Nikolai Moskovchenko: rape of the Moscow Duma, taking advantage of the victim’s helpless condition

The Moscow city’s budget for 2002 was adopted last week. Everything passed off surprisingly quietly and peacefully, as if by stealth. Also furtively, utility bills are going to be doubled for Muscovites starting next year. Yet, one deputy voted against this measure. Below, you will find an interview with this deputy, Nikolai Moskovchenko, by our correspondent Anatoli Baranov.

Q. When one soldier is marching in step while the platoon is out of step, you know what it’s like. The Moscow Duma (city council) now looks like the mayor’s allegiant platoon. Why are you so stubborn? A. After the Moscow city Duma adopted on November 23rd the 2002 budget, there was a meeting of the city government, at which, proceeding from those budget figures, it was decided to raise utility bills from January 1st by 100%. I expect that this decision will be considered at a Duma meeting as soon as the coming Wednesday, and I am sure that it will be approved unanimously by our “platoon.”

Q. We already discussed this in early summer, if you remember. It became evident then that utility bills would be frozen in the runup to the election and would soar in the wake of it.

A. Yes. And the incumbent deputies will take a decision, the responsibility for which will be pinned on the deputies of the next election. Moscow city hall demonstrates an astonishing capability of manipulating this body. However, it is not only the moral side of the matter that concerns us. The point is that the needed solution is being taken at the time of the election campaign, which is completely controlled by the executive power – a kind of rape of the Moscow Duma taking advantage of the victims’ helpless condition. Economist Mikhail Delyagin is absolutely right saying that a rise in utility bills in Moscow should be considered as a move to be taken by the authorities only in case of emergency if those authorities are accountable to the electors. We have to wonder whether everything possible has been done to raise the city budget’s yield or to lower expenditures.

Q. And you think not everything has been done?

A. I think that the city administration has not taken trouble at all. What for? Its attitude to Muscovites can be expressed as “it is our cow, and we milk it.” The city budget’s revenue is planned at the level of over Rbs243bn, while the expenditures are planned at about Rbs253bn, the net being equal to Rbs9.8bn. It could have been done the other way around. You may just look out of the window and see some Cyclopean project paid for in part or totally from the city coffer. Do we need the biggest skyscraper in the "Moskva City” complex? Do we need the Gostiny Dvor shopping mall, which is virtually always empty? Take, at last, the underground shopping complex on Manezh Square. It is quite clear by now that it will never pay for itself. Still, we stubbornly carry on with it. Can’t you see that is another pyramid-shaped structure that will sooner or later bury Moscow city’s budget. As for the residents, they are treated fairly cynically. It would be delusive to think that the city budget still retains its social orientation. True, about 40% of the budget is aimed at that sphere. However, in essence, it is like taking the last piece of bread from a beggar, then, after breaking off, returning it in the form of social payments.

Q. You mean to say that Moscow today representa a rich city with a poor population?

A. Yes, with the majority of the poor. Surely, part of the Muscovites who have access to the budgetary pie may feel very good.

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