Staunton, October 19 – Despite Moscow’s power, Natalya Zubarevich says, “federalism in Russia exists!” That has been demonstrated over the past year by the fact the regions have adopted “quite different spending policies, even when they are under pressure from decrees” from Moscow. Some have spent in very different ways than central authorities would prefer.
“We shall see which policies prove more effective,” the Moscow State University specialist on regional economics says, and whether the differences they have shown over the past year, largely as a result of the pandemic, continue or are again reined in by the center (rosbalt.ru/moscow/2020/10/19/1868743.html).
In an interview she gave to Leonid Smiornov of the Rosbalt news agency, Zubarevich supports her contention with a wide range of data from the regions of the Russian Federation, data which shows that the regions sometimes deferred to Moscow and sometimes not and often behaved in radically different ways from one another and from the center.
Among her findings were the following:
· Most Russian regions have suffered economic decline but those whose economies are based on government orders have weathered the crisis relatively well.
· Officially registered unemployment has risen most radically in Moscow and St. Petersburg as people there take advantage of new government benefits while in most regions, hidden unemployment remains the norm, with workers taking cuts in hours and pay.
· Moscow helped the regions with more transfer payments than before but this money helped some regions far more than others, and the regions like the center are now facing deficits for the year as a whole.
· Most regions but not all fulfilled national project spending targets even as their budgets shifted to other areas. Thus, the national project mandates were a primary driver of their increasing deficits.
· Moscow increased its spending on health care far more than any other region, but many regions boosted theirs as well. The country as a whole was up 85 percent on this measure, but without Moscow, only two-thirds.
· The regions varied widely in non-healthcare related social spending. Some boosted it, but others cut it back in order to pay for healthcare. St. Petersburg cut back more than most and now faces a difficult winter.
Zubarevich’s words – and her statistics confirm this – show that the decisions of the regions varied widely and the outcomes have as well. Consequently, it is a huge mistake to judge what is happening by considering only all-Russian figures. That’s like using the average temperature in a hospital to determine whether the people in it are healthy or not.