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Grigory Pasko: Putin’s List

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Who lives well in Russia?

Grigory Pasko, journalist

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In their day, every schoolchild in the USSR knew the phrase that serves as the title of this article – a poem by the Russian poet Nekrasov with such a name entered into the mandatory program of school education. Sometimes people remember this phrase today as well, but exclusively in a caustic tone, when they want to underscore the social inequality of people. Because nowadays the only ones who live well are those who are close to the power, who are loyal to it. Moreover, there are whole companies that even in the epoch of crisis can feel themselves well and reliably protected by this power. It goes without saying that those for whom the living is always good in such conditions try not to think that they’re living at the expense of all the taxpayers of the entire country.

In the newspaper Vedomosti at the end of last year was published aseries of articles, one way or another dedicated to the Russianmonopolist – the company Gazprom. In one of them what was spoken of wasthat even very recently Gazprom had fiercely defended the pegging ofprices for gas to the price of oil (oil products). In essence, this wasa defense of high prices for gas in the future.

For Gazprom this is a boon: they have gotten used to living prettyand well there at the expense of others. But in any case the first toget hit by a high price for gas in conditions of crisis will be Russianconsumers.

Two thirds of the gas of Gazprom is consumed inside the country.Gazprom has gotten what it wanted – in the year 2009 prices for gaswill increase all told by more than 25%. They always told us thatGazprom – is the main supplier of tax money into the state budget. Nowwe see: instead of Gazprom saving the economy of the country, thecountry is saving Gazprom.

Gazprom and Rosneft have made it onto the list of enterprises towhich state support will be rendered. As RIA Novosti reports, aboutthis declared vice-premier Igor Sechin. “Like all system-formationalcompanies, they make it onto the listing of those who will receivestate support”, – said Sechin, replying to the question of whetherGazprom and Rosneft will enter into this listing.

In such a situation, the whole country would have the right toexpect of Gazprom a reduction of its expenditures, including for theupkeep of non-profile [non-core] assets. What do we see instead ofthis? The top-management of Gazprom even theoretically is not examiningthe possibility of forgoing non-profile assets or exiting from doubtfulprojects, like the construction of a tower-office in Saint Petersburg-the scandalously famous skyscraper «Okhta-centre» right next to thehistorical center of the city with a height of 396 meters. Even in theconditions of a crisis Gazprom has no intention of parting with thefootball club «Zenit».

«Zenit» – is an obviously non-profile asset. But in fact «on thebalance sheet» of Gazprom is also the German football club«Schalke-04». (The Russian company obligated itself to pay out to itduring the course of five years 100-125 mln. euros). It was not heardthat Gazprom had foregone the financing of this club either.

«Gazprom» approved its investment program for the year 2009 in thebase variant (920 bln rub.), not having gone ahead and reduced it to720 bln rub., as had been assumed. It had been reported that theexpenditures of the concern will grow by 12.4%. 700 bln rub. will bedirected toward capital investments, including the construction of gaspipelines.

In all this, nobody accented attention on such a fact: the cost ofproduction for «Gazprom» is growing faster than for the independent«Lukoil» and «Novatek», faster than for the Norwegians producing gas atsea. Why is this taking place? Because the most important company inthe country is being managed so inefficiently?

Only one answer suggests itself: because the model of managing thecountry (including the economy and individual companies) built by Putinand his friends has turned out to be ineffective and primitive,disastrous for the whole country.

The apotheosis of hand-steering such an economy in conditions ofcrisis became the appearance of the so-called “Putin’s List” — ofenterprises that will be deemed worthy of support (guarantees oncredits, the entry of the state into the capital and so forth). Theplan is such: to support concrete enterprises directly. Putin declaredabout one and a half thousand “lucky bastards”, then the list wassomehow on the quiet reduced to 500. A few days ago it turned out that”for now this is 250″. And already in this list there became apparentphantom companies, which exist only on paper: for example, OOO«Aviakompaniya». Where did it come from? Who lobbied its inclusion inthe list? Who in Russia lives so well that he can include anybody atall in lists of state financing?

It is already understandable that even in conditions of economiccrisis in Russia will remain those who in the Soviet time it wasaccepted to call «blatnye» – people and organizations financedat the expense of the state and the taxpayers. Under a real marketloss-making and inefficient companies would die their own naturaldeath. In conditions of Putinite capitalism they – half-dead andstinking – exist at the expense of the people. They live well in Russia…

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