Staunton, April 23 – The rapidly deteriorating economic situation in Daghestan is not only one of the causes of the truckers’ strike but means that it would be “entirely logical” for it to spread to other sectors of the economy who are suffering from the efforts of officials and their allies to extract more money from others, according to Denis Sokolov.
Indeed, the RAMSCON economist says, the long-haul truckers have highlighted a problem almost all sectors of the economy not only in that North Caucasian republic but elsewhere in Russia as well: the worsening of the economy is prompting the political class to seek ever new sources of money for itself (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/301472/).
And the strikers are calling attention to something else that may be even more serious for the regime – the complete breakdown in the distinction between legal methods of extracting taxes and fees from workers and illegal ones including demands for bribes because both now have come to be viewed as an increasingly unacceptable cost of doing business in Russia today.
As Sokolov puts it, “discussions are no longer about which taxes are official and what are ‘grey’ or ‘white’ arrangements but about the principle of the cost of conducting this or that business. Judging from the activity of the protests, it is clear that the appearance of the Plato system has critically increased the costs of the transportation of goods.”
That increase is hurting not only the drivers who are expected to pay it out of their incomes but also logistics companies who do not want to hire drivers who aren’t registered with the government – the vast majority are – but can no longer afford the demands for more pay from drivers being squeezed by Moscow.
And consequently, the Kavkaz-Uzel news agency reports, an increasing number of logistics companies are now fully in sympathy with the striking long-haul drivers, a potential political breakthrough because these companies have more clout with officials than do individual drivers or even the dispersed strike actions.
But the news agency underlines what may ultimately matter more to the Kremlin: the drivers demands are now increasingly seen as part and parcel of the struggle against regime corruption not only by themselves but by political groups in Daghestan and elsewhere that have made the fight against corruption the centerpiece of their political action.
And as statistics show, there is enormous interest among Russians in the corruption of their elites. As of Friday, Aleksey Navalny’s film about corruption had been viewed by nearly 20 million people online, while the anti-Navalny clip comparing him to Hitler had drawn only slightly more than two million (rosbalt.ru/blogs/2017/04/21/1609762.html).