site.btaMayors: Without State Budget Municipalities Could Return to Situation of Delayed Wages and Social Programmes
Without the continuation of the 2022 extended budget and in the absence of a state budget for this year, the municipalities may return to the situation of the 1990s with delays in the payment of wages, the mayors of Montana, Zlatko Zhivkov, and of General Toshevo, Valentin Dimitrov, told BTA on Tuesday. Both are members of the Board of the National Association of the Municipalities in Republic of Bulgaria (NAMRB) and are participating in a national meeting of the finance experts of the municipalities in Bulgaria, which is being held near Varna.
The forum is organized by NAMRB - Active and NAMRB. More than 340 experts participate in the business programme. The focus of the discussions is the work of municipalities in conditions without an adopted state budget, proposals for changes in the Public Finance Act and the preparation of local administrations for the transition to the single European currency.
The extension of an extended budget means worries for everyone, although this is the better option than having neither a budget nor an extension after June 10, Zhivkov said. He clarified that although he has been in the local administration for 20 years, he does not remember such a situation. The extension is until the regular budget, and this is a tight formulation, which means that the situation could remain the same until 2024, the mayor of Montana said. He added that in practice this means a serious backlog and lack of planning for the work and development of municipalities.
Many of the administrations have adopted some estimates for this year, although they are conditional, Dimitrov added. In his words, the mayors' appeal to the MPs of the current National Assembly is to finally adopt the 2023 State Budget Act. Dimitrov reminded that it is right to start the discussions on the budget for 2024. "We may not have a budget for this year, what will we do for next year? The extension law has untied our hands to some extent, but this is not a solution," the mayor of General Toshevo said.
His colleague from Montana added that the municipalities are in an extremely difficult situation - their financial situation is still in 2022, and they have to prepare for 2024 without knowing how they are going to get through this year. Extended budgets are not regular, so there is no vision, Zhivkov explained.
He added that many municipalities also have concerns about the implementation of their social programmes. Month-to-month planning creates anxiety for people, Zhivkov said.
The two noted that there are many municipalities in Bulgaria with delayed or outright stopped infrastructure projects. According to them, the main reason is inflation and rising prices of construction materials.
"It does not matter which mayor from which political party is elected, we are working because otherwise we are dooming to failure the last hopes of the people that something is being done in the country," Zhivkov said.
The mayors also called for faster adoption of the laws related to the Recovery and Resilience Plan. They also pointed out as a serious problem that they are still working with financial "leftovers" from the operational programmes of the previous programming period. The series of crises in recent years and the current political one have shown that financial decentralisation must finally take place in Bulgaria, Dimitrov said.
Asked if local administrations are worried about switching to the euro, the mayor of Montana said the question is not if this currency will be adopted, but when. According to him, the municipalities will cope, but the State should conduct a large-scale national campaign on the issue, it should be explained to everyone - both in the big cities and in the smallest villages - that there will be no terrible shocks, no impoverishment. The trouble is that people have no information and in the meantime someone is playing with their fears, Zhivkov said.
The two members of the Board of the NAMRB also recalled that unlike the central government, the local government cannot break its mandate when it decides. Usually people do not look for an MP or a minister, they turn to the mayor, the question is whether he has the ability and the budget to react, Zhivkov summed up.