Parliament held a special sitting on February 22 to pass the separate health care and pension budgets, followed by the item-by-item votes on the macroeconomic framework and the central budget.
The bill put forward by the Finance Ministry was passed with no major changes, but one notable amendment that was passed by MPs will allow the government to use any budget savings to provide humanitarian assistance to Bulgarians living in Ukraine and to the Ukrainian state.
After the bill was passed, Prime Minister Kiril Petkov spoke to Parliament to thank MPs for adopting the budget, which he described as one of “investment and social, which leaves no Bulgarian below the poverty line.”
“This budget is a success for the National Assembly and the [government] coalition. What everyone will see with this budget and its execution is the start of change,” Petkov said, as quoted by Bulgarian National Radio.
The 2022 Budget Act is the first major piece of legislation passed by Parliament since the four-way coalition led by Petkov’s We Continue the Change (WCC) took office in December 2021.
But the bill included only a small part of the public policies agreed during the talks to form the current government coalition, Finance Minister and WCC co-leader Assen Vassilev said last month.
The bulk of those policies will be tackled in the Budget revision planned for the summer of 2022, Vassilev said when he presented the ministry’s bill.
The ruling coalition passed the bill without internal dissent, but the upcoming may prove a sterner test for the government, given the extensive list of additional spending demands put forward by some of the coalition’s constituent groups in recent months.
The 2022 Budget has been delayed, owing to three parliamentary elections in 2021 and two short-lived parliaments that failed to elect a government. Last month, the National Assembly approved a bill extending the duration of the provisions of the 2021 Budget Act until March 31 2022, giving Parliament additional time to debate and pass the new budget.