THE GOVERNMENT PUT THE STATE RESERVE AT BAY
The Parliament member from the Bulgarian Socialist Party Roumen Ovcharov called the presentation of two bills on completing and amending the Law on State Reserves and Wartime Supplies a schizophrenic exercise. The bills were presented by the Council of Ministers to the Parliamentary economic policy committee within two months only. This is a precedent in the work of the Parliament, Mr. Ovcharov added. Instead of discussing the amendments proposed by the law, the MPs tried to avoid that inconvenience. Roumen Ovcharov proposed that the bill presented first (on June 24) be adopted and complemented by the second text between the first and second reading in plenary hall. At first sight, all members of the committee agreed with his proposal. The debate was interrupted and the MPs began to discuss the contents of the proposed amendments. The text which caused most disputes related to the question who should keep the state reserve. According to art. 17 of the currently operating law, the preservation of the state reserves is carried out by the State Reserve and Wartime Supplies Agency. It is allowed to entrust the preservation to private dealers and organisations by announcing a competition. Only 30% of the state reserve has been allowed for preservation in private warehouses so far. However, in practice external depositories have taken 90% of the reserves. The proposed amendment stipulates that private depositories be used only when the State Reserve warehouses wear out their capacity. According to Nikola Nikolov, MP from the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), the state bases are in extremely poor condition. He explained that the first thing to draw attention should be the proper preservation of grain reserves and not the utilisation of the state warehouses capacity. He also added that the quality of the bases and not their owners should be considered first. The Deputy Minister of Economy Radoslav Bozadzhiev who attended the meeting of the economic committee tried to disprove the UDF representative highlighting that an analysis has been made. Its results showed that the state warehouses are in an appropriate condition and can easily be improved.Discussions over, the voting of the two bills started. Contrary to the logic, the main text presented by the Council of Ministers on June 24 was rejected while the one meant to complement it was adopted almost unanimously. However, what happens next remains unclear. The Law on State Reserves and Wartime Supplies was published by the State Gazette on January 31, 2003, and was amended the following April. The reason for its further amendment was the scandal that exploded a year ago when 150,000 tons of grain disappeared from the reserve.This is the first law that settles public relations concerning the establishment and maintenance of state reserves and wartime supplies. Earlier, they were arranged with a regulation. According to the law, the state reserves include main raw materials, fuels, commodities, food, and medicines planned to cover the needs of the population in cases of calamities, accidents, crises, and wartime. The reserves are established, preserved and maintained at the expense of the state budget.