| ST PETERSBURG, Russia, June 2
ST PETERSBURG, Russia, June 2 Russia could
increase much-needed state spending on education and healthcare
by taking funds from a reduced defence budget over the next
decade, Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said on Friday.
Speaking on the sidelines of an international economic
conference in St Petersburg, Dvorkovich told Reuters the next
defence spending program, from 2018 to 2025, could account for a
smaller share of gross domestic product than the current one.
Russia launched a major drive to restore its military might
in 2011, while President Vladimir Putin was still prime
minister, but has had to cut back - despite its intervention in
Syria - because of budget problems due to falling oil prices.
Officials have been recently looking into ways to free
budget money and boost socially important spending ahead of the
presidential election due in 2018.
"There will be the next defence programme, which could be
smaller as a share of GDP," Dvorkovich said in an interview.
"That's why there will be ... a certain potential for increasing
investment into education, healthcare and infrastructure."
He gave no figures but noted the reduction could be as a
share of GDP, although not necessarily in nominal terms.
Russia's finance ministry, which has been pressing the
government to rein in its spending, has planned a 2017 defence
budget at around 3 percent of GDP.
Former economy minister Alexei Kudrin has proposed to
increase state spending on social programmes by expanding a
privatisation drive, selling state stakes in big oil and gas
companies over the next eight years.
Addressing the privatisation proposal made by Kudrin, who is
working on Russia's economic development plan, Dvorkovich said
it was too early to speak about the privatisation of Russian oil
and gas firms.
He also said the finance ministry should not immediately bet
on revenues from dividends from the state holding company
Rosneftegaz, which controls the oil major Rosneft and
owns an 11 percent stake in the gas monopoly Gazprom.
The finance ministry said earlier that its budget plan
envisages receiving 156.5 billion roubles ($2.76 billion) in
dividends from Rosneftegaz this year.
Dvorkovich said the government received a recommendation
"from above" that it was premature to make a decision on
channelling Rosneftegaz's dividends to the budget.
"All the funds that Rosneftegaz has at the moment are still
on (its) accounts and are used for another investment
programme," he said, adding that Rosneftegaz has some important
projects to spend money on.
Putin said last year the government saw Rosneftegaz's funds
that the company receives from Rosneft and Gazprom as a state
cash reserve. In the past years, such funds were used for
spending on science and education projects as well as on
($1 = 56.6086 roubles)
(Reporting by Polina Nikolskaya; Editing by Tom Heneghan)