How did authorities work?

It is a tradition to sum up the results on the eve of New Year holidays. The “NV” editorial board requested several experts to comment the achievements of the Russian federal leadership in 2004. To provide the widest range of opinions we invited experts with most differing political outlooks to join the round-table discussion.
Oleg MOROZOV, State Duma deputy chairman:
“The results of last year election to the State Duma considerably changed the political face of Russia. The United Russia party won a constitutional majority in the lower house. The left wing of the political scene is weak and in crisis. The rightist forces failed to win any seats in the State Duma. Outstanding representatives of the United Russia joined the government. Several ministers joined the ruling party. As a result, a new relationship emerged between the State Duma and the government. In most cases there are no contradictions between them on matters of principle.
That allowed to launch in 2004 major political, social, and economic reforms vital for the development of the country. They include replacement of various social privileges by monetary payments which allows to streamline the whole system of social protection of the population so that it helps the poorest people, so that social welfare is distributed fairly and is enjoyed by concrete people; and the housing reform, which aims to make housing accessible for wide strata of the population.
Work has begun to reform education and science so that in the final economic end the share of high technologies increases in the GDP and the country gradually frees its economy from the dependence on exports of raw materials.
The political reform comprises four elements: a new scheme of electing regional governors, the election of State Duma deputies only by party tickets, the creation of the Public Chamber, and the involvement of regional leaders into the work of the Federation Council. The first two components strengthen the federal influence on the processes in the country, while the other two develop the elements of a civic society and the federalist basis.”
Irina KHAKAMADA, politician:
“Authorities lived in ‘greenhouse’ conditions in the outgoing year: the economic situation was fantastically favorable; Putin won a landslide victory at the presidential election which allowed him to refrain from populist promises; there was a complete control over parliament and the judicial authority; the opposition was eliminated; the leading mass media were subordinated. In such conditions authorities were, firstly, free of the necessity to make any forced steps, and secondly, could implement any measure, which they considered necessary for the country.
However concrete implemented measures showed that authorities reject the construction of a socially-oriented market economy and instead prefer state capitalism with a minimum of social guarantees and commitments. The creation of a society of total well-being is no longer a strategic aim of the current national leadership. As it would be impossible to change the state policy so radically in conditions of a true democracy, the authorities embarked on the path of constructing an authoritarian political regime.
Traditionalism defeated democratic modernization, the authorities are restoring the Soviet political system with some elements of a market economy and without wide social guarantees. Future will show whether such a mutant can survive.”
Vladimir PYZIN, political scientist:
“One can assess the actions of the authority only when the goals of the authority are clear. If the aim was to eliminate poverty, then the results are dissatisfying. On the background of miserable pensions and wages of budget-financed employees the government accumulated an enormous stabilization fund clearly intended for a rainy day. The question is a rainy day for who?
It has been raining for budget-financed employees for a long time. So the rainy day is evidently expected for the authority itself and the day will most likely come on the date of a new election to the State Duma in 2007 and the presidential election in 2008. That is the deadline for the stabilization fund accumulation. It will be used to quickly raise the rating of a not very popular regime by tipping the population.
Authorities are clearly staking on bureaucracy and law enforcers, rather than on a civil society. The wave of retired KGB officials that swept all bodies of state authority bewilders even the most experienced apparatchiks. The aim is clear — to secure the state machine by people loyal to the number 1 man in the country. However the professional world outlook peculiarity (a typical superiority complex, if you want) of the people from the so-called ‘competent bodies’ is the belief in their own competence and in the incompetence of the others.
In general, the year of 2004 was a failure for authority. Despite all attempts and manipulations it cannot revive in the Russian people the moods which preceded the ‘political thaw’ that followed the ‘50s of the last century. There are all signs proving that authorities will resort to their best manipulation traditions in order to create a controlled rightist opposition, however the manipulation resource is close to exhaustion.”
Viktor ILYIN, philosopher:
“In the outgoing year the Russian authority moved forward with its face turned back. It demonstrated an enviable capability to flare up and go out simultaneously. Clumsy movements of the authorities in creating a ‘centralized democracy’ (by ‘streamlining political party construction’) triggered a series of disappointing scandals (the demarche of independent lawmakers, loud conflicts in Ulyanovsk, Kurgan).
