Power block and health care to be prioritised

Mikhail Zadornov,Deputy Chairman of the State Duma's Budget Committee

The share of the overall expenditures on law enforcement bodies, including the Ministry of Civil Defence, Emergencies and Clean-Up Operations and the Ministry of Defence, has increased about 3% in Russia's draft budget 2004. The sum is significant, and it is clear that these departments have been given priority.

Simultaneously, preference has been given to such important programmes as those of fighting TB and AIDS. Not long ago the State Duma received a government regulation approving the programme of loaning from the World Bank to the tune of $150mln to fight TB and AIDS. The sum is enormous for Russia. I hope that the allocation of the funds will start as soon as next year, because this issue has been negotiated since 1997. The process was hindered by certain disagreements between international organisations and the Russian departments.

$150 mln is a considerable addition to the budget too. The draft budget suggests the allotment of about 1.5 bln roubles to fight TB, which is $50 mln, 170 mln roubles for the anti-AIDS programme and 500 mln roubles to cope with the problem of drug addiction, which, as a matter of fact, implies preventive measures against AIDS to a certain extent. Consequently, all these programmes will be much better financed, let alone the loan, in 2004 year on year. The loan added, the expenditures will multiply.

In my opinion, the swelling allocations to fight AIDS and TB mean a shift in the Russian government's attitude to the problems, although, it seems to me, the funds assigned are not enough. According to independent sources, there are about 1 mln AIDS-infected people in Russia at present. So if we do not take serious and consistent measures against the problem, in 5 years AIDS will be 4th or 5th on the list of causes of death in Russia. Unfortunately, this impending menace has not been duly realised, in spite of the progressive dynamics of the epidemic in the country.

Nevertheless, the experience of some countries proves that the problem of AIDS can be dealt with properly. Currently, there are as many infected in the US as in Russia, but the annual growth of the newly infected in America has dropped over the last 5-6 years. That means that the US government managed to stop the epidemic. Consequently, Russia must make use of the experience of not only the US, but Brazil, for instance, as well, which also has made certain progress in this sphere, and try to save people's lives through adequate programmes of financing.

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Author`s name Editorial Team