Staunton, September 15 – The Siberian Accord, one of the regional groupings that arose in the 1990s to promote horizontal ties among regions and that Vladimir Putin worked hard to suppress to build his power vertical and subject all such contracts to the control of his plenipotentiaries, has now resurfaced with a new name under Moscow’s auspices.
Yesterday, Sergey Menyailov, the presidential plenipotentiary for the Siberian Federal District, announced the creation of a new structure for the coordination of investment programs to be called the Agency for the Development of Siberia and to take the place of the Siberian Accord Association (ria.ru/society/20160914/1476884492.html).
“Each region must have its own development strategy, but unfortunately, they are not working and have not been translated into road maps and plans of action. This must be corrected,” Menyailov said. The new agency will be led by a new deputy plenipotentiary, Vadim Golovko, who had been federal inspector for Novosibirsk Oblast.”
Today, journalist Mariya Blokhina of the Polit.ru portal interviewed a Moscow expert about why Menyailo has created this new institution and what it is likely to mean for Siberia both immediately and in the longer term (polit.ru/article/2016/09/15/utro_15_09/).
Stepan Zemtsov, a specialist on regional economics at the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service, made three points. First, he said, the new plenipotentiary clearly wants to show himself as active but what he is proposing is unlikely to be effective or have the results he hopes for.
Second, Zemtsov said that it was far from clear why Menyailov had “directly linked this new structure with the Siberian Accord international economic association for economic cooperation.” Such associations were created in the early 1990s “practically throughout the Russian Federation as a response to the processes of decentralization.”
Given the recentralization of power, it is far from clear what an association that had become little more than a place for representatives of the various federal subjects to come together and talk. If it is going to be something more, then there may be problems between the region and the center.
And third, Zemtsov says, such regional associations exist in many large countries and in the EU, but they work only when the economies are growing and investment is coming in. Given where the Russian economy now is, talking about allocating something that isn’t coming in doesn’t seem terribly useful at least in the short term.