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Pressing problems of local government as they are seen by different towns and regions in Russia

From: B.Grinchel, N.Kostyleva, Russia
Category: Category 2
Date: 29 Mar 2000
Time: 09:57:06
Remote Name:


Date: 27 March, 2000 From: B. Grinchel, prof. - N.Kostyleva, dr. To: Subject: Pressing problems of local government as they are seen by different towns and regions in Russia

The progress of economic and social reforms in Russia depends considerably on the rate and nature of the processes that are unfolding on the local level, in towns, cities and regions. Monitoring of these problems is one of the priorities of the EUROGRAD Institute. For the study of problems currently facing our communities, we rely upon Information provided by the high-ranking officials of local government bodies that are responsible for their solving. Following are the results of the latest poll taken of local leaders from 76 towns and cities of Russia on pressing problems of city government and of everyday life of citizens.

The poll was intended to reveal urgent socio-economic problems that emerged in the course of the implementation of economic reforms, and also the areas of local government activities where the communities are seeking scientists and practical assistance from scientists and from the EU states.

The objects of the study were 76 cities of Russia with population over 16 mm, where 800 special questionnaires were sent. Amongst them were 8 big towns with population over 500 thousands of inhabitants (Saint-Petersburg - 4900 thousands, Volgograd - 1027 thousands, Rostov-on-the-Don - 1023 thousands, Krasnoyarsk - 914 thousands, Togliatti - 706 thousands, Izhevsk - 680 thousands, Penza - 551 thousands, Naberezhnye Chelny - 550 thousands); 15 medium-sized cities with population from 100 to 500 thousands (Magnitogorsk - 440 thousands, Nizhny Tagyl - 428,7 thousands, Cherepovets - 316 thousands, Dzerzhinsk - 297 thousands, Shakhty - 262 thousands, Surgut - 240 thousands, Kaliningrad - 170 thousands, Kolomna - 163 thousands, Kovrov - 162 thousands, Pervouralsk - 145 thousands, Kamyshyn - 130 thousands, Novotroitsk - 113 thousands, Ust-Ylymsk - 109 thousands, Glazov - 106 thousands, Kuznetsk - 100 thousands). The rest 53 towns have the population of approximately 40 thousands; this means that small towns dominated amongst the respondents.

The respondents represent all the diversity of Russian territories: Siberia and the Far East (16 communities), the Urals (9 communities), the Volga Basin region (14 communities), the Central Region (18 communities), the South of Russia (7 communities), North-West and West (8 communities), North-East (4 communities).

The Questionnaire comprised questions related to the state of economy, finance, and social area in Russian towns and cities. The respondents had to mark off all the 17 socio-economic priorities listed - by numbers from 1 to 5, in ascending order of their relative importance. When treating the results, the towns-respondents were grouped by their size and region, and the average for each group was calculated.

Table l shows the priorities of socio-economic development as they are seen by local leaders in 76 Russian towns.

Referring to Table l it will be observed that the most important problem FOR ALL TOWNS regardless of their size and location, is the state of budget and finance. Urban leaders from MORE THAN A HALF of towns mentioned as being urgent the problems related to urban Services, house building, assistance to the poor and maintenance of public order. Amongst median priorities are: the state of medical care institutions, municipal transport and environment, assistance to the unemployed and to the public education institutions. THE REMAINDER priorities, even the problems of great concern, such as military conversion, aid to refugees, the relationship with enterprises located within urban area etc., seem to be of great importance for the lesser part of towns (less thanl/4 of the total number). But these data, be they a little unexpected as they are, reflect the view of a leader of a typical Russian town, average both by its size and location, on the current Situation in towns.

Several respondents, apart from the answers given to the questionnaire's questions, mentioned some complicated problems of LOCAL NATURE. Thus, the leaders of Nizhny Tagyl are concerned with the presence of a reformatory Institution in the city; the leaders of the town Pechora (Republic of Komy) consider it necessary to increase the influence of the church upon local inhabitants; the leaders of Osa (the Perm oblast /province/) consider it of prime importance to improve sanitary conditions in the town and to find Sponsors for the restoration of historic and architectural monuments; leaders of the town Yourga (the Kemerovo oblast) mentioned the building of a new water intake and of a sewerage System as urgent tasks facing their town; leaders of the town Ipatovo (the Stavropol krai /territory/) are going to build a new health resort on the base of recently discovered mineral sources; according to the opinion of the Ust-Ylymsk leaders the town needs its own airport. The necessity to develop tourism was mentioned by the leaders of towns Khvalynsk (the Saratov oblast) and Makarov (the Sakhalin oblast). The industrial decline was pointed out by the town Ocher (the Perm oblast), but this problem is of universal nature, as well as the state of highways, which was emphasized in the answers that came from the town Drezna (the Moscow oblast).

