February 18 – The announcement that the Russian government will spend 25.7
trillion rubles (400 billion US dollars) over the next six years is supposed to
encourage Russians that things will get better, Vladislav Inozemtsev says; but
an examination of the past two rounds of such projects shows that the only
beneficiaries have been officials and their allies.
results have been anything but promising: In 2007, there were 400,000 HIV cases
in Russia; now there are most likely 1.3 million. The number of cancer cases
has grown from 2.4 to 3.5 million, life expectancy has supposedly increased
from 67.4 to 73.2 years from birth, but the size of the population remained
stagnant and has now again begun to decline.
ten years, the new highway from Moscow to St. Petersburg was promised but not
built. The high-speed rail network from Moscow to Kazan wasn’t either; “and all
major projects (from Vladivostok to Sochi and the Crimean Bridge) were more for
show” than actions that had a positive impact on the country.
other words,” Inozemtsev says, “it is difficult to believe that ‘national
projects’ fundamentally changed Russian reality.”And the case of those announced in the May
2012 decrees have fared no better: the number of hospitals and schools has
continued to fall, and qualified personnel are ever more concentrated in major
prompts the question, he says, “why then do the authorities again proceed along
a path which doesn’t lead to success?” The answer lies in the fact that “the
attitude of Russian bureaucrats to state finances is that they somehow belong
personally to them and not to the Russian people.”
of investing in people as other countries do and measuring success in terms of
how they live, the Russian government allocates money to officials who decide
how to spend it, all too often on projects from which they benefit either
directly or indirectly rather than on anything that benefits the population.
measure of success in the Russian bureaucracy is the amount of funds one
controls not the success of the projects one is supposed to promote. That leads
to increasingly bloated budgets that do not have real world consequences beyond
enriching the bureaucratic stratum around the Kremlin.
a result, we have what we have: Russian roads are among the most expensive to
build in the world, but what is still more surprising is that from 2003 to
2017, the length of new automobile roads fell from 3200to 1900 kilometers a year” even as the cost
of the highway construction program mushroomed from 124 billion to 630 billion
rubles (two billion to 10 billion US dollars).
same thing is true across the board, Inozemtsev says.The government cracks down on waste, fraud
and abuse, but only to keep the bureaucracy “in tone” rather than to address
the underlying problem.
a result, “’the priority national
projects’ today are in essence a single national project: the elaboration of a
system to support the personal interests of the thieving bureaucracy,”
(emphasis added) not in the interests of the population or the business
this system is getting worse as each new wave of national projects introduces
measures which are easier to fudge. Instead of talking about the number of
kilometers of new roads to be built, the latest projects speak of the percentage
that meet federal standards and so on and so forth across the board.
“all that is worth knowing about national projects is this,” Inozemtsev
concludes: they put money in the hands of the bureaucrats.” In Russia that is a
national project. Putting money in the hands of ordinary Russians is “something
alien and contradicts the basic features of Russian statehood.”