Speaking of Russian political parties’ programs, one should note their eclecticism. However this specific feature can be noted not only in the Russian politics. For example, while pursuing rather a right-center policy, including lowering social expenditures and privatization, among other things, it was only in the 1990s that the British laboristis excluded from their Charter the famous 4th Article that had been there since 1918. The Article proclaimed their eagerness to secure for workers of physical and intellectual labor their labor output in full and its most just distribution on the basis of public ownership on means of production. That, however, due to a number of reasons, provided no grounds to consider Mr. Blair’s party either leftist, nor communist1.
Nonetheless let us try to assess economic programs the major Russian political parties put forward in their recent Duma campaign.
The United Russia’s program provides too little answers to the question of its political substance, though it appears essentially right-centrist2. In particularly, it reads: ‘We wish to build in Russia a just society based upon the government social policy, in which a high level of social protection is secured and equal starting opportunities are created for everyone… Our priorities are: fostering conditions in which most of the population will be able to solve their socio-economic problems by their own; social partnership; an efficient system of social guarantees, redistribution of benefits in favor of those who are really needy, a targeted social assistance, formation of a single system of social insurance and health protection’. As concerns economic priorities, the programs refers to ‘assisting to development of high-tech science and industry branches; enhancing the quality of public property management; a rational taxation of natural resources; improving the business environment in the country, structural reforms and development of the financial market; debureaucratization of the economy, development of medium-size and small businesses; uniform competition procedures between participants in the economic life’.
However, another document, ‘the Pre-lection Program of Political Party ‘United Russia’ shows an absolutely different stance. ‘By contrast with the ‘reformers’ of the 80s and 90s who failed to achieve the major goal, that is, the rise in the majority of Russians’ welfare, we accept only such reforms that ensure the welfare. One should abandon the market romanticism in favor of the government pragmatism where the main thing is result. The major condition for achieving this particular goal is s sustained economic growth at a high pace, 8% annually on average’, the Program Preamble goes.
The party put forward ‘centrism’ as its slogan, which was used vigorously in its election campaign. Interestingly, the party opposed itself both to the communists and the rightists. Centrism is interpreted as realism, responsibility, etc., which undoubtedly did not added too much to its portrait. In its economic section (p. 2.2.1) the Program set the task of overcoming the mineral-based nature of the national economy and argues that ‘…the current favorable situation in the foreign trade area allows to transfer a part of revenues from the mineral sector to processing industries. We are going, by means of a flexible tax policy, to withdraw super-profits in the oil and gas complex and to spend them on developing infrastructure and high tech. By regulating export tariffs, we plan to change the structure of export in favor of machine-engineering produce and high-tech sectors. The description of ‘the public policy aimed at support and development of high-tech, innovation sectors’ leaves a very broad room for speculations as to what that all means. As concerns MIC (p.2.3.2) the program argues about ‘a full state control, electricity sector – control over tariffs (p.2.2.4), while for agriculture it suggests relatively modern vehicles, that is, to develop preferential credit system, exchanges, among others.
The Program set the task (p. 2.4.1.) of ‘increasing social payments to the level not lower than the subsistence one’, which de-facto implies a requirement to increase them in many times. The Program proudly reckons that the party initiated ‘the adoption of an act that increases the minimum salary rate up to 600 Rb. a month starting from October 1, 2003, while the first grade rate grew up to 450 Rb.3’ The Program stresses retaining numerous subsidies in the sector for housing and utilities, as well as that United Russia allegedly ‘blocked the transition to the 100% level of payments for the services in question, while for the needy the level was lowered by 30-50%’.
In parallel, the program sets the task of debueraucratization of the economy, while very general contours of the health care, education and pension system reform raise no objections.
Though the document argues that the lowered tax rates are the UR’s merit, the party does not raise basic right-centrists claims, namely, lowering the public social obligations, furthering tax cuts, and privatization of public property.
Overall, it can be argued that the party’s program documents contain deliberately broad statements, though their rhetoric implies a lot of attacks on the rightists.
The CPRF program adopted in 1995 leaves an impression of a substantially earlier drafted document. In addition to digressions to, and declarations of the past4, it contains a ‘program-minimum’, though no ‘program-maximum’ (clearly, following the bolshevick traditions, the latter is a secret).
The minimum program particularly emphasizes the ‘unacceptability of private property for land and natural wealth, their sale and purchase, along with implementation of the ‘ the land belongs to the people and those who develop it’ principle, ‘ restoring the government control over production and incomes’; ‘ implementation of urgent public regulation measures to stop the production decline’, ‘ returning to the Russian citizens the guaranteed socio-economic rights for labor, rest, housing, free education and health care, secured old age’; ‘toughening repressive measures with respect to those who are involved in property theft, corruption, speculation, gangsterism, selling out the country’s natural resources, material and spiritual wealth’.
