Staunton, April 28 – Audit Chamber head Aleksey Kudrin’s plan to combine cities into four agglomerations in addition to Moscow and Petersburg metropolises is being sold as a move that will promote economic growth while reudcing regional economic differences and lead to greater decentralization of the country.
But critics say it will do neither, with some arguing that it will do nothing to reduce regional income inequality and others arguing that it will promote further concentration of power in Moscow rather than the decentralization of decision making that Kudrin and his supporters say it will produce.
Kudrin himself says that unifying cities into four new agglomerations (alongside the metropolises of Moscow and St. Petersburg “will raise the common effectiveness of the country” and reduce regional differences in development and incomes (club-rf.ru/news/53620). His supporters echo those notions (club-rf.ru/opinions/1506).
The Region.Expert portal which is edited by Vadim Shtepa says that Kudrin’s proposal has now emerged because “Moscow has suddenly decided to carry out the economic decentralization of Russia.” Kudrin has always been a radical centralizer and his latest proposal is simply intended to make running the country easier for Moscow (region.expert/6metropolises).
“Of course,” the regionalist portal continues, “the economic rapprochement of neighboring regions is necessary,” but “’horizontal’ links in a real federal arise ‘from below,’ reflecting the interests of the local residents.” But the Kremlin isn’t interested in seeing htat happen because “it very much fears real federalism.” Instead, it is promoting a pseudo-version designed to produce exactly the opposite of what it claims.
And Natalya Zubarevich, director of regional programs at Moscow’s Independent Institute of Social Policy and one of the leading specialists on the economic situation of Russia beyond the ring road, says she strongly doubts that there is any possibility Kudrin’s plan could do what it promises or even will be adopted (club-rf.ru/detail/3151).
There is a great deal of rural space between the cities which are supposed to be combined, she points out. Consequently, “such metropolises won’t happen.” Moreover, all these cities are getting subsidies averaging 60 percent of their current budgets. “Combining, multiplying, dividing them will change nothing.”
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