Reform of housing and communal services: “Just pay and you will be happy”

Debates about the reform of housing and communal services in Russia are still continuing. As a matter of fact, everybody admits that something should be done, for, if the situation does not change to the better in the nearest future, there will be simply nothing to reform. The main question is how to carry out the reform without damaging Russian citizens’ incomes. This dilemma was the subject of all-Russian forum on housing and communal services, which took place on March 12. In particular, the participants of the forum discussed the reform’s plans for 2002-2010. There were also some positive moments at the forum: the best plants of housing and communal services were awarded. Though, in general the situation with housing and communal services is far from being prosperous. According to the first deputy chairman of State Construction Committee of the RF (Gosstroy), Sergei Kruglik the total square of tumbledown dwellings in Russia increased twice within recent 10 years. According to his information, there is over 50 million square metres of tumbledown dwellings, which makes about 2 percent of the whole housing resources of the country. About 2 million people live in almost ruined houses, while number of breakdowns in communal sphere increased 5 times. S.Kruglikov expressed on the forum the government’s position, that the situation could be bettered through 100-percent payments for communal services, which must be introduced as soon as possible. This idea is not new from Russian functionaries, as well as that pensioners and disabled persons will receive subsidies to pay for their flats. According to Kruglik, the 100-percent payments for housing and communal services could allow to yearly save about 60 billion rubles (2 billion dollars) for budgets of all levels since the year 2004. In this way, in 2002-2010 about 514 billion rubles (approximately 17 billion dollars) could be released in budget system of Russia, what practically corresponds with possible expends for housing and communal services. Of course, this idea is great, both in words and on the paper. Moreover, this tradition of equal payments for communal service should be cancelled. Though, is there a guarantee that immortal Russian principle “We did the best – you see the rest” will not be put into practice? For the time being, nobody could explain how the communal services would start to work better, if even most of Russian citizens pay fully for their flats. Because plants of housing and communal services have always been monopolists in their sphere. Who could compete with them, if many houses in Russia are in a very bad condition? A private businessman will be a bankrupt soon, only supplying water pipes and paints. Though, in principle, the state could render assistance to a brave person, if such manifests. For example, through decreasing taxes for some time for businessmen who invest money in housing and communal services plants. On the other hand, who knows, probably dwellers of some houses should be then protected from these businessmen. And if such a businessman decides to collect debts for communal service by force? In this case, who is right? It is well known that communal services’ prices grow several times a year. But nobody could notice that the service’s is getting better. Even on the contrary, in some regions of Russia, plants of housing and communal services stopped to exist at all. Therefore, the question is not only about communal service price, but about something else. Though, at the moment it looks like the government prefers to shoulder on average citizens the burden of the reform. Finally, the citizens will pay the prescribed 100 percent. The only question is, who will feel better as a result?

Vasily Bubnov PRAVDA.Ru

Translated by Vera Solovieva

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