Senior Deputy Speaker of the Federation Council Valery Goreglyad commentedon the 2003 budget draft and characterized it as a well-balanced andwell-considered document. The Deputy Speaker spoke at the opening of thescientific conference devoted to the 2003 budget draft today and statedthat the budget draft stipulated a reduction in burden on businesses. Inthe consolidated budget, which includes the federal and regional budgets,this reduction will reach 0.44 percent of the GDP. In addition, the budgetdraft stipulates a reduction in non-interest expenditures from 13.7 to 13percent of the GDP. The budget surplus is expected to reach 0.6 percent ofthe GDP.Commenting on priorities of the 2003 budget, Goreglyad named the state debtservicing as well as the development of the defense, court and socialsectors. In particular, a 33-percent rise in salaries for state employeesis budgeted for 2003.The Deputy Speaker stressed that proposals of the upper and lower houses ofparliament were taken into account when the budget was elaborated on. Forinstance, the budget draft included an increase in expenditures on theagricultural sector by 5.5bn rubles (about $174m) and on space programs by1bn rubles ($32m)..