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    (RUSSIA WILL NOT UP PENSION AGE - DUMA COMMITTEE HEAD ISAEV

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    MOSCOW, April 8 (RIA Novosti) - The upcoming lifting of pensioners' privileges and replacing them with monetary compensations will not concern the existing privileges in paying for services of the housing-public utilities economy, Andrei Isaev, chairman of the State Duma (upper parliamentary chamber) committee for labour and social questions, told the RIA Novosti news conference on Thursday.

    "The state is not ready to go for that, at least in the next two years", he said. And added that "it would be very painful".

    "The lifting of privileges concerns, particularly, free transit to the health centres and in the public means of transport", he said.

    Additions to pensions will be made, he stressed. "The largest additions - up to 1,000 roubles a month - will be for war veterans, while the average pension additions for labour veterans will be about 300 roubles", he explained (1 dollar approximately equals 28.5 roubles). To Isaev, the additions will be indexed as adjusted for inflation, just as the pensions proper.

    He sees "its own pluses and minuses" in the upcoming reform of the social sphere. "Invalids may have problems, especially with the medicines and means-of-transport compensations", he admitted.

    I this connection, Isaev said that the labour and social-policy committee has begun consultations with the Invalids' Organisation. "Invalids are supposed to be entitled to reject monetary compensations with the simultaneous preservation of their present privileges", he specified.

    Answering a RIA Novosti question, Isaev assured that the lifting of privileges will not concern pensioners' free use of the means of public transport in Moscow. "Moscow, just as 40 regions of Russia, have adopted local laws giving this right to pensioners", he said.

    The pensionable age will not be increased in Russia in the near future, he assured.

    "A principled decision has been taken not to increase the pensionable age, which is now 60 years for men and 55 years for women", Isaev said. And added that the state "will encourage a delayed retirement on a pension".

    Isaev explained that such encouragement will be purely economic. "If a woman decides to go on a pension not at 55 years of age, when she is quite able-bodied, but say at 59, her pension will be 45 percent more", he explained. And added that a pension will be paid to a working woman only upon retirement.

    "A later retirement on a pension will largely increase it", Isaev said.

    The share of illegal wages in the country is now from 30 to 50 percent, he continued.

    "Where 'grey' wage-payment schemes exist, normal legal labour relations are out", he believes. In this connection, he welcomes the government-proposed lowering of the single social tax from 35.6 to 24 percent.

    In his opinion, the lowering will help employers take wages "out of the shadow".

    At the same time, Isaev voiced apprehensions on a possible reduction of extrabudgetary social funds, replenished from the selfsame single social tax. "In case of the tax lowering in such funds, a 280 billion-rouble deficit may be formed", he said.

    "The deficit is supposed to be partially made up for by additional taxation on the oil sector", he added.

    In the near future, a range of privileges now given to Duma deputies and their aides, policemen and public servants will be eliminated. 74 percent of Russians are now enjoying different privileges. Elimination of the privileges will be made up for by higher wages to such people, Isaev said.

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