Wood for Welfare

With joblessness at a nine-year high and unemployment benefits capped at less than 5,000 rubles, the Kremlin are searching for cashless ways of curbing potential social unrest stemming from the continuing fallout from the financial crisis.  The latest government handout?  Lumber.  

From the Wall Street Journal:

[…] the Kremlin has a nightmare: That Russia’s weak economy — and the first decline in incomes in a decade — will undermine the nation’s de-facto one-party system.

“We’re trying to reduce social tension,” says Svetlana Polikova, a senior forestry official in Vologda, a region that’s also home to Russia’s answer to Santa Claus.

Even with the third-largest foreign-currency reserves in the world, Russia can’t afford to toss around welfare aid like sugar plums. But “wood is something we have reserves of,” says Yevgeny Trunov of Vologda’s Forestry Department.