent. The average annual inflation should be 3.6 per cent. The 2005 unemployment rate is expected to be 12.3 per cent.According to the forecasts, the number of people employed will exceed 2,000,000 next year. 385,000 of them will be employed in the budget sector.The lowest working salary should be increased by 25% from January 1, 2005. It will be raised from BGN120 to BGN150. The average working salary in the budget sphere will grow by some 6% next year.