CENTRAL BANK REPORTS TO PARLIAMENT
Rossiiskaya Gazeta, October 17, 2002, p. 2
In anticipation of the Duma’s second reading of the draft budget, scheduled for tomorrow, Central Bank Chairman Sergei Ignatyev has reported to the Duma on the bank’s performance over the past year.
In his words, the Central Bank’s monetary and credit policy in 2001 was influenced by favorable external conditions. Money supply grew by 40.1%, which was 62.4% less than in 2000. The annual inflation rate was brought down to 18.6%, but still exceeded the target. Gold and hard currency reserves increased by $8.6 billion. The ruble rose against the dollar by 9%.
As for the Central Bank itself, its revenues in 2001 were down on the previous year by nearly 30%, to 96.7 billion rubles. Spending amounted to 78.7 billion rubles. Thus, the bank has recorded a profit of 18 billion rubles. Half of this sum was transferred to the federal budget.
The Duma accepted the report of Russia’s chief banker, pointing out that inflation, capital flight and some other problems remain a reason for concern. The parliament demanded prompt and coordinated measures from the government and the Central Bank. It advised the Central Bank to develop a more specific long-term plan.
FUNDING CUT FOR ELECTRONIC RUSSIA PROGRAM
Izvestia, October 17, 2002, p. 6 EV
The Duma will give the draft budget for 2003 its second reading tomorrow. This session ought to decide the fate of the Electronic Russia program – a federal program meant to introduce electronic means of communication between the public, the state, and the business sector. The Duma will allocate only a tenth of the funding the government is requesting for this program. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov has even set up a special inter-agency commission to solve the problem. However, the Duma considers that it’s too late.
According to this federal targetted program, prepared by the Cabinet a year ago, 2003 has to be the peak funding year (the program covers the years from 2002 to 2010). It needs 13.36 billion rubles next year; and most of that – 7.5 billion rubles – should come from the federal government. However, according to Tseren Tserenov, a department head at the Economic Development Ministry, during the draft budget’s first reading the Electronic Russia program only received a tenth of this amount.
Alexander Shubin, deputy chairman of the Duma information policy committee, says funding for Electronic Russia will not be increased in the final version of the budget – because spending on this program has not been itemized correctly in the budget. He says: “If no detailed plans are presented, they can’t count on funding being approved.”
Deputy Economic Development and Trade Minister Andrei Sharonov (whose ministry is among those which ordered the program) says: “While more substantial funding would be desirable, we will make do with what we have.” He says the plan of action in the program will now have to be amended to take funding cuts into account.
State officials are blaming the funding cuts on the fact that the agencies responsible for Electronic Russia – especially the Communications Ministry and the Economic Development Ministry – have competed with each other too much. Last week, in order to reconcile the opponents, the prime minister set up a special inter-agency commission, headed by Communications Minister Leonid Reiman and Economic Development Minister Herman Gref.
However, it will be a lost year for Electronic Russia. Alexander Shubin says: “Apparently, funding for this program will remain at the level currently indicated in the draft budget for 2003.”
TERMS IN OFFICE FOR REGIONAL LEADERS BACK ON THE DUMA’S AGENDA
Moskovsky Komsomolets, October 17, 2002, p. 2
The Duma will once again have to consider the issue of whether regional leaders may seek third or even fourth terms in office. Only Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov can sleep soundly: no one is attempting to challenge his right to be mayor for another term.
What is the situation at present?
The president of Bashkortostan, who has been in office since 1993, could in theory remain there until 2013.
Valery Kokov, who has headed Kabardino-Balkaria since 1992, could remain in office until 2012.
Kirsan Iliumzhinov has been president of Kalmykia since 1993; if he is re-elected this Sunday, the law permits him to head the region until 2016.
The fortunate people of Belgorod could have Yevgeny Savchenko as their leader until 2011; the people of Novgorod could keep Mikhail Prusak as governor just as long.
Opponents of what in some cases amounts to life-long terms in office for regional leaders are making another attempt to fix the situation somehow. The Union of Right Forces submitted a bill yesterday which would require the actual terms spent in office to be counted, whether or not they began before October 1999, when the “restrictive” law came into effect. Thus, nobody would be allowed to seek a third term – apart from those lucky regional leaders who have already taken advantage of the loophole.
The bill contains one interesting proviso: it applies to all regional leaders except the mayors of “cities of federal significance”. Russia has only two such cities: Moscow and St. Petersburg. So mayors Luzhkov and Yakovlev may seek third terms, if their municipal legislatures do not object.
In fact, the proviso has been included solely for the benefit of Luzhkov – otherwise, the bill might not pass, since Moscow’s “pro-Luzhkov lobby group” is very influential in the Duma. Of course, a great deal depends on the Kremlin’s position as well. The talk in the Duma is that the Kremlin still hasn’t made up its mind about this initiative; it’s taking the view of “submit the bill, and then we’ll see about it”.