Copyrighted material


by Kester Kenn Klomegah

Non-Presidential Putin Shifting to be Russia's Cheney

(IPS) MOSCOW -- Now as Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin has started to pursue vigorously his own long-term strategic development plan that was used to garner votes during the last presidential elections.

The 12-year development plan popularly referred to as Plan Putina seeks to bring improvements in education, housing, agriculture and healthcare that analysts say could help Putin maintain his popularity until he decides to seek presidency again.

"The special projects give Putin a chance to use the potential success of his projects to raise his popularity," Georgy Egorov, author of several papers on the post-Soviet economy at Harvard Univeristy told IPS.

The only reform in these four key areas during Putin's presidency was the gradual introduction of unified state exams in basic subjects. Many head teachers and rectors are known to accept huge sums from parents seeking admission for their children, and the reform was a step towards erasing such corruption.

Egorov says health workers are also prone to corruption. "Acknowledging that the current state of healthcare is no longer free and universally available will help outline the available options, both to the people and the policymakers."

Reforms are critical in other areas too. Development of agriculture and provision of affordable housing varies greatly across the regions, Egorov added.

A development budget will be submitted to the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, by Aug. 26.

Yevgeny Volk from the Heritage Foundation, a non-profit political research organization, says Putin's image and political future will depend greatly on his achievements with these reforms. But, he said, excessive bureaucracy and widespread corruption are in the way of implementation of these projects.

In some ways the reforms could have been counterproductive. "It is clear that the vast increase in government spending on these plans has dramatically contributed to the skyrocketing inflation in Russia," Volk told IPS. "It has reached nine percent over the first six months in 2008 while the official annual forecast was eight percent. By the end of the year inflation could rise to 18-20 percent. That will create serious economic and political problems for the government, and popular discontent will grow.

"It can also become a source of tension between President Dmitry Medvedev and Premier Putin. Neither of them will be eager to bear responsibility for the disastrous repercussions."

As first deputy prime minister in the former government, Medvedev was given the responsibility of carrying out these projects in order to raise his image during the presidential campaign, Volk says.

Prof. Irina Bolgova from the Moscow State University for External Affairs says the reform plans are "the best policy so far after the collapse of the Soviet-centralized economic system." But there are structural problems in the way such as lack of skilled personnel, bad management and outdated equipment, Bolgova said. Besides, "the whole system of social values must be changed, which is extremely hard to achieve."

Early this month Putin stressed the need for a self-critical approach. "I think that it is extremely important that our national development plans should be discussed at every level of society and that all society's institutions should be involved," he said at a cabinet meeting. "Ultimately, this process will help improve national social and economic development through to 2020."

Comments? Send a letter to the editor.

Albion Monitor   July 29, 2008   (

All Rights Reserved.

Contact for permission to use in any format.