In general, the adequate intentions of the administrative transformation — differentiation of powers, independence for the subjects of the governance, did not come true. It was planned that the ministries should be in charge of the strategy, the services — in charge of control, while the agencies should organize activities. In reality, the habit of the ministries to dictate to one and all provoked chaos and a bureaucratic renaissance.
The transition to a market economy (mixed-type economy) was justified as it boosted development (in conditions of a crisis in the central administrative system) due to private enterprise. However the correct policy led into a deadend because authorities tried to tame the agents of the new productive formation (the YUKOS case).
One can see there is nothing exclusive in the exclusiveness — the more Russia changes, the more it does not change at all.”
Mikhail YERSHOV, economist:
“As far as the economic sphere is concerned, it all looks pretty good from the formal point of view — the country received an investment rating, its gold and hard currency reserves are growing, and the GDP also increases. However the country needs a clear and integrated economic policy in order to adequately respond to the challenges of the global economy and efficiently resolve the tasks, which the national economy is facing.
If we continue to totally depend on the world situation, on oil prices, and refrain from the necessary structural transformations, which allow to decrease the dependence, it will be difficult to speak about any real participation in international integration and competition.
It is time to use the favorable conditions and lay the foundation for major progressive changes in the economic structure that are necessary for a stable economic development.”
Sergey KARA-MURZA, publicist:
“One year is little time for the crops of the authority to ripe. One year is enough to judge the sowing campaign, while the current crops are the fruit of the previous sowing. For example, the current rain of oil dollars is the fruit of the Soviet sowing, while the fruit of the 2004 authority is a lack of fuel in Russia and huge petrol prices. Terrorism is the fruit of Yeltsin’s sowing, which got ripe under Vladimir Putin. So where the authority of 2004 is heading?
To the same place which Yeltsin indicated. Details do not count. The essence of the choice is to completely break the basis of solidarity, on which Russia was staying, and to replace it by the basis of competition, on which the West is allegedly staying. However it is impossible to copy the foundation for a country from a neighbor, as it has been created by centuries. Bring the Germans or the Chinese to our land, then you may succeed. But most likely the Germans and the Chinese will become Russified. And the West is staying on a major solidarity foundation, which our authority does not see behind the smokescreen of advertisements.
The authority in one year lost coordination of its bodies, functions and ruling technologies. Gref can publicly argue with Zhukov on the main issues, top officials make such statements in one day, which bull or bear the stock market.
Reforms are an issue of the historic choice, but the debate in the State Duma represents them as clearly something fruitful, so the talk is only about amendments. If the State Duma approves 200 amendments, then its work is described as successful. The US Congress considers as big policy problems even those issues, which we would definitely describe as technical. Can one add fluorine to water to avert caries? Can one add ethyl to petrol? Shall gene engineering be allowed in food production? And in the State Duma they are constantly calling to ‘stay away from politics’. In 2004 the State Duma planted numerous delayed-action mines under the country. Such is the fruit of its work during the year.”
Alexander DUGIN, philosopher:
“The people in authority surrounding the president and influencing him are extremely inefficient. The agenda of the president is extremely inconsistent, we are unaware of the ideological portrait of any of his comrades-in-arms. If Putin may allow himself to be indefinite and stay above the contradictions, which is the style-mark of a strong personality, his entourage has to work hard. But it is not working hard. This is a bad and inefficient entourage of a good and efficient president. It can carry nothing through. It is incapable and insipid. However for some strange reasons such a heavy and incomprehensive burden does not impede the president. In 2004 the inadequacy of the entourage became irritatingly evident.
The authority represented by an army of officials has never been and will never be efficient in Russia. This class has to curb the initiative coming from below, as it may be destructive sometimes. However officials do not distinguish between the weeds and the grains. They are selfishly suppressing everything, which does not give them a gilded benefit or a well-buttered piece of bread. In 2004 they seem to be stealing more than ever. The regional authority was so inefficient that it lost the honor to be elected by the people and will now be appointed as ordinary officials. It was inefficient both in governing regional processes and in expressing discontent to the federal center.
In other words, the Russian authority in 2004 was extremely efficient in the technological applied aspect and in accumulating all powers in the hands of one man. As far as the political content and its implementation are concerned, Vladimir Putin clearly had no time to see to it, and any efficiency of the process is therefore out of the question.
Let’s hope, it is all ahead.”