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Russia: Duma Committees Work On Budget

Moscow, 2 January 1997 (RFE/RL) - Committees of the lower house of the Russian parliament, the State Duma, are scheduled to work on the country's 1997 draft budget today.

Itar-Tass reports that the committees will work to prepare the draft for its final reading, expected later this month.

After passing the Duma, the budget must win the backing of parliament's upper house, the Federation Council.

The budget was rejected by the Duma twice after being introduced by the government last September. Many deputies, including communists, argued it leaned too far toward fiscal austerity.

The draft, somewhat modified, was re-introduced and has since passed the Duma on three seperate readings, winning the support of deputies of the Communist Party and its parliamentary allies. After its first passage last month, Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said that in return Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin agreed to several demands, including the payment of overdue pensions and wages.

Observers say that whatever form the actual budget takes, it may not reflect actual spending. They say parliamentary oversight of federal spending is lax, and the government often changes spending plans to cope with the country's repeated fiscal crises.