Saturday, September 2, 2017

Moscow City Residents Getting Two-Thirds of All Russian Funds for Social Improvements, Zubarevich Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 31 – Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev professed shock to learn that 2700 schools in rural Russia don’t have indoor toilets; but he shouldn’t have been, Natalya Zubarevich says, because under Putin, Muscovites, although forming less than 10 percent of the Russian population, get two-thirds of all government funds for social improvements.

            Not surprisingly, this outrages many outside of Moscow because they cannot afford even a small fraction of what the capital’s residents now expect as their due, the specialist on regional development says (

            The government spends 150,000 rubles for each Muscovite while in Samara it spends only 12,000, in Volgograd, only 16,000, and in Voronezh, only 15,000. As one can see, Zubarevich says, “the difference is not simply in percent but in order of magnitude!”  And people are taking notice.

            The problem is that the Russian government takes so much from the regions that they have nothing left but gives back to Moscow far more than its share.  At present, the central government takes 75 percent of the taxes people in Omsk pay. If it took only five percent, that city would be able to solve almost all its problems.

            Muscovites say they deserve the money spent on them but that is based on a misconception. Pointing to their budget surplus, they forget that almost all Russian companies are registered in and pay taxes in the capital city rather than where they actually earn their money and should pay taxes.

            Even in Imperial Russia, things were concentrated in the capital city, Zubarevich continues; but there was an important difference. The wealth of that country was generated by agriculture which by its nature was more decentralized than wealth now from the extraction and sale of oil and gas, the only things Russia is competitive in internationally.

            One reason that the authorities are spending so much money on renovations in Moscow is the power of the construction industry, she continues. That industry, despite its power, has taken a huge hit in the last 18 months. It saw its production fall by 14 percent in 2016 and by 40 percent in the first half of this year alone.

            Obviously, the powers that be have to take that sector’s needs into consideration; but for the country as a whole, things can get better if and only if there is serious decentralization of power and decision making. That won’t be achieved by moving the capital as the case of Kazakhstan shows. Indeed, shifting the capital could end by making things more centralized.

            “The capital functions of Moscow will be reduced only when the super-centralizstion of the system of administration is reduced,” she says.  Perhaps what is needed is to have many capitals, “an aluminum capital, a metallurgical capital,” and so on, although that isn’t enough for modernization.

            Repression won’t solve Russia’s problems as the situation in China shows; only decentralization of power can do that. But moving in that direction will be hard given Russia’s traditions and its paternalistic belief that the center knows best and should be able to impose its will everywhere on all things.

            Despite that and despite the existence of paternalistic attitudes even among Muscovites, the portion of the population most educated and most aware of the problems Russia faces and thus the part the Kremlin is careful to take the best care of lest if face massive protests, Zubarevich argues, the trend toward modernization via decentralization is “unstoppable.”

            There will be periods of retreat as well as progress, and it will remain true that “in Russia, one must life a long time in order to see changes; but they will occur! [Indeed,] the entire 21st century in Russia will be seriously turbulent.” It won’t be “stable,” despite what some imagine, “but the vector of modernization” away from centralization will win out in the end.

No comments:

Post a Comment