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Grigory Pasko: Moscow’s Budget under Crisis

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Living well isn’t against the law…

Moscow’s budget in the epoch of crisis

Grigory Pasko, journalist

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A friend of mine works in the administration of one of the rayons [administrative districts, like New York’s boroughs or Paris’s arrondissements–Trans.] of Moscow. We meet with him rarely, but enough to understand from his stories how the administrative world of the capital of the largest state in the world is set up. It’s set up strangely. Judge for yourselves.

Once, in January of this year, my friend drove off around his rayon to form… brigades for catching stray dogs. It’s done like this. An official comes (my friend is an official not of the lowest echelon by Muscovite measures) to the housing-exploitation office (they’re now called directorates or administrations) and randomly chooses two surnames from a list provided. These could be Tajik streetsweepers or Russian plumbers Having written down these surnames on a separate list of members of the dog-catching brigade, he leaves. What happens next is already completely irrelevant to this exercise.

The actual catching of the dogs is going to be done by special brigades that they’ve got in Moscow and that get their money under another program, not out of the rayon budget. And these, the rayon dog-catchers, are going to exist only on paper. The efficiency of such «work» becomes even more understandable if you take into account that in one rayon there can be from one and a half to two thousand individual stray dogs. And members of the brigade for catching them – a few more than a dozen people. To put it more precisely – eight brigades of two people each for the entire district in which my friend works. Fifteen hundred dogs versus 16 people.

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A dog beside a trade kiosk in the Moscow rayon of Maryino (photo by Grigory Pasko)

Some more numbers. In the budget of the capital of Russia for the year 2009 are planned expenditures for catching homeless dogs and placing them in specially equipped shelters in an amount of over two billion rubles. According to statistics, around 30-35 thousand stray dogs are running around in the capital outside the control of the capitoline officials. It turns out that concern for them is going to cost taxpayers 75 thousand rubles per year for each one. For comparison: on stray humans (they’re also called bomzhi [an acronym of the Russian term “without a fixed place of residence”–Trans.] and they dwell, in the main, in the metro and at railroad stations), the mayoralty of Moscow will spend in the year 2009 nearly a billion rubles. That is, half as much as on dogs.

Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov, as they’re saying, prides himself on the fact that the budget of the capital for the year 2009, assessed at 1 trln 663 bln rubles, is comparable with the budget of New York and other world capitals. The revenue side consists 90% of tax receipts, moreover of them 36.8% fall on the incomes of physical persons. In ruble equivalent, this comprises on the order of 552 billion. What will this money go for?

For the construction of the infrastructure of the skyscraper complex «Moskva-Siti» (including the pretentious «Rossiya» tower of the architect Norman Foster) will go 5.4 bln rubles. Moreover, if earlier Luzhkov intended to finance the skyscrapers at the expense of attracting the funds of investors, then now for some reason he has decided to do this at the expense of taxpayers-Muscovites.

Likewise in the year 2009, mayor Luzhkov is planning to continue the construction of a monorail road. When I was in Sydney, local residents told me that the monorail built there is the greatest shame and the biggest architectural failure of this city. And they were very surprised when they found out that the Muscovite mayor loves such projects. In all in Moscow for the development of monorail operations in the year 20009 has been allocated 400 mln rubles. If you take into account that hardly anyone uses this road, that in the whole world it is acknowledged as inefficient, then you can say that the money is going to be thrown to the wind.

In the budget of the year 2009 there are also such exotic little things as the construction of dirigibles – it is planned to spend 100 mln rubles on 12 units of dirigibles. One might think that in an epoch of crisis the one thing missing in Moscow is dirigibles.
By the way, for the support of the officials themselves in the year 2009 taxpayers are going to pay 30 bln rubles. Just for the deputies of the Mosgorduma [city council–Trans.] will be expended 1.2 bln rubles. That is, every capitoline lawmaker will cost 25 mln rubles per year. The support of a member of the Europarliament comes out cheaper.

Besides this, the mayor is planning to build a hotel of luxe class on the shore of the Dead Sea. In Israel. He also wants to erect a children’s camp in Bulgaria, build so-called Moscow Houses in Minsk, Vilnius, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Kishinev. Why such a strange geography, nobody knows, not even the deputies of the Mosgorduma, who had confirmed the budget. Evil tongues are saying that present in all these places is the construction business of Luzhkov’s spouse, the biznes-vumen Yelena Baturina – the wealthiest, according to Forbes magazine, woman in Russia.

…As an ordinary rank-and-file Moscow taxpayer, I’m guessing that stray dogs don’t enter into Baturina’s sphere of interests.

Upper image:  A model of the «Rossiya» tower of the architect Norman Foster at the Biennale in Venice (photo by Grigory Pasko)