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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Premier Lauds Deputies on IMF Bills

More IMF-inspired legislation cleared hurdles in the State Duma on Thursday as government officials cheered Russia's legislators, whom they expected to give final approval to a raft of finance legislation Friday at their final session.

"I want to say thank you to the State Duma for the whole packet," said Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, after meeting President Boris Yeltsin on Thursday to report on how the bills were faring in the lower house of parliament. New International Monetary Fund loan payouts of $4.5 billion over 18 months are contingent on the bills' passage.

"This means that with a high degree of confidence, we can say that the final results of our talks with the IMF on the tranche will be determined very soon," Interfax quoted Stepashin as saying.

As a condition for getting the loans, the government promised to push 31 tax and banking laws through parliament, plus about 20 measures on financing social programs. The government is hoping for a first payout on the loan after an IMF board of directors meeting in June.

The Duma gave first-reading approval to a bill on licensing vodka-production equipment to increase alcohol tax revenues and gave second-reading approval to a measure revising the system of benefits for children of poor families, raising payments to the poorest but disqualifying others.

The child-benefits bill had been advocated by the governments of Sergei Kiriyenko and Yevgeny Primakov, but the Duma ignored their efforts and did not debate it.

The Duma also passed a bill designed to ensure budget transparency, another IMF demand.

Last week, when the lower house killed a measure taxing gasoline retailers, Stepashin threatened the Duma with a vote of confidence that could lead to its dismissal.

But of the IMF-required finance bills expected to come up for debate before summer vacation, only that bill will remain unpassed, said Alexander Zhukov, the Duma budget committee chairman.

"The laws we passed are the ones we really need," Zhukov said at a news conference Thursday, adding that the government might not need new taxes to meet IMF demands to raise revenues. "There is reason to believe that if oil prices don't change and tax collection continues to grow, the government can meet this obligation without legislation."

Zhukov said most of the 31 finance bills were almost certain to clear the Duma on third and final reading Friday, but he cautioned against premature celebration: They have yet to pass the Federation Council, parliament's upper house, and receive Yeltsin's final approval.

In the Federation Council on Thursday, Martin Gilman, the IMF's representative in Moscow, told legislators skeptical of the new tax legislation that Russia had not made enough progress on simplifying its tax system, Itar-Tass reported.