Thursday, June 27, 2019

Moscow’s Billion-Dollar Program to Save Company Towns has Failed Completely

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 25 -- The Russian government’s 57.3 billion-ruble plan (nearly one billion US dollars) to save Russia’s company towns, the monogorods based on a single often dying plant, has failed utterly, Nakanune experts say. Not only has it failed to produce new jobs in the crisis cities but, while it is been going on, the number of such cities has in fact increased. 

            The news agency’s analysts drew those conclusions on the basis of statements Moscow officials made at a recent Duma hearing and of interviews with people in the company towns in various oblasts in the Urals region, and they argue that their findings explain why the current program must be replaced (

            According to Nakanune, none of the goals for the company towns the government set earlier have been achieved. Employment in them has not risen, investment hasn’t grown, and infrastructure hasn’t improved. Moreover, the number of company towns in crisis has grown by almost a third from 75 to 93 since the program was announced in 2014.

            Someone has gotten the money, but it hasn’t been the unemployed workers and their families. And there are a lot of them: At the start of last year, there were more than 13.5 million people in company towns, some 9.2 percent of the population – “and ever third of those was a resident of a company town in crisis.”

            In the first six months of 2018, the last period for which statistics are available, the number of jobs in these crisis towns fell by 172,600 to 1,000,900. Of 13 cities studied, seven lost population, and eight lost workers actually employed. The auditors stressed that this was typical of monogorods across the country. 

            When residents were asked what conditions were like overall, 65 percent said they were tolerable but difficult; but more focused questions found greater unhappiness: 72 percent are unhappy about medical care, 69 percent about the quality of roads, and 59 percent about the state of housing. These figures are significantly higher than for all Russians.

            The Russian government is currently trying to come up with a new program, but Nakanune expresses skepticism that it will in fact be able to change the trajectory of cities and towns that Moscow has increasingly allowed to die.  The only thing that seems certain is that someone will be getting money but it won’t be workers or their families. 

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