PREMIER DEMANDS GOVERNMENT BRING ITS SOCIAL COMMITMENTS IN CONFORMITY WITH COUNTRY'S POTENTIALITIES

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MOSCOW, April 29 (RIA Novosti) - As opening a government meeting on Thursday, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov said the government must bring its social commitments in conformity with the state's capabilities so that those commitments could start being implemented as early as beginning 2005.

"It is necessary to thoroughly weigh the capabilities and define which of the commitments should be dropped and which should be carried out. However, social aid for the weakest and the most vulnerable residents must not be reduced," said Mr. Fradkov.

While advancing a package of amendments to a relevant law, which is designed to delimit duties between government bodies, the premier emphasised that the process of delimiting functions must not reduce the state's responsibility for social issues.

"Irrespective of a source of social aid, the government must bear general responsibility for working out a social policy," said Mr. Fradkov. "This is what President Vladimir Putin has repeated continuously," added the premier.

The amendments are designed to ensure a balanced budget and delimit responsibilities between different levels of power, according to the premier.

Moreover, Mr. Fradkov said the government intended to increase budget allocations on social aid several-fold.

"We have found a way to raise funds on social aid to population several-fold," said Mr. Fradkov.

The government intends to change the procedures of providing social support to war veterans and disabled persons.

"Changing the current procedures is a long-felt need," said Mr. Fradkov.

The premier said the procedures had been worked out in pre-reform Russia and did not meet the socio-economic realities of the present day, did not provide equal social support opportunities.

The amount of social guarantees stipulated in relevant laws exceeds the state's potentialities, according to the premier. The state did not fulfil a considerable part of its social obligations and is not fulfilling them now.

Social security funds are earmarked for organisations, rather than private individuals, who could use the money at their own discretion, noted Mr. Fradkov.

The prime minister emphasised that the social security system must be amended cautiously so that not to affect people, but improve their wellbeing.

"These must be thought-out measures that would heed people's interests. Russian citizens must not be affected," said the prime minister. The changes are designed to improve the financial standing of every veteran and invalid, according to Mr. Fradkov.

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