The Russian Budget.
Following the established custom, the Russian Ministry of Finance had prepared an "Explanatory Note" which was attached to the Budget Bill, introduced in the Douma. This "Explanatory Note" comprises a review of the government finances during 1915 and a summary of the budget requirements for the current year.
Just as in the preceding Budget Bill, the Ministry of Finance is laboring under great difficulties, in order to provide a more or less accurate estimate of the probable revenues and disbursements. The impossibility of forecasting the future events of the War makes it even more difficult to perform this work satisfactorily. Moreover, the lack of knowledge concerning the effectiveness of new taxes and other sources of revenue, which have been introduced to take the place of the revenues yielded by the Spirits monopoly, renders hazardous a more or less close approximation of the possible returns.
The fiscal operations of 1915 show that the estimated budget-figure of government revenues exceeded the actual receipts by eleven per cent, or the sum of 350,000,000 roubles. A part of this deficit, about 150,000,000 roubles, is ascribable to decrease in alcohol revenues, due to the decision to discontinue entirely the operation of the Spirits monopoly, and to regulate severely the sale of all strong intoxicants. This determination was arrived at after the Budget Bill of 1915 was introduced in the Douma. The rest of the decrease, about 200,000,000 roubles, is due partly to errors in computation, and partly to the enemy's invasion of considerable territory, and its consequent evacuation.
The preliminary data concerning the fiscal operations during the first half of 1915 shows a decrease, as compared with the corresponding period of 1914, of 456,200,000 roubles. The revenues showing the greatest falling-off are those from the Spirits monopoly, customs duties, and railroad receipts. On the other hand, several items of revenue show an increase, as compared with the preceding year. Among these are certain classes of taxes as well as some newly introduced duties; also a tax of 15 per cent on all passenger and freight railroad receipts. The taxes on sugar, tobacco, matches, telephone, and telegraph also show an increase. The crops of the year were quite satisfactory.
All this made it possible for the total receipts for the year