Staunton, June 23 – Hard-pressed to meet their responsibilities under the unfunded liabilities Moscow has imposed on them in many areas, 17 federal subjects have applied to exit from the politically sensitive but often prohibitively expensive program to resettle Russian compatriots on their territories.
Aleksandr Gorovoy, a deputy interior minister, told the Federation Council this week that the decisions of the regional governments reflected “not only economic problems such as the absence of housing and jobs but also about the demographic risks arising from the program” (polit.ru/article/2017/06/22/regions/).
Natalya Zubarevich, director of regional programs at Moscow’s Independent Institute of Social Policy, tells Polit.ru that the actions of the regions reflect the difficult economic situation many of them are in. They don’t have the money to give these people what Moscow has promised, and they don’t need them as workers because there is no work.
But Ilya Grashenkov, the director of the Moscow Center for the Development of Regional Policy, says there is another reason: the arrival of returning compatriots creates problems for regional officials because the program as defined by the center requires them to give these people preferences and advantages that they can’t give to their own people.
That creates tensions that no regional leader needs, he says.
What makes this action by 17 regions so important is that it constitutes a regional fronde of protest against the unfunded liabilities Moscow has been imposing on regional administrations in recent years and in an area which Vladimir Putin himself has indicated he takes a personal interest.
If more regions join this protest or if various regions make similar demands to opt out of unfunded liabilities that Moscow has imposed, that has the potential to revive a certain fiscal federalism that Putin has done everything in his power to suppress. At the very least, it will create problems for the center that the Kremlin will be compelled to address.