Sunday, September 12, 2021

Shifting to Single-Level Local Government Won’t Save Money but Will Further Distance Powers from People, Gurman Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 12 – The head of Karelia, Artur Parfenchikov, is seeking to eliminate the current system of local government, by doing away with city and village councils and concentrating all power to the municipal authorities, a step he says is needed because all too often no one can say who is in charge of this or that question.

            It sometimes happens, the Karelian leader argues, that municipalities and villages both claim to be in charge of things and as a result, nothing happens or far too much money is spent duplicating work ( and

            Having only municipal district councils, Parfenchikov says, will have the additional advantage of saving everyone money by allowing the authorities to reduce the number of officials who have to be paid, thereby making management more efficient. Such moves are happening in a variety of parts of the Russian Federation.

            But not everyone agrees with the Karelia head. Yury Gurman, director of the Association of Rural Municipal Formations and Urban Settlements, says that there won’t be any savings as the offices which remain will simply add people to handle problems that lower-ranking organizations had been dealing with.

            In his view, the only result of this change will be a reduction in the influence of the population on government decisions. With the concentration of power within municipal districts, Gurman continues, officials will be able to act without paying much attention to what the population wants and will concern themselves only with orders from above.

            While he does not develop this point, that change in whom the municipal districts feel responsible to will further reduce support among the population for democratic arrangements because they will no longer feel they can make a difference. And such depoliticization will make the further centralization of power at higher levels even easier.

            Another analyst, political scientist Valery Potashov, suggests that this may be precisely what the Kremlin wants. But he points out that the population is wise to these moves: Parchenkov’s latest proposal follows his failure to push through the formation of large districts in northern Karelia.

            He announced he wanted them, but the population wasn’t willing to go along; and the program was scrapped. Something similar may happen this time, although his latest ideas is less likely to provoke as great a reaction because on the surface at least it appears far less radical. To the extent Karelians conclude otherwise, the governor is going to have a new fight on his hands.


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