Putin Warns Against Delays in Spending

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Monday warned against delays in allocating funds to a series of programs aimed at solving some of the country's biggest problems, which are set to account for nearly one-tenth of federal spending this year.

The 47 targeted programs are expected to receive almost 700 billion rubles ($30 billion) this year, but the funds take too long to reach contractors, Putin said at a meeting of the Presidium, an inner group of his Cabinet.

The call comes even as spiraling inflation has been rising beyond government expectations since last fall, which many economists have blamed, at least in part, on swelling federal spending. The targeted programs, however, have regularly received their funding late in the year and have been unable to spend all of the money that was budgeted for them.

The programs are part of a government effort to concentrate resources on the country's most pressing and politically significant goals, such as the development of the Far East, boosting the use of computers and the Internet, and building skiing facilities near Sochi, the Black Sea resort that will host the 2014 Winter Olympics.

"We still encounter examples when the real start of these programs is delayed practically to the middle of the year," Putin said. "It's an absolutely unacceptable situation. ... [Holding up funds] is not a way to fight inflation that we need added to our armory."

Putin wants the money -- generated by the booming economy and a spike in oil prices -- to work better, said Andrei Shastitko, director of the Bureau of Economic Analysis, a think tank. "If people don't understand what happens to the money, how will they have trust," he said.

Out of 682.2 billion rubles in the funds earmarked for the targeted programs, the government has spent only 6.5 percent so far, a spokeswoman for the Economic Development Ministry said, declining to be identified in line with ministry policy. The government has contracts to spend 45.5 percent of the money this year, she said.

Putin also urged the government to appoint private companies as managers of the state funds for the programs, a move that, Shastitko said, could provide better coordination between the government and contractors.

Putin also announced that the government was planning additional targeted programs to kick off next year. He did not elaborate.

Funding for the targeted programs has only been growing. They were to receive 500 billion rubles last year, but the government spent only 85 percent of the money, officials said at a Presidium meeting last week.