Despite Mr. Zuganov’s repeated statements about support to small and medium-size businesses during the campaign, his addresses were very peculiar. Thus commenting on mr. Khodorkovsky’s arrest, he claimed that ‘.. here is Mr. Chubais is being infuriated about the situation with YUKOS, but it was he who has sowed these dragon’s teeth, and now they are sprouting. Basically, the enforcement agencies should have get hold of Chubais first’. In Mr. Zuganov’s view, privatization that the current head of RAO UES Russia led in the 1990s was ‘both illicit and criminal’ and it was that which paved the way to the current situation of a new property redistribution. The remedy lies with ‘the people’s will realized through a referendum, which should result in regaining the public control over Russia’s natural wealth’. Though not degrading to mr. Zhirinovsky’s level, Mr. Zuganov nevertheless also addressed some plumbing problems in his peculiar fashion: ‘Whatd difference does it make for the Russians if a part of the national wealth previously belonged to Berezovsky, and now it has been re-assigned to Abramovich’5.
The political program by LDPR is relatively far from the ritual spells ‘We are for poor, we are for the Russians’. More specifically, ‘…in its activity, LDPR is guided by liberalism and democracy. LDPR understands liberalism as a genuine, not supposed freedom. This is primarily protection of civic rights and individual freedom for people of any nationality that populate the Russian state. Democracy, as it is understood by LDPR, suggests the democratic structure of the state in the form of the presidential republic, democratic nature of all branches of power, that is, legislature, executive and judicial ones’6. The party proclaims quite dirigist slogans in the economic area: ‘First, the state should control economic processes in the country. Second, a powerful public sector of the economy should be restored. Thirdly, due to climatic conditions when the production costs in the country are always higher than overseas, the government should support national producers in their competition against foreign partners’.
LDPR proposes specific measures that all but not new and represent a>
The program put forward by block ‘Rodina’7 represents, in some sense, an unabridged CPRF program. It proclaims ‘ the annual increment in GDP by not less than 10%,providing the government pursues a targeted economic policy that suggests structural reconstruction and modernization of the economy on the modern technological basis, a drastic boost of investment and innovation activities’ as its fundamental purpose. It can be achieved by means of ‘ the system of the state economic policy measures, including the use of government guarantees under attraction of credits to finance promising economy modernization projects, unfolding the system of banks of development, implementation of targeted investment programs of structural reconstruction of the economy, re-orientation of the monetary policy towards provision of credits the production sphere, and stop of the illegal capital exportation. At the same time, holding inflation within pre-set limits necessitates a radical enhancement of the control over prices for energy sources and natural monopolists’ services and curbing their rise by limiting it with consumer prices growth rates and real incomes of most of the population’.
It is proposed to increase the federal budget ‘in 1.5 times minimum’ ‘only thanks to the natural rent’. Rodina drafted a bill on introducing an additional tax on subsoil users and claims that it is aimed at ‘returning to the state the right for withdrawal of the natural rent in favor of the whole society’. The block estimates the value of the rent at the level of USD 50 bn. annually.
The owner is to be made ‘responsible before the society for efficient use of property as well as for the effects, including social and economic, from his entrepreneurial activities’.
To ensure such a responsibility, it is proposed ‘to retain the public (people’s) ownership over natural resources, major energy, transportation, information and social infrastructure systems, basic enterprises of the defense complex, financial sphere as well as those involved in the production of alcohol, narcotic and other dangerous for the man’s health substances’; to use ‘ mixed (with the governmental participation) property forms and government regulation in highly monopolized spheres of the economy’.
The program confirms the safety of legally acquired property, however at the same time it is suggested to ‘conduct investigation of all suspicious transactions associated with privatization of public property with the abolition through judicial procedures of illicit acts and collecting the underpaid in the course of privatization funds to the revenue part of the state budget’.
The block proclaims a>
According to the pre-eletion program by the Union of Rightists Forces (SPS)8, the party advocates ‘the way towards fostering democracy and market, forming an open political system and innovational economy, knowledge-based economy, i.e. towards democratic market’. The party proclaimed rightist, liberal values, as far as basic economic parameters are concerned: the need for a professional army, reforming the social sector, including health care, education and research, the sector for housing and utilities, as well as the administrative and banking reforms, furthering the judicial, tax, pension reforms, drastic changes in the migration policy, solidifying guarantees of personal safety and private property protection.
In the educational, health care areas and the pension system (though without addressing the research area) SPS proponed the principles of fixing and limiting the governmental responsibility for delivery of free services. In addition, the party proposed further tax cuts: more specifically it was proposed to cut VAT down to 15%; to reduce the list of goods (works, services) whose sales is exempted from VAT taxation to the list of ‘standard’ exemptions practiced worldwide coupled with the cancellation of other benefits; maintenance of the flat personal income tax rate; increase in tax rebates for education and medical costs; harmonization of taxation of public and private pension and insurance plans (provision of rebates on contributions to private specialized organizations); lowering the effective social tax rate and lifting the restrictions on access to the regressive tax rate; lowering the presumptive tax rate, among others.
As concerns the mineral resources tax, SPS likewise proposed to increase its rate in the carbohydrate minerals area coupled with an introduction of the 3-year statute of limitation on privatization transactions and fixing a dual approach to consideration of abuses of law in the course of implementation of those; a termless application of legal penalties for the revealed and proved in the court of law breaches of law by officials and their counterparts, and securing an absolute principle of property inviolability.
SPS, by and large, has proved to be the only party that declared a unambiguous and tolerant attitude towards privatization, though that task was not directly articulated.
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