Paul Goble, originally on Window on Eurasia
Staunton, May 12 – A government’s priorities and plans are most clearly shown in its budget, and over the last four years, the budgets Vladimir Putin has proposed and imposed are those of a leader preparing for war rather than someone concerned about the needs of the Russian people, according to Boris Nemtsov.
In a report on Ekho Moskvy on Saturday, Nemtsov, a Russian opposition leader, publishes a table showing Russian budgetary figures by sector and year since 2011. Over that period, military spending has risen 80 percent, and spending on the special services and police has gone up 50 percent (echo.msk.ru/blog/nemtsov_boris/1317420-echo/).
Putin’s priorities are obvious, he says. They are headed by “preparation for war and repressions inside the country.” They do not include education, health care or infrastructure development.
The greatest budgetary loser, Nemtsov points out, is education, spending for which if one takes inflation into account has fallen by 30 percent. That has led to the imposition of tuition at the university level and “the degradation” of higher education. The Russian opposition figure says that he is “certain that this is the conscious policy of the highest authority.”
Putin “doesn’t need the intelligent and the educated,” he says. Such people “give unnecessary questions, aren’t loyal and are more difficult to zombify.”
Spending on health care, again with inflation taken into account has fallen by “almost a quarter.” Given that high levels of mortality exceed fertility and “under conditions of African-level life expectancy,” such a pattern of spending on health “cannot be characterized as anything but that of an occupation regime.”
Nemtsov says he is “convinced that the preservation of the nation is not among the plans of the Kremlin.” Instead, Putin and his regime want to continue to depend on immigrants and the sale of raw materials. And in that event, they do not need all that many workers. Fifteen million would suffice.
The central Russian budget has also cut financing, with inflation taken into account, to the regions by 40 percent over the past four years. Given that the Kremlin has imposed a wide range of unfunded liabilities, it is no surprise that many regional governments are in debt and have had to freeze development projects, pay and benefits.
As Nemtsov points out, even the regime’s main support group, the pensioners, have suffered. This year, the pension budget “practically did not increase,” even though the number of pensioners did and the prices for the goods they need did as well.
The opposition leader concludes with a rhetorical question: “Is this not too high a price to pay for the desire of one man to rule forever by enslaving his neighbors?”