Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Petersburg Politics Foundation Outlines Five Possible Scenarios for the Pension Debate

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 20 – The Petersburg Politics Foundation says that the Russian government has a great deal of room for maneuver as the fight about increasing retirement ages goes forward; and in a new report, it outlines five possible scenarios of how things are likely to play out in the coming weeks.

            The Foundation’s analysts say that the proposal “became a serious and largely unwelcome surprise” for Russia’s political system because neither the elites nor the population were prepared for such a change given that there had not been anything of this size since the 2005 monetarization of benefits (

            And regime has made things worse for itself on this occasion, the Foundation says, by constantly talking about how Russia is again a great power with unlimited possibilities, assertions that have the effect of raising even more questions when it is obvious that the government is cutting back rather than promoting improvements.

            Moreover, the proposal “was not accompanied by systemic work with public opinion, lacks a consensus within the regime itself, does not have a ‘public driver” and the authorities have behaved in a way that suggests they are engaged in a constant improvisation and reaction to events, the report concludes.

            “Nevertheless,” the report says, “the pension reform project has not become ‘suicidal’ for the powers that be who retain the opportunities for maneuver” given the lack of any tradition of social and political protests and “also the inertia of foreign policy mobilization,” something the Kremlin can always play on with a new move there.

            The Foundation offers five scenarios for how things will proceed from here:

1.      The most probable is “a compromise at the initiative of the authorities. The experts assess this as have a 40 percent chance.

2.      The second most probable – with a 20 percent chance – is that the regime will double down and push through the original proposal.

3.      The third most likely – again with about a 20 percent chance – would be a situation in which the authorities would be forced to compromise by society. 

4.      The fourth – with a 15 percent chance – would be a revision of the project because of divisions with the elite itself.

5.      And the fifth – also with only a five percent chance – would be one in which the law would be adopted and then revised.

Commenting on the report, Aleksandr Pozhalov, research director at the Moscow Institute for Socio-Economic and Political Studies, says that protests about increasing the retirement age are comparable to protests about the monetarization of benefits, a problem for the regime because they call into question the existence of “a social state” but not a fatal one. 

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