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Plans to relocate Russian government outside Moscow end in fiasco

October 19, 2012, 16:04 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

It looks like the idea of relocating Russia’s government institutions outside Moscow has come a buster. The project initiated by Dmitry Medvedev when he was Russia’s president has been wound up under President Vladimir Putin. Experts say the project was rather raw and, what is more important, too costly.

A top-ranking Kremlin source told the Izvestia newspaper that the relocation project was already beyond the agenda. “It has been given up for lost, so to say,” the source said. “Medvedev’s idea is too costly for the budget and would only aggravate traffic congestion in the capital city.”

The presidential administration justified the project’s failure by technological and financial risks. Experts however tend to think that from the very beginning it was a spontaneous and raw project.

“The relocation project has been scrutinized by the presidential administration. And they arrived at the conclusion that a large-scale relocation of state institutions outside Moscow would yield no economic profit. Initiators maintained that it would relieve the traffic situation in Moscow. But a vacant place never remains unoccupied – business centres would take up emptied buildings to congest Moscow’s roads with even more cars,” the source said. “Last but not least is the cost of the matter: the sale of government’s real estate is unlikely to cover the expenditures on the construction of new buildings for state services, infrastructure and housing outside Moscow. A possible solution could be bank loans but banks are not very much willing to risk huge sums of money.”

Earlier, in an interview with the Rossiiskaya Gazeta daily, presidential property management chief Vladimir Kozhin announced plans to make the so-called government quarters in downtown Moscow, in the vicinity of the Kremlin. According to Kozhin, the government quarters will house the presidential administration and key ministries and agencies in one place, which will tell positively on the traffic situation in Moscow, since government officials will not have to move around the city. He said that such quarters could be located between the Kremlin, New and Old Squares, Varvarka Street, the Rossiya Hotel, and the River Moskva.

The idea to relocate government offices beyond the Moscow outer circular road was voiced by Medvedev, then the President, in June 2011. In late 2011, Russia’s Federation Council upper parliament house approved Moscow’s expansion plans to incorporate 148,864 hectares of lands in the Moscow region into the city of Moscow. Medvedev then ordered a number of federal and regional bodies to submit proposals on relocating state services to the territory of the so-called “new Moscow.” Later, the ministry of finance calculated the sum of such relocation – 500 billion roubles.

In July, top-ranking officials began to voice criticism of the project, saying it was too expensive and practically non-paying. It was rumored then that the project was going to be frozen. In mid-August, it was decided to postpone the final decision on the government’s relocation at least till March 2013, sources in the Russian government and the presidential administration told the Vedomosti newspaper. And although, President Putin admitted that such relocation plans are “a vital necessity” for the city “strangled” in traffic jams, these plans came under severe criticism as unpromising and loosing.

Architects who contended for the parliamentary centre project were the first to suggest that government institutions should in the long run stay in Moscow. Later, the initiative was voiced by the presidential property manager at a meeting with Putin. Architects, urban planning specialists, transport experts are positive: it is much cheaper and more convenient to build an administrative village inside the city.

“The major minus of the plans to move the government centre from Moscow is a high, excessive cost of the project amounting to trillions of roubles, if carefully calculated,” the Moskovskiye Novosti newspaper cites Andrei Chernikhov, a vice president of the International Academy of Architecture. “What we must do is to reorganize the city, to put in it in due order, to create a civilized tenanted housing market rather than waste money on relocation of state services.”

“A number of various relocation projects were offered for an international tender. Several teams said that the best option was to locate the government centre inside Moscow,” said Maxim Petrov, a vice president of the Russian Union of Architects. “It is more convenient and would cost less than to move the government outside the city. Such practices are common across the globe – from Brasilia to Astana.”

MOSCOW, October 19