2003 Draft Budget Reflects Positive Trends in Social Policy

The 2003 draft budget reveals "positive trends regarding social policy," Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Labor and Social Policy Andrei Selivanov has said in an interview with RIA Novosti.

According to him, "compared to 2002, the expenditure on "social policy" will be increased by 53%, amounting to 150.6 billion rubles" (about $5 billion). As of October 1, public sector salaries will experience a 33% raise. Pensions will be increased twice, beginning from February 1 and October 1, 2003. The average annual growth will reach 23%. Military personnel and law-enforcement agents will see the biggest salary increase, on average by 68.97%.

The deputy believes that another positive aspect of the 2003 budget is the launch of housing subsidies for low-income families.

However, there are "weak points in the draft budget." First of all, it is "funding cuts for a number of target federal programs," Selivanov said. For instance, funding of the "Older Generation" program will be reduced to 69% compared to the 2002 figures, while the "Children of Russia" program will receive only 80% of last year's funding and the "Social Support for the Disabled" program will shrink to 95%. And certain programs will not be funded at all.

In the first reading the parliamentary Committee on Labor and Social Policy "backed the draft budget in advance, having asked the Government to uphold our amendments," the deputy stressed. Now the committee members are anxious to see their proposals taking effect. The committee opposes the following Government's approach: "if the overall social expenditure is increased, than there will be no need for additional funding."

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