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Russia launches campaign to fight privileges of state officials

March 21, 2012, 13:13 UTC+3

Dvorkovich is sure monetization of state officials’ benefits is not only possible, but necessary

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MOSCOW, March 21 (Itar-Tass) —— Russia’s presidential aide Arkady Dvorkovich, who is supervising economic issues, followed President Dmitry Medvedev speaking in favour of substituting natural benefits for officials with monetary compensations. He said on Tuesday this is not only possible, but necessary to make so. But experts fear the reform, which will be implemented by officials themselves, will cause a reverse effect: fighting privileges of state service may cause a jump of ministers’ wages and may lower real consumption of medium-level officials.

Dvorkovich is sure monetization of state officials’ benefits is not only possible, but necessary. The measure should refer first of all to housing, office cars and medical services, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports. Converting the benefits from the real form into the monetary version will save the budget’s money, Dvorkovich said. At the same time, he added, officials should have the wages, with which they would be able to receive a mortgage loan or to hire a flat “at normal market rates, without including those benefits into the budget.”

Work on the idea to monetize benefits of officials will soon become an order of President Dmitry Medvedev to the government and the presidential administration, Arkady Dvorkovich said. The idea, the Kommersant says, may be well used for a new round of fight for raising nominal wages of state officials and for bringing those wages to the income of management at state-run companies. In fact, official benefits of most of 1.6 million Russia’s state officials have been monetized in 2005 already. The new fight against privileges may cause a deficit of the medium-level officials in the state service, if it affects ministerial benefits which are not classified as privileges.

Experts, whom the Kommersant questioned, support the very principle of monetization though as yet it is not clear what the new fight against privileges will bring. Aleftina Gulyugina of the All-Russian Centre of Life Standards is sure “clearly, benefits are to be cut and revised strictly.” However, she added “ordinary officials do not have multi-million subsidies for buying housing, nor do they receive business-class vehicles – such benefits are for high-ranking officials having high salaries, who may afford buying a good car and using it with their own money.” Svetlana Misikhina of the Institute of Macro Economic Research of Russia’s Academy of Economics and State Service is absolutely against any benefits, as “money is better than benefits, and benefits are not transparent.”

Associate Professor of the Higher School of Economics Pavel Kudyukin says: discussions on monetization of officials’ benefits have been going on for over 15 years, and a provision on monetization of officials’ benefits is fixed in the concept of reforming the state service, which was adopted on August 15, 2001. “There is no improvement here, and it is not likely to be implemented now.”

Alexei Mukhin, Director General of the Centre of Political Information also doubts the reform made by officials for officials would contradict their interests, the Novye Izvestia writes. “I believe, the initiative would be perverted so that the officials are happy with the innovation,” he said. “In fact, fight against benefits has been an effective instrument since late 80s to demonstrate to the nation the authorities care for it. But usually it improves living conditions of state officials, and fighting itself becomes a profanation.”

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