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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Duma Mulls Cooperation on Budget

COMBINED REPORTS


A senior parliamentary official said Monday that deputies will consider cooperating with the government to revise a 1997 budget that the State Duma, or lower house, roundly rejected in a vote last week.


That could boost the chances that a budget will be passed by the end of the year, which appeared unlikely after the restive Duma dumped the government's draft Friday, 280 votes to 33. Virtually every party in the chamber, including government backers, criticized the plan.


Duma First Deputy Speaker Alexander Shokhin was quoted Monday by Interfax as saying deputies will consider Wednesday a proposal to form a conciliation commission with government officials to work on changes.


The only condition, he said, is that the government must present a revised budget within 10 days.


He said the compromise proposal was crafted during a two-hour meeting of senior Duma officials, including Speaker Gennady Seleznyov and representatives of all factions.


The Duma could have rejected conciliation and simply sent the budget back to the government, which then would have 20 days to submit a new plan for another vote -- and another possible rejection.


Finance Minister Alexander Livshits said Saturday he still hoped the government's 1997 budget would be passed by the end of this year.


Despite deputies' criticism that revenues and expenditures were unbalanced and that the measures outlined were inadequate to reactivate industrial and social policies, Livshits said he was hopeful of reaching a compromise.


"We want the budget ready by the end of the year, as it should be, and any delay in this will not help matters," Livshits told a news conference Saturday. "The government is ready to take note of the deputies' opinions."


But he made clear the government was prepared to compromise only on some issues and that it would stick to its main targets.


The government would stick firmly to a deficit target of 3.3 percent of gross domestic product, he said.


The government proposed an austere budget to try to keep down inflation and wants to stick to targets agreed upon with the International Monetary Fund.


An IMF delegation is due in Moscow this week to discuss economic performance and whether to release the next tranche of a three-year, $10-billion loan.


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Deputies in the opposition-dominated Duma say the budget will not do enough to revive the recession-hit economy. They are mindful of millions of workers, including servicemen, who have not been paid for months under a payments crisis.