Will social sector become the first victim of government reshuffles?
This week, the topic of possible reshuffles in the Russian government provoked serious concerns among both local and Western experts. Some people gathered signatures to dismiss Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, others forecast personnel reshuffles before or after the State Duma elections, some even claimed that President Vladimir Putin has already launched a large-scale cycle of reshuffles before the presidential elections in 2018.
The director of the Institute for Applied Political Studies, Grigory Dobromelov, is sure that after September the Cabinet of Ministers will be significantly changed, Moreover, the social sector will become the first victim, because the current team does not have sufficient lobbying resources to understand the key issues.
The expert predicts that the Deputy Prime Minister for Social Affairs, Olga Golodets, will be dismissed for the sake of improving efficiency. It is very likely that the Minister of Labour, Maksim Topilin, will also be dismissed. "Despite the fact that I don't have many complaints regarding the Minister of Health, it is possible that Veronika Skvortsova will also lose her position. It is hard to say anything about the Education Minister [Dmitry Livanov], he will probably stay,’’ Dobromelov believes.
"It has already became the norm that the social and economic sectors are happily saying the same thing, while shouting that they need more money for social payments. But the federal budget is formed in a way that initially everything is taken from the regions, and then returned by a distribution method. All the regional budgets are 85-90% composed of various types of social payments. In other words, there is only 10% for economic development. The social sector asks for more and more money all the time. But how is it spent? The government has no strategic vision, and the social sector has no understanding of how many people require social payments," the expert stressed.
According to him, the percentage of demographic additional payments in the regions ranges from 15% to 30%: "This is not corruption, just additional payments – money that goes nowhere. It is necessary to know the address where social assistance should go in order to make it targeted. The first thing that the new ministers must do is order a total audit, a total recalculation and accounting system of all those who receive various social benefits. When we begin to effectively use those funds that we have, we will find out that this money is more than enough. And there is no need to cut anything, and there is definitely no need to ask for extra money."
Grigory Dobromelov thinks that officials are not interested in payments becoming targeted, because the current system feeds a huge army of all the social services: "If we make the social address system electronic, it will become clear that there is enough money. Only then can we somehow fix the situation, because it is obvious that there won't be new funds in the economy in the near future."