POLL: THE GOVERNMENT’S PRIORITIES
Profil, August 4, 2001, EV
The National Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) has done a poll asking what people think ought to be the government’s top priorities. The highest proportion of respondents (41%) say the priority should be keeping prices under control. Another 28% emphasize strengthening the ruble and increasing its value against the dollar. Meanwhile, 27% of respondents say the government should focus on fighting crime; and 9% favor strengthening the military-industrial complex and the nation’s defense capacities.
POLL: THE ECONOMY
Novoe Vremya, August 5, 2001, EV
In a recent poll, respondents were asked how they think the economic situation and the lives of ordinary citizens will change over the next four or five years. Only 7% of respondents said they expect “significant improvement” in the situation; but only 6% expect “significant deterioration”. The two largest groups of respondents, both at 28%, expect that “life will be slightly better” and the economic situation will “remain the same”. Another 17% of respondents were uncertain.
Overall, there were fewer optimists among rural residents than among city residents. Young respondents were more optimistic than the elderly. There was also a positive correlation between optimism and education levels. Among entrepreneurs and the self-employed, optimists outnumber pessimists two to one. Most blue-collar workers believe that life for ordinary citizens will remain the same in five years’ time.
When asked what the government ought to do to get the nation out of crisis, most respondents (60%) say the priority for economic growth is “creating more favorable conditions for the development of Russian industry”. Considerably fewer respondents (13%) believe that “business taxes should be significantly reduced”, and another 10% support “creating a favorable climate for attracting foreign investment”.
Hope that the West will help revive the Russian economy appears to be weak: most respondents prefer not to rely on foreign loans. While 29% say Russia should borrow from the West, most respondents (46%) consider that “Russia doesn’t need Western loans”, and 25% are uncertain.
DOES THE KREMLIN NEED A DIFFERENT RIGHT-WING PARTY?
Inostranets, August 7, 2001, p. 7
According to some reports, Putin’s inner circle is working on plans to restructure the right-wing “niche” of politics, with the aim of removing it from the control of Anatoly Chubais. This primarily relates to changes in the leadership of the Union of Right Forces, or even creating a new right-wing party if necessary.
According to Chubais’s opponents in the Kremlin, this is necessary because of his expanding political ambitions; Chubais has declared that a Union of Right Forces presidential candidate should come second to Putin in the next presidential election.
Moreover, the Kremlin has the increasing suspicion (whether real, imaginary, or deliberately cultivated) that during the increasingly tense political season this autumn and winter Chubais could take part in forming some kind of right-wing oligarchic opposition, using the “renovated” NTV network controlled by Alfred Koch.
In the Kremlin’s plans to restructure the right, the main role is assigned to Sergei Kirienko, who is trying to get his own people into the leadership of the Union of Right Forces – admittedly, he hasn’t had much success.
Presumably, when it becomes necessary, Kirienko is meant to split the Union of Right Forces, lead an exodus of his own supporters, and start a new right-wing party.
But there are also some other potential leaders for a “Chubais-free” right-wing party: Mikhail Prusak, Vladimir Ryzhkov, Boris Federov, and Andrei Illarionov. There are reports that implementation of all these plans will be entrusted to the Policy Prospects Foundation (not to be confused with Gleb Pavlovsky’s Effective Policy Foundation). This has been set up as a think-tank for Viktor Cherkesov, presidential envoy for the North-Western federal district. It is said that relevant negotiations with Kirienko have already been held via political consultants from this center.
DIAGNOSIS FOR THE CAPITAL
Megapolis-Kontinent, No. 32, August, 2001, p. 7
According to Moscow epidemiologists, HIV infection is spreading in Moscow at two-and-a-half times the average Russian rate. Over the past 15 years, 172 Muscovites have been diagnosed with AIDS, and 102 of them have died, including two children. According to the Moscow State Epidemiological Monitoring Center, there are around 12,000 HIV-positive people in Moscow, including 17 children. Last year alone, 4,900 new cases of HIV infection were recorded in Moscow. This is 9% less than in 1999. However, it should be kept in mind that specialists believe the real number of HIV-positive people is at least five times higher. In other words, although Moscow is officially in ninth place among Russia’s cities according to the HIV rate, its real number of HIV-positive people is close to 25,000; the Russian AIDS Prevention Research Center puts the number at around 50,000. Health workers are also concerned about the situation in Moscow’s detention cells, where the HIV infection rate has doubled over the past year.
Independent experts say the outlook for Moscow is even worse: within two years, there will be around 200,000 HIV-positive people in Moscow. According to the Vadim Pokrovsky Center, up to 5,000 people a month become infected with HIV in Russia.
UPSWING IN HIGHER EDUCATION
Ekonomika i Zhizn, No. 31, August, 2001, p. 6
The number of students in Russia’s higher education institutions has increased by 16.4% over the past year, and enrollment numbers in technical colleges have risen by almost 10%. These levels are among the highest in the CIS.
But it’s not all good news. State spending on education and professional training in Russia is among the lowest in the CIS.
Why has the number of students increased? It’s simple: fee-based education has become widespread. This is the picture across the CIS. In the 2000-01 academic year, around 23-33% of students in state secondary specialized education institutions in Azerbaijan, Belarus, Russia and Ukraine were paying fees; in Armenia the figure was around 70%; in Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan it was 17-18%; in Kyrgyzstan it was 40%; and in Moldova it was 45%. In the state higher education institutions of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Russia, 29-33% of students were paying fees; in Armenia, Tajikistan, and Ukraine the figure was 41-43%; in Belarus it was 50%; in Kazakhstan and Moldova it was 14%; and in Kyrgyzstan it was 75%.
ALCOHOL PURCHASING PATTERNS IN 2001
Ekonomika i Zhizn, No. 31, August, 2001, p. 6
According to the State Statistics Committee, from January to May this year Russian consumers purchased 78.7 million decaliters of vodka and vodka-based liquers, or 103% of the level for the same period of last year.
Purchases of wines (made from grapes and other fruits) were also higher than in the first five months of 2000: up to 21.4 million decaliters (a rise of 4%).
Demand for brandy rose steeply: to 1.8 million decaliters (up by 25.7% on the same period of last year). However, purchases of champagne and sparkling wines were down to 5.8 million decaliters (a drop of 8.8%).
The undisputed leader in the January-May period was beer, for which demand rose by 18.8% compared with the same period of last year (to 235.5 million decaliters).
The total volume of pure alcohol in the beverages sold from January to May was 42.7 million decaliters, or 105.4% of the amount for the same period of last year.