Monday, June 17, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Putin’s Unfunded Mandates Costing Moscow Support East of the Urals

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 17 – Siberia and the Russian Far East are supposed to come up with the money to pay for Vladimir Putin’s promise to develop those regions, an arrangement officials say that in the absence of new revenues they will not be able to do and that is undermining support for Moscow east of the Urals.

            At a meeting of the Association of Siberian and Far Eastern Cities, Novosibirsk Mayor Vladimir Gorodetsky said that the Russian president makes promises to the population but does not provide the regional and local governments with the means to fulfill them, generating cynicism in the population and anger among officials (

                And that in turn is leading to the reanimation of the Siberian Accord inter-regional association, an organization that brings together the leaders of that region and that played an important role as a counterweight to Moscow during the 1990s but that had declined in importance until recently.

Siberian officials estimate that they will need more than 900 billion additional rubles (30 billion US dollars) over the next three years to meet Putin’s promises, but at present, Gorodetsky said, they can count on receiving from the center “only 40 percent” of that amount.  “I think,” he continued, “the situation in the Far East is no better.”

The Russian finance ministry has put out “more optimistic” projections, he continued, but “in the opinion of a number of heads of subjects and financial analysts,” these Moscow projects “have little in common with reality,” a situation that is “creating tensions in relations between the regions and the federal center.”

Moreover, Putin’s overly generous promises are having a cascading effect, Gorodetsky continued. The regions don’t have the funds to fulfill these mandates, and consequently,  they demand that the cities and local governments do so, even though the regions just like Moscow are not providing additional funds.

That leads to “a lowering of the effectiveness of the work of the municipal authorities, and correspondingly to a worsening of the population’s assessment of their activities.”

What makes this especially galling for local officials, the Novosibirsk mayor said, is that they and the population are very much aware that Siberia’s regions continue to send ever more tax money to Moscow without getting nearly as much back as they need if they are to fulfill Putin’s promises.

            Although that was clearly not his intention, Viktor Ishayev, the Russian minister for the development of the Far East, in effect confirmed what Gorodetsky said.  Speaking in the Duma on Friday, he acknowledged that the central government would provide only 36 percent of the money the Far East needs for development (

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