Duma to Get Down To Business

APGryzlov, center, looking at a model of the Hiroshima bombing on Tuesday.
State Duma deputies will reconvene Wednesday for a fall session that will tackle the federal budget, small business woes and education reform.

United Russia Deputy Valery Ryazansky predicted that the next few months would be a whirlwind of activity.

"Fall sessions have always been very busy," said Ryazansky, who this year celebrates his ninth fall session in the Duma.

Top priority, he and other deputies said, would be given to the 2009-11 federal budget.

Communist Deputy Ivan Melnikov described the budget as controversial and said his party would try to get it amended to include money from the sovereign wealth fund.

It is "wrong that gigantic resources can lie like dead weight in Western accounts, supporting the economies of those countries, and are not working for the national economy or for social needs," Melnikov said.

The government plans to invest some money from the sovereign wealth fund in foreign assets. But the Communists' bid is unlikely to go far in the United Russia-dominated Duma, which has followed the Kremlin's lead.

Ryazansky said deputies would follow through on an initiative by President Dmitry Medvedev to cut red tape for small businesses. Medvedev complained earlier this year that frequent inspections by government agencies and other forms of bureaucracy were restricting the growth of small businesses.

Melnikov and Ryazansky said another hot topic in the Duma would be the national education reform. The government is trying to bring Russian education in line with international standards but facing resistance from critics.

On Wednesday, deputies are to consider 23 bills in a first reading, including amendments to the Administrative Code, the Criminal Code, the Forestry Code and laws on advertising.

Late Tuesday, Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov flew to Moscow from a Group of Eight gathering of top legislators in Hiroshima, Japan.

The Duma's two-month vacation was interrupted last week by a special session where deputies unanimously supported independence for Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.