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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bulgarian Premier Urges Budget Passage

SOFIA -- Bulgarian Prime Minister Lyuben Berov warned parliament Tuesday that unless it approved the government's 1994 budget by Feb. 16 at the latest it would jeopardize a string of international credits.

The passage of a strict budget is a key condition for the release of further funding from the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Group of 24 leading industrial economies.

"The government will not carry any responsibility if political squabbles hinder the execution of such an important condition for the success of a series of important meetings with international financial institutions," Berov said in a statement carried by the state news agency BTA.

"If this chain reaction is delayed due to the rejection of the budget, the consequences will be hard for all of us and the alternative will be a crisis and immediate parliamentary elections," Berov said.

The non-party government, which agreed a landmark reduction of its burdensome $9.3 billion commercial debt in December, is relying on external funding to meet the terms of the deal.

But opposition groups in parliament have criticized the budget as unrealistic, soft on indebted state enterprises and too tough on the most needy.

Berov said Sofia should not miss significant opportunities such as negotiations with the G 24 in Brussels at the beginning of March for $330 million in balance of payments support.

Talks with the IMF in mid-March are expected to finalize a reform-backed credit deal worth $150 million, he said.

Berov also referred to a meeting on March 22 with Bulgaria's official creditors, grouped in the so-called Paris Club, where Sofia expects a rescheduling and a 50-60 percent reduction of its $1.6 billion debt.

The draft budget envisages revenue of 171.5 billion levs ($5.3 billion) and expenditure of 204 billion levs with a deficit of 32.5 billion levs, or 6.5 percent of gross domestic product.