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Bulgaria’s parliament approves 2021 budget changes ahead of polls

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SOFIA, Sept 11 (Reuters) – Bulgaria’s parliament approved on Saturday changes to the 2021 state budget aimed at shielding the country from an upsurge in coronavirus cases and woo struggling businesses and pensioners ahead of a parliamentary election in November.

Lawmakers said rebounding economic growth will boost state revenues more than the estimates of the interim government and voted to boost spending while still reducing the 2021 budget shortfall target.

Under the amendments, state revenues that exceed initial plans by some 2.5 billion levs ($1.51 billion) will be used to double bonuses to pensioners from October and to support businesses and hospitals amid rising new infections.

Deputies also earmarked more funds to cover dues to road construction companies, support farmers and prepare for a potential migrant inflow from Afghanistan.

The better than initially planned revenues will also help reduce the 2021 fiscal shortfall to 3.6% of economic output from a target of 3.9%.

Bulgaria’s growth was 9.9% on an annual basis in the second quarter. The interim finance ministry sees the small and open economy expanding by 3.5% this year after contracting by 4.2% in 2020.

President Rumen Radev has said he would dissolve parliament, appoint a new interim government and set a date for general election once lawmakers approve the budget revision.

November’s vote will be the third parliamentary poll this year after inconclusive polls in April and July failed to produce a government.

($1 = 1.6530 leva) (Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

Reuters

Photo The leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, Cornelia Ninova (L), returns the mandate to form a government to the Bulgarian President Rumen Radev (R) during their meeting in Sofia , Bulgaria on 07 September 2021. After the return of the third term for forming a government, the Bulgarian President must schedule for the third time in a row early elections for the Bulgarian Parliament within one year, as the current one will be dissolved. EPA-EFE/VASSIL DONEV