Last night the speaker of Parliament Tsveta Karayancheva defended the decision to move forward with the scheduled raise of MPs’ salaries. She expressed the view – in many words – that a move to freeze MPs’ pay would be populist. And populism – she explained – in a time of crisis is unacceptable. She even went further and said the pay rise would be further beneficial because it will allow MPs to donate (majority MPs decided early on to donate a third of their paycheck to a coronavirus crisis fund).
The decision to go forward with the raise and Karayancheva’s subsequent elaborations received immediate public backlash. As a result, PM Boyko Borissov called an emergency Cabinet meeting and ordered MPs’ salaries be frozen. Ruling party GERB will also table an idea for parties to cease receiving state subsidy due to the COVID-19 crisis. GERB’s management will encourage its MPs to transfer half their salaries to a dedicated party account. The funds will be used to help efforts to counter the effects of the coronavirus crisis.
Today, Karayancheva wrote a lengthy Facebook post, apologizing for her defense of MPs’ pay rise. Although she found a way to say sorry several times throughout the post, she also defended herself, saying everyone makes mistakes, especially in a time like this, although – she found a way to sneak in a point of questionable relevance – "it would be nice if WHO would finally agree on the benefits of wearing a mask".
Meanwhile, Parliament was able to hold a sitting after all but three MPs were tested for COVID-19 and cleared. MPs were briefly quarantined and fast-tested after Hasan Ademov MP tested positive for the disease.
MPs will vote on extending the state of emergency until May 13, as the government proposed a few days back. MPs will also hold a first reading of the amendments to the budget. The Cabinet approved Finance Minister Vladislav Gouranov’s proposal to increase the state debt threshold to 10 billion leva, which Parliament will vote on Friday as well. The opposition will reportedly vote against the amended budget.
President Roumen Radev criticized the government’s response to the crisis and the new measures, pending Parliament’s vote. Instead of a debt threshold, "people in need expect real help," he said. He also criticized the lack of support for the self-employs, evaluated the measures to help businesses by covering 60% of salaries as insufficient, inefficient and very challenging to actually implement and benefit from. He further alarmed the healthcare system is fully focused on the coronavirus crisis, which renders it unable to function outside that focus.
PM Boyko Borissov dismissed the criticism, and compared Radev to "a bitter mother-in-law", and specified "the wicked kind."
Meanwhile, the number of confirmed cases in Bulgaria rose to 485, including 14 deaths.
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