Saturday, September 11, 2021

Agglomerations Not Rest of Russia to Get All or at Least Most of New Infrastructure Spending, URA Source Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 11 – An anonymous source of the URA news agency, described only as “close to the government,” says that Moscow has decided to send all the money in its new infrastructure program to urban agglomerations out of the belief that only they will be able make good use of it and to give the center the rewards it seeks.

            That means, the source says and other experts agree, that “the authorities are putting a cross on small population points and depressed regions.” Once again, the central powers are betting on the strong, in this case, major urban areas, and leaving the weak, smaller cities, villages and rural areas, to die off (

            According to URA journalist Yekaterina Lazareva, this anonymous report has been “indirectly confirmed” by the remarks of Russian Finance Minister Leonid Gornin at the Moscow Financial Forum. He said that many regions have made proposals but “the really effective of these are few.” And most of these are from major urban areas.

            Ilya Grashchenkov, head of the Center for the Development of Regional Policy, says that the Rusisan government isn’t interested in the smaller and poorer subjects of the Russian Federation and won’t invest in them, assuming not entirely unreasonably that they will use any money to cope with their immediate social problems.

            Vladimir Kosoy, president of the Center for the Economics of Infrastructure, adds that Moscow in this case is behaving like a capitalist investor rather than a government, calculating what will bring a return on its money rather than thinking about what is necessary to support the needs of the population.

            He adds that those who think that the way forward is to unite these poorer regions into larger regions centered around agglomerations are wrong. Such moves, history shows, have seldom benefited the poorer regions; and they have often dragged down the wealthier ones raising their social costs without contributing more to their development.

            And political scientist Maksim Zharov says that regional amalgamation may have other “unpredictable” consequences. If such a policy takes off, it will reignite the kind of struggle over property within these new super regions of exactly the same kind the country as a whole faced in the 1990s, with all the violence and other problems that existed then.

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