MP Oleg Shein: Astrakhan Region Headed for Social Catastrophe

Russian MP Oleg Shein. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Russian MP Oleg Shein in 2009. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

MP: Astrakhan Region Headed for Deep Social Catastrophe
Rosbalt
November 18, 2016

Astrakhan is among the regions undergoing a social catastrophe, argues MP Oleg Shein, who sits on the State Duma’s Committee for Labor, Social Policy, and Veterans Affairs. As the MP told our correspondent, both federal and regional authorities are to blame for the situation.

“Astrakhan Region is currently undergoing a fiscal disaster due to the fact the regional budget has collapsed. This year, it has been slashed by 15%, from 38 to 33 billion rubles. Next year, the regional authorities have proposed cutting the budget by another eight billion rubles. Accordingly, the budget will have shrunk by about 40% in two years. Already this year, financial aid to the poor has been completely eliminated, and subsidies for parents paying fees to kindergartens have been canceled, causing kindergarten fees to increase by one and half times. The upper grades have been eliminated in a number of schools. Schools have gone from eleven grades to nine grades, and this has caused overcrowded classes in the remaining schools. Payroll has been reduced by 7% for public sector employees: doctors, teachers, and cultural workers. Actually, 7% is the average figure; large numbers of people have had their salaries cut much more considerably. So the region really is headed downhill, and the regional government sees no ways of heading off the disaster,” said Shein.

 […]

“The regional authorities—and there is some truth to this—explain what is happening by referring to the loss of tax revenues from the oil industry. Several years ago, the State Duma—or rather, the United Russia party—freed Lukoil from paying taxes on its oil rigs in the Caspian Sea. This year as well, United Russia has voted to transfer the profits from oil production in the Caspian, the income tax revenue, from the regional budget to the federal budget. The regional authorities were really counting on the money, but they have ended up with nothing.  But there is a second reason: their completely devil-may-care approach to drafting the regional budget and the loss of the local tax base. Sometimes, the regional government has literally abetted hostile takeovers of local companies, as, for example, happened to the local company Bassol, which supplies 60% of the salt to the Russian market and now pays taxes outside of Astrakhan Region. Paradoxically, the regional government welcomed this,” said Shein.

The MP said that despite its socio-economic difficulties, Astrakhan Region was also marked by high levels of corruption and the waste of money on mega projects like a musical theater and so on.

According to a rating compiled by the sociology department at the Russian Federation Government Financial University, Astrakhan was among the Russian cities with populations of 500,000 or more where the lowest indices for quality of life had been recorded. According to Astrakhanstat, during the period from January 2016 to August 2016, the real disposable income of Astrakhan Region residents was 89.4% of what it had been during the same period last year.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Valentin Urusov for the heads-up

Where’s the Beef?

“But People Cannot, Excuse My Expression, Chow Down Normally”
The Russian government concludes beef too expensive for Russians
Irina Shcherbak
Znak
June 9, 2016

The Russian government argues that beef has become too expensive for Russians. These are the findings of an analytical report on the outcome of the produce embargo in 2015.

“Due to a shift in demand for cheaper produce, beef will taken on the characteristics of an expensive niche product, so massive support of this segment is inexpedient,” says the report.

The report likewise notes that the anti-sanctions have had no negative consequences. On the whole, however, “downward trends in the quality of consumption have been observed, including in response to the population’s falling real incomes.” This, the authors of the report argue, takes the shape of “switching to goods in a lower price segment.”

“The situation in the economy does not allow for a quick recovery of demand in produce markets, which will be accompanied both by a further shift in demand towards the cheaper segment in each segment [sic] and by a shift in demand from fish to meat, as well as the revival of significant subsistence production for personal consumption in the fruit and vegetable sectors,” says the report.

“We got up off our knees and have been threatening the west. We are in a confrontation with America, you see. We are paying for the restoration of Palmyra. 30% of the budget goes to defense spending. But people cannot, excuse my expression, chow down normally. In the next report, the government will probably recommend moving beef to the desserts and sweets section,” commented opposition politician Alexei Navalny.

Farewell, Beef Stroganoff?
Farewell, Beef Stroganoff? Image courtesy of Viator Things to Do: Russia

According to a recent study by the Analytical Rating Agency, consumers currently are showing a marked preference for bread, potatoes, and dairy products over vegetables, fruits, fish, seafood, and alcohol.

“In the future, a further shift in consumer preferences towards cereals, flour, oil, seasonal vegetables, and sugar is possible,” the analysts predicted.

The Russian food embargo was introduced in August 2014 in response to sanctions against Russia [sic] by western countries. A ban on the import of beef, pork, fruits and vegetables, poultry, fish, cheese, milk, and most dairy products from the US, the EU, Canada, Australia, and Norway was imposed. Subsequently, Russia has combated the re-export of banned European produce, introducing restrictions on imports from Belarus and Serbia. In addition, on May 1, 2015, the import of peanuts and, on May 26, 2015, live poultry from the US was banned.  On June 4, 2015, imports of canned fish from Latvia and Estonia were banned.

On June 24, 2015, Vladimir Putin signed a decree extending the food embargo until August 5, 2016.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Valentin Urusov for the heads-up