President Yeltsin and First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais addressed a meeting of the Council on Local Government on September 30 and told the gathering of regional and local leaders that, in the future, fixed norms will reduce the dependence of local authorities on federal transfers and will give them real autonomy. (Rossiiskaya gazeta, October 1). On September 10 the State Duma overrode the Federation Council’s veto of the new local government finance bill, and on September 25 it was signed into law by Yeltsin.
The new law is seen as a ploy by the central government to rein in the governors and presidents of Russia’s 88 regions and republics, and as such it was bitterly opposed by the Federation Council, which is comprised of regional leaders. (Kommersant-daily, October 1) In 1988, for the first time, a share of budget revenues will be earmarked for city and district councils. The law will have little effect in regions such as Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, where mayors are appointed by the republican authorities. Also, the devil will be in the details. Precise arrangements for revenue sharing between federal, regional, and local authorities have not yet been worked out. The local councils’ share may well get lost in the political feuding over the new tax code and 1998 budget.
Meanwhile, the government is making good on its promise to help regional authorities pay off their wage debts to their employees by the end of this year. First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev announced on October 1 that the federal government will transfer money to the regions to cover 50 percent of their wage debts by January 1. One trillion rubles will be sent in October, 3.4 trillion rubles in November, and 5.1 trillion rubles in December, for a total of 9.5 trillion rubles ($1.7 billion). The federal government will spend an additional 1.3 trillion rubles paying off its own wage arrears. (Russian agencies, October 1)
Slow Progress in the Russian Countryside.