[Marxism] Dismantling the Russian safety net
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?
By C. J. CHIVERS
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
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.
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