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CURRENT GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS      Before starting on expenditures, always keep in mind that when  a budget item is allocated, 90% will go for bribes  along the  allocation chain of distribution, and only 10% will go for the actual  intended project.         DEFENSE-   There have been sharp funding reductions  from when this USSR budget item was at least 25% of the overall  budget, its largest segment.   Bribery was much more tightly  controlled during the USSR and there was no capital flight allowed,  so government could, with fuller coffers, spend on defense freely.   Not any more.  The government relies mainly on bribery and very  little on taxes from the poor, as well as on its gas/oil revenue  (assets that used to, mainly, belong to the criminal Khodorkovsky).    So now the defense budget is but a 1/10th or less than before.  The  brass are not happy but there is nothing to be done except, salary-  wise, to extort salary from the pockets of the lower-ranked.   Equipment is now imported when there is no domestic  manufacturing that can keep up with high-tech.  Contract service by  the rank-and-file was tried but that didn’t work (these folks are poor  going in, so screw-the-poor applies).   Even now, there aren’t  enough men for their conscript system and almost all dread  serving, so there are crews that sweep cities and the countryside  looking for prospects, who are simply taken by force.  Traditionally,  young soldiers have spent tremendous amounts of their time on  civil engineering projects, clean-up, and other low-cost dirty work.   There is no way of replacing this practically free labor force, though  cheap central-Asian laborers have begun to be imported out of  necessity.  Most of the tanks and other infantry-based equipment  used in Georgia recently was made in the 60’s-70’s.  Think-tank  types who want even fewer troops and more high tech have met  stiff resistance from the extant Soviet-trained brass.  Expenditure  on space, rockets/missiles, etc., is growing.  Weapons factories are  still exporting USSR-era ground equipment to Venezuela, etc., but  the income from this is negligible.  Aviation sales look brighter  because of Indian partnerships  but again the customer base is  limited; soon, China will dilute Russia’s impact in this field.  The  largest percentage reductions have been in the Navy.   This budget  situation is not strong now and isn’t looking good in the future.           WELFARE-    The average senior citizen receives about  the equivalent of $250 per month, and that isn’t expected to rise  (Screw the poor).  As the median age rises and the number of  recipients grows, so does the problem, but the government also  knows that with median ages of death being so low (58 for men, 65  for women), retirement won’t last so long, anyway.  There are few  subsidies for medicine.  Unemployment benefits do not exist for  workers at any age, so seniors often just keep working to the limits  of their capability.  There are no sanitariums/convalescent facilities,  so the burden of senior care falls on the family, with no extra  subsidy.  The institutional concept is practically non-existent in  Russia compared to other purportedly socialist systems in the west.
      HEALTH CARE-  There is health care available to all, as in the  USSR, but the quality of the care depends on what an individual can pay.   So, for the 92% who live in poverty, the level of care is sub-standard by  first-world norms.  Even the small middle class must spend most  if not all  of their income on essentials like housing, food, and transport.  Costs are  higher in the cities, where all of the newer medical facilities are.  The  clinics, mostly, that are in rural areas have exceeded their expected lives  and can offer only the most basic of treatments---this is where the majority  of the Russian population goes.  About 75% of medicines are universally  recognized as fake, a big problem for patients and care-givers; most  doctors still live on the same salary range as the average citizen, or $300-  500/per month.  Many specialized services that were offered in all major  USSR cities, like pediatric care, are now being discontinued because of  prioritized government spending which doesn’t benefit the poor, having a  very negative effect on women and children especially.  Alcoholism  treatment has been changed into labor-camp style forced work programs.   These are some of the reasons why families, though desired, aren’t being  started.  Russia’s abortion rate is the highest in the world and very few can  afford quality birth control pills; many women would not use them anyway,  viewing them as foreign to natural processes.           EDUCATION-    This area has seen very few changes, probably  the fewest of any area in Russian life, compared to Soviet times.  Funding  levels have not risen (adjusted for currency devaluations) and the majority  of what is allocated, after bribe-taking, has been used for the replacement  of aging infrastructure.  So teachers have amongst the lowest wages of all  and they have the least amount of material (aging texts, etc.) to work with.   This area overall, like welfare programs, is basically the lowest priority  because almost all of the recipients are poor.  To deal with this, as might  be expected, discipline and curriculums are rigid, and are identical  throughout the country.  Interestingly, Russians consistently test in the  highest percentiles world-wide through the age of 12.  By the age of 17,  unfortunately, test scores plummet 60-70 points to third-world levels.   Universities are becoming less and less subsidized, so diplomas for pay,  without consideration of academic skill, have become prevalent, even in  post-graduate study.  In many cities, governments are considering parental  pay programs for secondary schools, heretofore unthinkable.   This is  mainly because as more and more people move to cities from the regions,  there are waiting lists in the cities at schools due to a lack of facilities.   (*KEY*)  This is a primary example of a major overall trend: though  the  overall population is dropping and the birthrate is falling, there is growth in  the cities, which have provisions by being on transport lanes.  This means  many rural schools stand empty and unused and that in the cities, there  are unplanned educational infrastructure shortfalls.