Streetwise Professor

July 2, 2010

An Enemy to the Party!

Filed under: Economics,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 11:56 am

I have often expressed my admiration for Russia’s Finance Minister, Alexi Kudrin.  My respect has only increased after reading this broadside:

Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin’s proposal to raise the retirement age is an attack on the United Russia party that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin chairs, a senior party official said.

“Kudrin, with fatal insistence, is advocating increasing the pension age,” said Andrei Isayev, the party’s first deputy secretary of the presidium, according to comments posted on the United Russia website today. “He is making an active play against the party, causing the electorate’s outrage.”

Against the party!  Heaven forfend!  That sounds right out of the 1930s–or 1984.

Kommersant adds additional detail, emphasizing that Isayev leveled the most devastating charge against Kudrin: he’s a liberal:

Isayev called the finance minister “liberals’ informal leader” trying to engineer “a decrease of the ruling party’s  support in elections” through knowingly unpopular initiatives that  would make voters indignant. “Since United Russia said more than once that it would vote against any increase of the retirement age… it is clear that Kudrin’s proposal is but an attempt to put a spoke in the party’s wheels.” Warming up to the subject, Isayev said that the latest political season revealed an alarming trend, namely that the opposition was now criticizing both the ruling party and its leader Vladimir Putin. “Considering how closely Putin and United Russia are associated in the eyes of voters, our opponents hope to boost their own political clout at the cost of United Russia leader’s,” said Isayev.

Interesting how Isayev is accusing a senior minister in the government, who serves at Putin’s pleasure, of being an “opponent” and de facto member of the opposition.  Further interesting that Isayev considers it “an alarming trend” that the opposition would have the temerity to criticize United Russia–and Putin.  Uhm, what are oppositions supposed to do?  Oh, I forgot: there’s not supposed to be an opposition.

The hysterical nature of Isayev’s screed suggests either a Sovietesque intolerance for dissent, or nervousness about the party’s political prospects, or both.

In fact, Kudrin is an ultimate realist who deals primarily in facts rather than dogma, especially party dogma.  His proposals are based on a sober appraisal of objective forces.

Russian macroeconomic policy has been quite reasonable under Kudrin’s stewardship.  He has always been a voice of sanity during both boom and bust.  Which is probably why Putin keeps him around despite the fact that he crimps the style of the siloviki and nouveau apparatchiks like Isayev.

And Kudrin is not a member of the “what, me worry?” school of Russian demographics (the charter member of which is a frequent commentor:) :

The number of working adults will equal that of pensioners by 2030, Kudrin said. There are 128 working adults for every 100 pensioners in the country today, he told the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum last month. Russia’s demographic problem is “worse than in other countries,” he said.

Indeed, demographic concerns underlay his proposal.  In contrast, political short-termism of the rankest sort motivates the histrionics of Isayev.

Kudrin’s grounding in reality, and his focus on the long term is why I admire him.  His ability to do that under what have to be difficult political circumstances is all the more admirable.

Which is why that I wish that the SVR would hatch diabolical plot to plant Kudrin as an “illegal” in the US, with the ultimate aim of infiltrating him into the deepest recesses of American economic policy structures.

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  1. Nah, Obama would tell Kudrin something like: talk to the hand, anyway. So no use of him in US.

    I don’t quite get why Putin and his comrades always focus on the short-term views and policies, that’s usual in normal democracies where political parties do not rule for 10 years or more (counts for Obama). Russians obviously do not care about forged elections, United Russia is in power and will be so for a while. Why don’t implement long-term policy that would help tighten the economic gap between Russia and West than? Putin’s position is save so why not try to make something in Russian interest? Maybe because that would mean he has to WORK actually.

    And btw, I do not think Kudrin is that much of a hero. He just looks like that because of hysterical reactions of some Vlad’s puppies. But it says something about the country leadership when advocating of proposal to raise the retirement age – just something party is against – is considered such a heavy crime. Not surprising though, given Russia had opposition last time in… err, like… when brontosauruses walked the planet?

    Comment by deith — July 2, 2010 @ 6:14 pm

  2. Alas, ???? ?????? is a farce.

    Comment by So? — July 2, 2010 @ 7:52 pm

  3. I agree that Russia should raise it’s retirement age. In particular for women, which has to be raised from 55 to equalize with the men’s at 60, and then both raised to 62-65. It’s quite ridiculous that the group that lives 12 years longer gets to retire 5 years earlier.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — July 2, 2010 @ 10:12 pm

  4. Maybe Russian women get to retire earlier as compensation for the fact that they are TWENTY TIMES more likely to be murdered by their husbands than their American counterparts, routinely victimized by all manner of domestic abuse, and often are worn out by being the soul support for their worthless, drunken husbands.

    Perhaps, what’s ridiculous is to be so utterly ignorant of the plight of Russian women.

    Comment by La Russophobe — July 3, 2010 @ 10:19 pm

  5. There’s a subtle difference between a man like Kudrin and one like Putin: Kudrin loves his country.

    He knows how dismally and relentlessly Russia fails every international evaluation of its performance

    and he’s man enough, and loves his country enough, to want to reform and improve rather than sweeping it all under the carpet and waiting for the hidden defects to cause a(nother) national collapse.

    Comment by La Russophobe — July 3, 2010 @ 10:55 pm

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