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Caretaker Cabinet Will Table 2023 State Budget Bill at Outgoing Parliament, Finance Minister Tells BTA

Interviewed by BTA, Bulgarian Finance Minister Rositza Velkova said that the caretaker cabinet is planning to table a draft 2023 State budget with a medium-term budget framework in Parliament for the 2024-2026 period because these drafts must be presented in Brussels in April or May. 
Replying to a question, Velkova said that the Commission for Consumer Protection, the National Revenue Agency or another appropriate authority will be empowered to control speculative price rises when Bulgaria joins the euro area, possibly through the law on the adoption of the euro. This empowerment will happen as soon as the euro changeover date becomes clear, so that they could begin a preliminary monitoring of price fluctuations.
The interviewee specified that Croatia’s experience in this respect will be tapped.
Asked about Bulgaria’s progress towards the eurozone, Velkova said that it is crucial for the National Assembly in the last days of its life to adopt amendments to the Commerce Act, the Insurance Code and the Measures against Money Laundering Act. These three bills are part of this country’s commitments to the Exchange Rate Mechanism.
Bulgaria meets the budget deficit criterion, as the accrual-based Consolidated Fiscal Programme deficit is likely to be 2.8% of GDP, and the cash-based deficit is expected at 0.8%, down from December 2022 estimates of 2.9% and 1%, respectively. The debt level criteria are satisfied, too.
Inflation is, therefore, the only criterion that Bulgaria still fails to fulfil despite the efforts being made to this end. “We intend to hold talks and negotiations with the European Commission and the eurozone member states,” the Finance Minister said, pointing out that influencing prices through fiscal policy is very difficult, given that Bulgaria is a small economy in a currency board arrangement with no monetary policy of its own.    
On the basis of the conclusions of the Eurogroup meeting in February, Bulgaria will determine whether to apply for the drafting of a report by the Commission and the European Central Bank on the extent to which the membership criteria are met. 
Velkova notes that a public communication strategy regarding the introduction of the euro in Bulgaria has already been adopted and a sociological survey has already been conducted jointly with Alpha Research. A formal launch of the awareness campaign for joining the eurozone is expected at a conference in late February, to be attended by finance ministers of the Member States and European Commission officials. The information website on the euro will be launched, and helplines for members of the public will be opened, the Finance Minister told BTA.

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