Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Russian Oligarchs Oppose Pension Reform, Echos Of The Tea Party Russian Style

The similarities between oligarchic kleptocracies never ceases to amaze as these articles from the Moscow News amply illustrate. Unbeknownst to most Americans a struggle between Russian oligarchs and the Russian people now mirror Americans struggles to prevent the sell off of basic human benefits such as medical care or in this case social support for the elderly:

"Workers in dangerous jobs, generally involving oil or metal, just lost out as a long-discussed bill on employers paying more into their pensions was finally dealt a mortal blow by the Duma.

The bill has been talked over since 2002 and Friday’s death knell passed largely unnoticed, overshadowed by trade unionists and parliamentarians decrying the efforts of Mikhail Prokhorov, one of Russia’s richest men and leading light of the RSPP or ‘oligarch’s trade union’, to tilt the labour code in favour of the employer.

The pensions bill would have meant that workers in dangerous industries who retire up to ten years earlier would have their pension shortfall made up by employers. The standing situation poses ominous consequences for the pension fund.

Dead hand of the oligarchs

Of Russia’s 20 richest oligarchs 16 have made their money in the listed dangerous industries of oil, coal, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, pharmaceuticals, fertilizer, ports and airports, Moskovsky Komomolets reported.

The paper links this with the failure of the bill, something that Lyubov Maslova, of Alttrak, a currently mothballed tractor factory in Altai region, agrees with.

Yes, it would affect the tycoons’ profits and “Yes, they did affect [the fate of the bill], because it’s additional money that would go nowhere but to the welfare of the common worker,” Maslova told The Moscow News.

Interestingly Vladimir Putin, attempting to raise some sinking political capital has weighed in on the side of the workers:

"Amid proposals for increasingly liberal economic reforms, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was adamant about boosting the pension fund, and insisted on getting whatever funds necessary to provide adequate care for some 40 million veterans and pensioners.

“Everyone must pay for the pension system,” Putin said in a Monday video-link meeting with pension fund heads from eight federal districts. This came amid a growing debate on the budget deficit and talk from President Dmitry Medvedev’s advisors of easing the burden on businesses in paying social and pension fees.

In 2010, pensions rose by over 40 per cent, with people receiving an average of more than 8,800 roubles a month ($312). Putin pointed out that Russia was one of few countries that raised pensions during the economic crisis, and said pension spending would increase by 20 billion roubles ($0.7 billion) this year.

“There is money in the budget for this,” he said. “I want to stress that this is our top priority, and we must find the funds. We cannot allow a return to a situation of the 1990s, when pensions were not paid out for months.”

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