Staunton, October 25 -- Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin’s announcement that Muscovites will get bigger pensions, something experts say the government lacks the funds to match for those outside the capital, has sparked outrage among Russians in the oblasts, krays, and republics outside of Moscow and may even provoke a new round of protests.
The Urals news agency, URA.ru, announced today that Sobyanin’s action is only intensifying the stereotype in much of Russia that “Moscow is stealing from the regions” and that the government can’t or doesn’t want to “improve the life of elderly people” unless they live in the capital (ura.news/articles/1036272715).
In a recent interview in Vedomosti, Sobyanin said that the real incomes of Muscovites had fallen and that this had hit those in the lowest income groups level. He said that it is absolutely necessary that pensions and other benefits for these groups go up, something that will require the infusion of massive federal government funds.
Natalya Zubarevich, head of regional programs at the Independent Institute of Social Policy, says that no other region of Russia could get away with making such proposals and having a chance that they will be funded either from its own tax base or from the federal government concerned about attitudes in the capital.
Nikita Maslennikov at the Institute of Contemporary Development says that Moscow lives in “a totally different economic reality” than other regions do. Its tax base is twice that of St. Petersburg’s and vastly more than any other region. But the city has problems in funding as well, and boosting pensions the extent Sobyanin proposes may be hard or even impossible.
The central government may want to increase pensions in Moscow for political reasons, but doing so, Yevgeny Fedorov of the Duma’s budget committee says, Russians in the regions are asking some entirely reasonable questions: Why are we being treated worse? And how much more will our regions be robbed?
“It is obvious,” the deputy says, “that the principle of government arrangements and the system of relations which have emerged between Moscow and the federal center must be changed.”
Oleg Ivanov, head of the Center for Managing Social Conflicts, said that “the Moscow initiative may play the role of a spark” in an already tense social situation. “When all are doing badly, it is psychologically easier to take. But when one gets money, even not very much, and the others don’t, this inevitably leads to a crisis.”
Initiatives like Sobyanin’s, Ivanov says, “intensify the divisions in society and strengthen the stereotype according to which Moscow is a separate state within the country.”