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BBC Monitoring
Russian Duma official calls for greater military budget transparency
Source: Ekho Moskvy radio, Moscow, in Russian 0221 gmt 15 Oct 01

[Presenter Aleksandr Plyushchev] Today the budget subcommittee of the State Duma intends to recommend raising expenditure on defence and the law enforcement agencies. Deputy chairman of the Duma Defence Committee Sergey Yushchenkov spoke about the reasons for this decision in an interview with our correspondent Natalya Banova.

[Correspondent] Why has it become necessary to raise [defence] expenditure?

[Yushchenkov] It has become necessary to raise military expenditure and expenditure on law enforcement activity primarily - this is my view on the matter - because compensation for the annulment of all kinds of benefits to military servicemen has not been worked into the [2001] budget in full measure, and this compensation will not cover the expenses that military servicemen will be facing as a result of inflation.

The second reason - or maybe, on the contrary, it's the first reason - is connected with the antiterrorist operation which is being conducted in Chechnya and another operation in which Russia will probably take on a more significant role - I mean the antiterrorist operation in Afghanistan. I must, however say, that this is not laid out directly in the budget, because our budget is an extremely closed budget, and it is very difficult to learn for what precise aims funding has been increased.

[Correspondent] Did the funds allocated before to the army and the law enforcement agencies suffice?

[Yushchenkov] Of course not. This funding clearly did not suffice even for the elementary resolution of those problems faced by the army and the law enforcement agencies - in any case, that is what the chiefs of these agencies reported. But to what extent their statements reflect reality is a mystery for everyone. I have repeated many times that the main defect of our budget is not that everyone complains that they are insufficiently funded - whoever you ask: education, culture, science, agriculture, et cetera - everyone says they do not have enough. The real issue is that no-one can give a clear answer when asked on what precisely they spent their funding.

Here's one little example. If in the USA there are more that 700 open [military budget] clauses, and almost 1,500 open positions - that is, expenditure is recorded in figures - , in Russia there are only about 80 such clauses in the military budget, of which only six or seven are open. Now you tell me: is it really possible with such a closed budget to answer the question of whether funding is sufficient or not? Nobody knows. Maybe it is more than enough and is simply spent in an irrational way. Maybe it is not spent at all on improving our level of defence and on military exercises. Maybe it spent on things that we could easily do without.

I think that the problem today is the openness and transparency of the budget. But the fact that additional spending is necessary for, say, military reform - this is indisputable.

[Correspondent] What items in the budget might be slashed in order to achieve this increase [in military spending]?

[Yushchenkov] We plan to achieve it not by redistributing expenditure on some items, but using the additional sum - R127.2bn - that was put forward by the Russian government when the budget was being discussed in its first reading.

[Presenter] I should add that the budget subcommittee intends also to increase spending on averting and dealing with emergency situations and natural disasters.

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