The first meeting of a tripartite task force for preparing the 2004 budget was to be held on July 28. The task force includes representatives of the State Duma, the Federation Council and the government. However, the meeting did not take place because the government had not managed to settle all disagreements concerning the budget between federal agencies. A meeting of the government commission, which is to debate claims of federal agencies, will take place this week, and the first meeting of the tripartite task force is scheduled for the beginning of August, the Izvestia newspaper reported. Earlier, Russian Finance Minister Alexey Kudrin declared that his ministry would submit the final budget draft to the government on August 7. The government is to consider the 2004 draft budget on August 14, and soon this document will be submitted to the State Duma for consideration. Formally this fast pace of the budget process is attributed to the fact that the State Duma's fall session will be shorter than usual due to the parliamentary elections. However, there is a political reason for this. The government can afford such a pace because it is working with a parliament where the majority is pro-government. Duma politicians realize that they have no power to influence the working out of the budget draft. Analysts say that the 2004 budget draft will be adopted easier than it was last year. Several years ago political groups in the Duma tried to bargain with the government and openly declared that they demanded an increase in financing various sectors. Currently, one can hardly find any statement of our well-known politicians about budget issues. The Federation Council seems to be more active. Senators have constantly declared that they will demand an increase in financing agriculture and assistance to regions.
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