[Marxism] Dismantling the Russian safety net

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Jun 18 07:21:05 MDT 2004

NY Times, June 18, 2004
Cash vs. Benefits: Efficiency, or Assault on Russia's Soul?

MOSCOW, June 17 - Only weeks into a second term that President Vladimir 
V. Putin captured in part because he seemed to embody the welcome 
possibility of stability, his government has moved to dismantle a robust 
vestige of Soviet times: an array of social benefits that many Russians 
regard as essential.

In a bill introduced in the lower house of Parliament, the Duma, Mr. 
Putin's government has proposed replacing subsidized services - free 
public transportation, low-cost electricity, free medicine for invalids 
and rent-free apartments for many government workers - with cash 
stipends of $20 to $120 a month.

In exchange, at least 32 million people would lose benefits, according 
to government estimates, including veterans, holders of Soviet labor 
medals, retirees, invalids, civil servants, career soldiers and 
survivors of the Nazi siege of Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, in World 
War II.

Because many who receive such benefits have children or spouses, and it 
is common in Russia for two or three generations to live in one 
apartment, the changes could affect most households in the country.

"For the Russian people it means completely changing their psychology 
and their tradition, a Soviet-style tradition of life in Russia," said 
Mikhail Zadornov, an independent Duma member wary of the plan.

As proposed, the cash-for-services plan would take effect next year. But 
on the streets and even among members of Mr. Putin's large majority in 
the Duma, the idea has led to complaints and a sense of unease.

In the Vyatsky Market, an array of stalls in northern Moscow where 
vendors hawk low-priced food, pensioners were nearly uniformly opposed 
to the plan.

"What they are going to be giving me is not enough," said Anatoly 
Sidlerov, 67, a retired mechanical engineer who supplements his monthly 
pension - 2,100 rubles, or roughly $75 -as an elevator operator.

full: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/18/international/europe/18russ.html


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