To Publication of the Law on the Federal Budget in 2012

On December 6, Federal Law No.371-FZ of November 30, 2011 on the Federal Budget in 2012 and the Planning periods of 2013 and 2014 was published in the PDF file format (179 Mbyte) on the Web-site of the Ministry of Finance.
On December 6, Federal Law No.371-FZ of November 30, 2011 on the Federal Budget in 2012 and the Planning periods of 2013 and 2014 was published in the PDF file format (179 Mbyte) on the Web-site of the Ministry of Finance.   

One cannot but pay attention to the fact that in such a giant file it is impossible to find promptly the information one may be looking for with use of the search function (Ctrl-F) and copy the numerical data from the file (Ctrl-C). Such an approach to publication of the most important financial document of Russia has become a standard practice of the Department of Finance – why should bureaucrats provide the budget data in user-friendly formats (recognizable PDF and Excel tables) unless there are special instructions by the President to that effect; such a requirement is not specified in numerous Russian laws, while the principle of transparency in the Budget Code has disappeared shortly after the latter was approved.   

Though the law has grown in volume quite considerably as compared to the last year – from 135 pages to 141 pages, its total volume with the supplements (nonclassified ones) has amounted to  4,289 pages which is 1,398 pages more than last year (that is, a 48% increase in volume). In the past two years (from 2009 ), the number of pages of the public part of the budget has grown by 150%. But should one be happy about it?

It is unlikely that such innovations observed in the budget process this year as were related to simplification or, sooner, to making it a primitive one have contributed to upgrading of  the quality of the federal budget.

Firstly, the phase of the public anti-corruption expertise (carried out in September) which was introduced last year has disappeared from the budget process. This time, the Ministry of Finance has limited it to a release of the preliminary edition of the draft federal budget to the trustworthy mass media on condition that it is not divulged. The anticorruption effect of the above measure is rather doubtful.

Then, most amendments to the law on the budget were made by the government    when it was considered in the State Duma, while in the Council of Federation the budget was passed without mandatory conclusions which were to be made by a number of the leading committees. Thus, for the first time in many years the Committee of the Council of Federation on Defense and Security has failed to prepare its conclusion, while the conclusion   of the Committee of the Council of Federation on Interaction with the Audit Chamber of the Russian Federation was made public (judging by the dates it was prepared, published and loaded to the data base of the Automated System of Support of the Legislative Activities (ASSLA)) four days after the Council of Federation  passed Resolution No. 449-SF of November 25 in which the law on the 2012 federal budget was approved. It is difficult to say whether the above situation was related to changes both in the leadership of the Council of Federation and the structure of its committees, but the composition of the above committees remained practically unchanged .

And finally, it puzzles why the information on signing of the above federal law was delayed for a day – the President’s press service had that information published   only at 16.00 p.m. on December 1.  

As regards the federal budgets’ financial indices proper (not the physical ones which were primarily discussed), unfortunately, nothing can be stated for certain in principle, except for the amounts of the total revenues and expenditures (in the year 2012 they amount to Rb 11,799.9bn and Rb 12,656.4bn, respectively); unlike the September draft with an explanatory note, under Law 371-FZ the federal budget is not a transparent document as only the public part of it is shown.  It  can only be noted that when the budget was considered in the Federal Assembly the confidential part of  its expenditures increased  by Rb 11bn, while the public one decreased accordingly. Most probably, the above amount was reallocated in favor of the defense procurement.

The very fact of existence of secret expenditures in most items of classification of the budget expenditures of the federal budget excludes completely the possibility of the correct analysis of the budget in general which situation, unfortunately, is not always comprehended by economists .

V.B. Zatsepin, PhD, military science, Head of the Economics of the Military-Industrial Sector Department