Russia may fund road construction with new gas tax

* New tax could help Russia rebuild aging road network

* State spending on roads far below requirement -- analyst

MOSCOW, July 20 (Reuters) - Russia is considering a new excise tax on gasoline to help pay a near $50 billion-a-year bill for road construction -- seen by the government as a vital step toward its goal of modernising the economy.

Vyacheslav Lysakov, member of the Kremlin-controlled State Duma transport committee, told Reuters the government was considering the move to address big short-falls in spending required for roads.

President Dmitry Medvedev said he wanted to address the issue of chronic under-investment in roads last autumn. Poor quality roads are part of the country’s aging infrastructure network -- which analysts say need to be rebuilt to help develop the economy. [ID:nLDE65716X]

Russia plans to spend 274 billion roubles ($8.99 billion) on roads this year, less than a quarter of the annual 1.2-1.5 trillion roubles needed to fund adequate maintenance of the 50,000-kilometre Russian road network, according to investment bank Renaissance Capital.

“We agree with the view of transportation experts that a special (gasoline) tax should be introduced to finance road construction and modernisation in Russia, as is the case in many other countries,” said RenCap analyst Marina Alexeenkova.

The outlook for next year is even more discouraging for the Ministry of Transportation, whose 2011 budget for road modernisation has been cut by the Ministry of Finance by almost three-and-a-half times to 56.8 billion roubles from an earlier allocation of 193.5 billion roubles. ($1=30.42 roubles) (Reporting by Nastassia Astrasheuskaya; editing by John Bowker, Sharon Lindores)