Russia implements Putin 'May decrees' to sweeten elections
The Russian government announced that it has almost completed the so-called "May decrees" signed by President Vladimir Putin in May 2012 that imposed a heavy social spending plan on Russia's regions ahead of a general election due this September.
"So far the government had to fulfill 175 instructions, of which 154 orders, or 88% of the total were supposed to be implemented by now," according to the government's website. Another 64 orders are still pending, of which 11 deadlines are due this year.
Putin is due to hold a meeting on May 17 to check on progress, and while some of the orders have performed well, many are behind schedule, an unnamed official told Vedomosti. Officials blamed the deteriorating economic situation that has driven many regions into increasing debt.
The financial performance of Russia's regions has been mixed: while only 6 out of 89 regions were net contributors to the budget in the 1990s (mostly oil producing regions, plus Moscow and St Petersburg), that number has increased to about 25 now, with another 25 more or less breaking even and the remainder dependent on handouts from the centre.
The decrees are the centre piece of the Kremlin's strategy to visibly improve the standard of living across the country in an effort to garner support for the ruling United Russia party ahead of this year's elections.
The decrees seek to raise living standards, but have put a strain on the slowing economy. Putin has repeatedly berated the Cabinet for being behind on the schedule that the decrees set forth. This includes orders to raise salaries for teachers and doctors or provide better quality drinking water.
"Can we do this? Of course, we can," Putin said two years ago at a conference of the People's Front For Russia, the latest pro-Kremlin movement, according to the Kremlin's website. "We need to get rid of all the things that … are ineffective and costly, and do not produce due results for both individual citizens and the state as a whole."
But as the elections loom the results have been mixed. However, Putin is in personal control of a RUB100bn ($1.5bn) fund written into the budget which he can use at his personal discretion that will almost certainly be deployed to deliver on visible changes to support the Kremlin's election plan.
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