Russia seeks to support low-income households by distributing electronic cards

Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich opposes the introduction of food cards in Russia that a number of experts are proposing as a way to support low-income households. However, he believes that it would be "right and make sense" to distribute electronic cards that would allow the cardholder to buy goods at a discount.

"There won't be any food cards. I'm against even the term food cards," Dvorkovich said in an interview with Kommersant published Thursday.

He said this is also a problem in terms of psychological perception. "We have a very complicated history, and people perceive such innovation in part through the prism of what was. Such mechanisms of support can be introduced only in a technically and psychologically comfortable way," Dvorkovich said.

He said it would be "right and make sense" to issue electronic cards that would allow the purchase of goods at a discount, similar to the social cards issued to Muscovites. "Above all this should refer to domestic goods, as is the norm in all countries where such an instrument of support is introduced. I don't see anything bad in this," Dvorkovich said.

He said the Agriculture Ministry is now preparing a proposal according to the government program. "This subject is in the government program. For now without backing with budget money, simply as an element of social policy. I think this is right," Dvorkovich said.

He said the main problem in Russia\'s agribusiness sector is the debt load that "arose given the dual crisis: financial in 2008-2009 and natural and climatic in the 2009-2010 season and this year. "In order to resolve this problem there are plans to recapitalize Russian Agricultural Bank and establish a predictable regime of state support for the next three years.

He said the system of state support for the agribusiness sector is changing, including due to Russia joining the WTO. "I expect that by Dec. 15-20 a large part of the documents that need to be adopted for its proper implementation will be signed," Dvorkovich said.

The main measures will include subsidized loan interest rates, support per hectare and liter of milk and support for social important regional programs, he said.

He confirmed that starting next year farmers will not receive discounted fuel like they have in recent years. "Whether there will nonetheless be some sort of discounts for producers from specific oil companies is already a commercial question. Where this is beneficial, they can come to an agreement," Dvorkovich said.

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