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Second-birth incentive bill to reach Russia's Duma by Oct. 17

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MOSCOW, October 5 (RIA Novosti) - A 'maternity capital' bill proposing payouts of $9,300 to mothers who give birth to a second child, as part of a government effort to curb Russia's population decline, will be submitted to the lower house of parliament by October 17, a deputy chairman of the State Duma said Thursday.

Depopulation is widely seen as one of the main threats facing the country: according to the United Nations, Russia's population, currently at about 142 million, may fall by one third by the middle of the century.

Oleg Morozov, citing Health and Social Development Minister Mikhail Zurabov, said: "The state's total allocations [under the bill] will reach about 130 billion rubles [$4.9 billion] in 2007 alone."

Morozov said women giving birth to their second and subsequent babies will receive certificates of 250,000 rubles ($9,300), a sum that will be adjusted for inflation, as of January 1, 2007. They will be able to cash the certificates in starting from January 1, 2010.

Morozov said women could use these funds to pay for their child's way through school, or to improve the family's living conditions. Citing expert estimates, the MP said the move could triple the birth rate in the country within three years.

The bill is one of several government incentives aimed at rectifying the demographic crisis in Russia, whose population has been in steady decline since the market reforms and economic hardships of the 1990s.

In his annual address to the nation in May, President Vladimir Putin said the country's population was falling by about 700,000 each year, and pledged financial incentives to women with larger families.

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