By putting German Gref – head of the federal Ministry for Economic Development and Trade – in charge of Chechnya’s economic restoration, Putin is raising expectations that will be difficult to meet. Gref flew to Chechnya on May 15, accompanied by a high-powered delegation that included 35 senior bureaucrats from 26 different federal agencies, as well as Moscow businessmen. An article in Novye Izvestia on May 17 observed that “it has been a long time since Chechnya has seen such a large number of high-ranking officials.”
According to an article by Olga Tropkina in Izvestia on May 16, Gref opened his public meeting with top Chechen officials – including Ramzan Kadyrov and Sergei Abramov -by acknowledging what everyone already knows, namely, that the existing federal program for rebuilding Chechnya has been a total failure and needs to be radically restructured. He and his colleagues proceeded to express a confidence in their ability to do this for which there seemed little basis in concrete experience.
“Gref has managed to do in three hours what we had been trying to do for three years,” Abramov told journalists. “It has been decided that within three years the roads and the residential buildings in Chechnya will be restored…a full-fledged banking system will begin to function, taxes will be cut, and private capital will be arriving.”
Abramov’s words were only slightly less euphoric than those of Gref himself, which were also reminiscent of the extravagant forecasts of the old Soviet five-year plans. On May 15, the Newsru.com website quoted Gref as predicting that “ten years from now the Chechen Republic will be one of the most successful regions in Russia.” He said that it had already been decided to provide $US10 million for the restoration of Grozny’s “Severny” (Northern) Airport.
But in an interview with Izvestia’s Tropkina, Gref agreed that he and his colleagues still did not have any “concrete plan” to achieve his and his colleagues’ ambitious goals. When asked if he has been investigating why money previously allocated for the restoration of Chechnya had vanished, he said that such questions were a task for “other organs” of government.
An independent economist, Mikhail Delyagin of the Institute on Problems of Globalization, told Novye Izvestia that “if federal subsides have been spent so ineffectively for so many years, this can hardly have been a secret either for the federal center or for Gref personally.” Delyagin added: “Thus an investigation is needed not only in Grozny but also in Moscow – and it absolutely should make the facts public, along with the names of the guilty. To conceal such information will only lead to repeating the current situation.” Delyagin said that for years federal funds arriving in Chechnya “have been spent solely by the principle of dividing them up by clans.”