Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 105

The Russian government has prepared proposals to revise social welfare payments, and will soon submit them to the Duma. One proposal would raise the personal contribution to the Pension Fund from 1 to 2 percent, while cutting the social insurance payment (for health care and other services, still largely controlled by the trade unions) by 1 percent. The second main proposal is to slash the number of welfare privileges in order to target state spending on the truly needy. Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev estimates that some 1,000 special privileges are in force, but that only 19 percent of the money dispensed goes to the needy, and that cutting privileges could save 24 trillion rubles. (Interfax, Kommersant-daily, May 27)

On May 26 First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov and Sysuev met with Mikhail Shmakov, the head of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions (FNPR), but failed to win his support for the changes. Shmakov said the two sides were in "complete disagreement." (RTR, May 26)

Sugar Auction Leaves Sour Taste.