THE DUMA BUILDING: REPAIRS AND UPGRADES
Novye Izvestia, August 3, 2002, p. 2
In recent years, renovation of the Duma building in Okhotnyi Ryad has become something of an annual tradition. This summer, 8.8 million rubles has been allocated for repairs and new equipment. Most of it will be spent on installing and upgrading computer systems in the large and small meeting halls and the offices of a number of Duma members. The small meeting hall will gain a language translation system and video screening facilities. Similar work will be done in another meeting hall, in the Duma’s second building, and in the Duma Council’s meeting hall. Half a million rubles has been allocated for new equipment on the balcony used by television journalists in the large meeting hall. Installing an electronic voting system that covers all Duma seats is a priority. In the offices of the Duma staff, there are plans to install an automated system for preparing the minutes of Duma meetings, and to provide Internet access at all workstations for the Duma staff. Moreover, all Duma members will receive new notebooks when they return from their vacations.
A new system of connecting computers to the in-house network and the Internet will not only improve Internet connection speed, but significantly expand the number of users: access to the high-speed parliamentary network will be available not only to Duma participants (members, aides, staff) but to the families and friends of Duma members as well, since Duma members will have the new system installed in their apartments. It is worth noting that parliamentary immunity will be strictly observed in relation to Internet use: for example, it has been decided to refrain from installing any special filters to block access to recreational websites.
Another of the intrigues in Duma renovation work involves the question of the building’s external appearance. For almost two years – ever since the law establishing Russia’s new coat-of-arms was passed – the nation’s top lawmakers have essentially been ignoring their own decisions. The symbols of a vanished nation still decorate the facade of the Duma building, as they have since Soviet times. Last summer there was some talk of changing the coat-of-arms displayed on the Duma building, but it went no further than talk. The current schedule of Duma renovation work appears to take refurbishment of the facade into account; some work on this is already being done. However, according to our sources, there are as yet no plans for the radical “political renovation” of changing the symbol on the front of the building.
UNITED RUSSIA IS AIMING FOR THE MAJORITY
Izvestia, August 3, 2002, p. 4
The immediate goals of the United Russia party are to secure a Duma majority in the parliamentary elections of 2003; to form a government; and to support Vladimir Putin in the next presidential election. This was stated on Friday by Alexander Bespalov, chairman of the United Russia general council, at a meeting with party members in Tatarstan. Bespalov noted that the party intends to participate in elections at all levels, from local government upwards, and to nominate candidates in elections for regional leaders. Oleg Morozov, another member of the general council, said United Russia has blended the political preferences of the three movements which combined to form it: Unity (moderate conservatives), Fatherland (moderate social-democrats), and All Russia (democratic federalists).
At present, United Russia is not a party representing the interests of any particular category of the citizenry. Morozov said: “It is a party of the majority, which combines the idea of social justice, appropriated by the Communist Party, and the idea of patriotism, which Vladimir Zhirinovsky considers his own property.”
INFLATION FOR JULY: 0.7%
Kommersant, August 3, 2002, p. 5
Russia’s official inflation figures for July were released on August 2.
The state has not attempted to deny the presence of inflation entirely; but it was declared to be 0.7%, in line with the Cabinet’s plans of keeping it below 1%. Inflation for the first half of the year was 9%; but the Cabinet has continued to insist that annual inflation will be within the margins of 12-14%, the figures used for this year’s budget. Clearly, this means inflation ought to be below 1% for each month in the second half of the year. Around 0.7-0.8% would be acceptable. And so, we have the results for the first month of the second half of the year. They are as follows.
Food prices rose by 0.4%; goods other than food went up by 0.6%; and services went up by 1.8%. Sugar showed the greatest rise among food items (17.8%). The price of potatoes went up by 8%. Bread went up by 0.6%. Fruit and vegetable prices fell by 3.1% (the rise in the price of potatoes was more than compensated for by a fall in the price of cabbage); and butter became 1% cheaper.
Among non-food products, gasoline showed the greatest rise (1.5%). Clothing prices went up by 0.5%.
Health services increased by 3.3%, while housing and utilities costs rose by 2.4%.
As a result, overall price growth for the month of July was 0.7%, thus bringing total inflation since January to 9.8%. If this continues, the target inflation figure of 14% ought to be achieved. In Moscow, prices rose by only 0.2% in July.
To any doubts which may be expressed, the State Statistics Committee can always respond that it looks at the broader picture. As a result, there does appear to be some inflation; then again, it is not immediately obvious. Who can tell if prices rise by 0.2%, or even 0.7%? Only the statisticians.