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Novaya Gazeta, November 24, 2003

Is there a Country Budget or Cash under the Table?

By Alexei Savkin

Each year State Duma deputies take their first taste of the main dish of the Kremlin's cooks - the country’s budget. Previously deputies used to make a wry face during tasting, however at present everything proceeds with a swing, without any complications. It looks as if parliament members do not care any more about what was cooked for them.

Last Friday the State Duma adopted in the third reading Russia’s budget for 2004. The government is satisfied. But representatives from opposition parties assure the public that the main draft law of the country will fail to resolve any of the social problems in the country, and will only increase secret expenses (and therefore, uncontrolled by society).

At first sight the main law of the country looks quite decent. Budget revenues amount to 2 trillion 742 billion roubles. Expenditures total 2 trillion 659 billion roubles. However, the budget surplus will be used to form the stabilization fund, i.e. it will be virtually frozen. And revenues will only exceed expenditures, if the oil price is at least USD 22 per barrel.

Everything appears to be going to plan: GDP rises and the tax burden is decreased. However, the resolution of the Budget Committee [of the Duma] expresses doubts that the goal of doubling the GDP by the end of the decade set by the President will be met in such a situation. In addition it is not at all clear how the money from the so-called stabilization fund will be spent. It is likely that the government fund can become "cash under the table" for the Kremlin.

Many leading experts are also convinced that the budget is extremely unsatisfactory. The opposition thinks that the budget is "lobbyist, inertial and asocial." A representative of the YABLOKO party Pavel Melnikov told us about the main drawbacks of the budget. "The budget is inertial and asocial. YABLOKO, for example, proposed that the budget resolve the problem of poverty, by raising payments for the needy to the subsistence minimum, starting to resolve the unemployment problem, taking a number of measures to keep comprehensive health care free of charge, develop education and reform the army. But due to the position of the centrists, the opinion of other political parties is not considered. The adopted variant of the budget increased expenditures on all secret military items, i.e., our economists found 215 billion roubles of undeclared revenues in the budget."

With every passing year the budget of the country seems to be becoming increasingly secret Who knows, maybe in several years’ time deputies will vote for a budget containing only two lines: revenues and expenditures.


See also:

Budget 2004

Novaya Gazeta, November 24, 2003

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