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Duma to begin session with power-sharing laws.
January 13, 2003

The State Duma will begin its new session by considering the draft laws regulating the work of regional and local governments that were submitted by the president in January.

Presidential deputy chief of staff Dmitry Kozak said the Duma will most likely amend the draft laws.

The law "On the General Principles of the Organisation of Local Government" and the law on changes and amendments to the law "On the General Principles of the Organisation of Legislative and Executive Bodies of State Power in Members of the Federation" are expected to become effective by January 1, 2005. The Duma Council will soon send out the draft laws to regions that will have to provide their feedback within a month. The laws may pass the first reading by March 1, Kozak said.

In addition, all the necessary amendments to the Budget and Tax codes will be prepared by March 1, 2003. The amendments are being prepared by a special working group which involves representatives from the government, the commission on the delimitation of powers, regions and municipalities.

The Finance Ministry is due to present its conclusions on January 20.

Kozak believes that amendments to the Budget and Tax codes may be adopted in the autumn and enacted from January 1, 2004.

Federal authorities will pay 44 percent of expenditures, and the consolidated budgets of regions and municipalities 56 percent. Municipalities will sustain the biggest expenditures because "all principal spending powers must be where people live", he explained.

The adoption by the Duma of the draft laws regulating the work of regional and municipal authorities will mean that the delimitation of powers in Russia has been half-completed, Kozak said.

He believes that as soon as appropriate amendments to the Budget and Tax codes are adopted, this work will be 80 percent finished.

Kozak stressed that the transfer of part of federal powers to municipal authorities does not mean that the state will give up its social obligations.

He said regional and municipal authorities that will get part of federal powers also represent "state power".

In addition, "the federal centre will retain part of powers concerning the social policy", including pensions, medical insurance, and the payment of benefits to invalids and veterans, he said.

The transfer is provided for in the draft law on the general principles of organisation of local government that has been submitted to the State Duma.

"The state will not give up its social obligations. No one will give up powers. The idea is to assign these benefits to certain levels of government", Kozak explained.

Powers to be transferred to regional and municipal authorities and backed up financially will include the payment of allowances to orphans, runaway children, labour veterans, single mothers and mothers with many children.

Kozak noted that regional and municipal authorities already exercise these powers. The law will only formalise this.

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