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SOFIA (Bulgaria), July 19 (SeeNews) - Bulgaria's parliament said on Friday it endorsed the government's proposal to increase the 2019 budget deficit to 2.1% of the projected gross domestic product in order to finance the purchase of eight F-16 fighter jets from the U.S.
The parliament passed the decision in a 113-72 vote with two abstentions in second and final reading, the assembly said in a statement.
The originally planned 2019 budget deficit was equivalent to 0.5% of GDP.
Under the decision, the government will allocate an additional 2.1 billion levs ($1.2 billion/1.1 billion euro) to the defence ministry's budget for the F-16 purchase and will simultaneously cut 271 million levs in planned expenses for other military acquisitions. The net increase of 1.83 billion levs will lift budget deficit to 2.23 billion levs.
Changes to the budget do not affect the government's borrowing plans, finance minister Vladislav Goranov said last week, adding Bulgaria's fiscal reserve is at a good level and can handle the payment for the F-16 jets.
Bulgaria's finance ministry said last month that it expects the consolidated budget to show a surplus of 3.20 billion levs at the end of June, equivalent to 2.8% of the projected 2019 GDP. The country's consolidated budget was in surplus of 3.03 billion levs at the end of May, equivalent to 2.6% of GDP.
On Friday, the parliament ratified the deal with the U.S. worth a total of $1.256 billion for the purchase of eight F-16 Block 70 fighter jets and their maintenance to replace the ageing fleet of Russian-made MiG-29 fighters of the Bulgarian Air Force.
Last week, the government gave the green light to the deal which envisage the delivery of six single-seat F-16 jets and two two-seat aircrafts used for training, as well as supply of munitions for the jets, Sidewinder AIM 9Х Block II missiles, and a multifunctional information distribution system joint tactical radio system (MIDS JTRS). The purchase price will be paid in one go.
Last year, Bulgaria's request for proposals for delivery of up to 16 jets to replace the ageing fleet of Russian-made combat aircraft attracted offers from the U.S., Sweden and Italy. The U.S. offered to supply new F-16 or F-18 jets, Saab offered to supply new Gripen C/D fighters, while Italy offered used Eurofighter aircraft.
($ = 0.89028 euro)