THE FOOD ALLOWANCE AS THE APPLE OF DISCORD

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Members of the Duma defense committee again raised the issue of the inadequacy of the compensation for food allowances paid to military pensioners. Alexei Sigutkin, first deputy secretary of this committee (United Russia), told WPS that the parliament discussed this topic on October 13. He said that representatives of the Constitutional Court, the General Prosecutor’s Office. the Supreme Court, the State Auditing Chamber and different ministries and department attended this session.

Sigutkin noted, “Everyone understands that the problem exists but it’s impossible to solve it yet. Many questions remain.” He noted that military pensioners have been receiving compensations for food allowances since 2000. Sigutkin said, “The state already owes around 60 billion roubles to military pensioners because the compensation does not correspond to the actual cost of food allowances. The debt will be increasing 1.5 billion a month if the state fails to solve this problem in the near future.”

Judging from statements made by the government, no one wants to pay this money to pensioners. Sigutkin said that next year the compensation will not change – 20 roubles a day instead of 60 roubles (the actual cost of the food allowance). Sigutkin noted that this issue will be considered by the Duma during the discussion of the 2006 draft budget, in the third reading. The parliamentary commission proposes to increase the compensation from 20 to 35 roubles but the Finance Ministry disagrees.

Sigutkin said, “It seems that the Constitutional Court on the one hand, and the General Prosecutor’s Office and the Supreme Court on the other have not reached understanding of this serious problem.” He noted that more and more military pensioners submit complaints to courts. Many of them complain to the European court for human rights.

It’s easy to understand the lawmaker’s concern. The parliamentary election is not far off, and lawmakers have not done anything to improve pensioners’ lives. Many benefits have been invalidated. Inflation has depreciated their pensions. In other words, military pensioners’ life has worsened.

In the meantime, many lawmakers seek to help former officers and ensigns. Lawmaker Nikolai Bezborodov announced his intention to sue the defense minister. He asks other military pensioners to follow in his footsteps. Bezborodov also asks the Duma to pass an address to President Vladimir Putin.

Colonel-General Albert Makashov proposes an extraordinary solution to the problem. He proposes to cover the debt with land plots. Of course, lawmakers rejected this proposal.

The problem of food allowances becomes political. It’s hardly likely that lawmakers will achieve success. They need the president’s support. Will Putin agree to make this populist move?

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