Staunton, May 27 -- Deputies from three systemic opposition parties in the Duma – the KPRF, the LDPR and Just Russia -- say they will press for more financial independence for the regions given that the governors have shown themselves capable of taking effective action during the curse of the pandemic.
Deputies from all three have told Oleg Teplukhov of the URA news agency that they intend to press Maksim Reshetnikov, economic development minister on this pint when he appears before a Duma committee, and some United Russia deputies say they now favor greater devolution of resources to the regions as well (ura.news/articles/1036280285).
This sets the stage for one of the most high-profile debates about Russian federalism since Vladimir Putin came to power and launched his recentralization campaign, a debate that will either further divide the government from the entire opposition or lead to a potentially fundamental shift in government policy.
Ever more political analysts are suggesting that, in the words of Darya Kislitsyna, a specialist on regionalism at the Expert Institute for Social Investigations, that “the coronavirus pandemic has been good for federalism because now, as never before in recent history, the regions were given the chance to show their ability to act as subjects of politics.”
She says that the country would function much more effectively if the center took strategic decisions but gave the regions enough power and economic support to apply them. Of course, Kislitsyna adds ЭИСИ, the center must retain the ability to monitor and enforce its will to ensure that regional decisions are good ones.
Natalya Zubarevich, perhaps Moscow’s leading specialist on regional economics, says that the most important step to take is to ensure that the regions are given back more of their taxes paid, perhaps as much as 50 percent, double the rate now, and that the amount be predictable rather than constantly changing.
Only then, she says, can the regions hope to fulfill their promise to their residents and to the country. But as she and others point out, even these changes will be hard to achieve given that Vladimir Putin is a thoroughgoing opponent of any decentralization; and he has the last word.
But the fact that discussions about this have moved from the academy and the commentariat to the Duma is a major step forward and may lead to some changes while Putin is still in office and presage far greater ones after he leaves. It may even help mobilize support for that to happen sooner rather than later.
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