Table 1 - Results of a poll on socio-economic problems taken in 76 Russian towns (the problems are listed in ascending order of their priorities)

N Problems marked as the two most important (in % of a number of towns-respondents)

l.Budget and finance 100,0 2.Municipal Services 85,5 3.House building 70,2 4.Assistance to the poor 55,4 5.Maintenance of public order 52,6 6.State of hospitals, clinics 44,6 7.Municipal transport 43,2 8.Environment 42,1 9.Unemployment 39,5 10.Schools, nurseries 37,8 11.Relationships with enterprises located within the urban area 25,6 12.Refugees and migrants for the "not Spots" 21,1 13Cultural institutions 20,3 14Trade and consumer goods supply 16,2 15Military conversion 11,8 16Decline of tourism and recreation activities 10,8 17.Relationship with the city representative power 1,3

To develop more detailed characteristic of the Situation in these towns and cities, one should arrange them according to the number of inhabitants and their locations - or regions - that undoubtedly possess some specific features due to their historical past and the industrial potential developed during the Soviet period. The leaders of 8 BIGGEST TOWNS-RESPONDENTS (6 of them are members of the Russian Federation) announced the following socio-economic problems as the most important (in % from the number of towns-respondents): - budget and finance (100%) - municipal Services (71.5%) - environment (71,5%) - public order (51,7) - assistance to the poor, house building, schools and nurseries, hospitals and out patients' clinics, relationship with enterprises (42,8%).

Other socio-economic problems mentioned cannot be treated as essential for the majority of cities, as they are of local nature. Thus, military conversion was listed amongst the most acute in Saint-Petersburg, Volgograd and Penza. The problem of providing Jobs for the unemployed and that of the state of cultural institutions, were stressed by the Penza leaders. For Volgograd, of major importance is a great number of refugees and migrants from the "hot Spots". The questionnaire shows that the leaders of 8 big cities-respondents DO NOT take the problem of food and consumer goods supply as one of the most urgent - these were of primary importance 5-7 years ago.

To our opinion, of great interest is the Situation in small Russian towns (with Population up to 50000) which are typical Russian towns and which account for 50% of respondents. Their socio-economic priorities are (in % of a number of towns): - finance and budget (100%), - urban Services (84,8%), - house building (69,7%), - assistance to the poor (63,6%), - hospitals, clinics (45,2%), - unemployment (45,2%), - public order (42,4%), - schools, nurseries (36,4%), - municipal transport (30,3%).

A little less urban authorities are concerned with the refugees' problem, with the relationship with the enterprises located within the urban area, with the environmental issues, and also with the decline of tourism and with the supply of food products and consumer goods.

Comparing these data with the above mentioned answers given by big cities, one can notice a great commonness of problems currently facing Russian communities, regardless of their size, though the size factor should be also taken into account.

The EUROGRAD Institute researchers performed a selective analysis of these data in the regional aspect, with the aim to reveal the most pressing problems for each of the seven big REGIONS that had represented data at least on 4 or more communities located in their respective areas. Regardless of a region, the problem of budget and finance is the most acute in the current stage of reformation processes unfolding in towns and cities. The same could be said also of municipal Services, house building and the assistance to the poor. Relative to other socio-economic problems, one could notice some differences between regions. Thus, the worst Situation in public order is observed in the Urals cities and towns (75% of answers) and the Volga Basin region (57% of answers). Unfavourable ecological Situation is marked by the Volga Basin respondents (71%), and also by the leaders of urban authorities in the South of Russia (56%). Unemployment worries the leaders of towns in the North-East of Russia (75% and the Urals (55,5%). The care of refugees and migrants from the "hot Spots" is urgent for 43% of the Volga Basin and for 1/3 of the Urals communities. Military conversion are rather important for more than 1/5 of the Volga Basin and 16% of the Central Russia towns and cities; other regions consider it to be less urgent as compared to the other priorities.

The EUROGRAD Institute states as one of its objectives the assistance to towns and cities IN REACHING THEIR POTENTIALITIES AND IN USING THEM IN THE MOST EFFICIENT WAY, as well as the promotion of the local self-government development through carrying out R$D projects, based on the study of the advanced experience in communal government in Europe and the NIS, by convening congresses, scientific and practical seminars and workshops in Russia and abroad. To respond to the needs of towns in selecting topics for the R$D projects, the EUROGRAD Institute included in the questionnaire 10 themes of the R$D to be performed by the Institute researchers and intended for practical assistance to local authorities. To our opinion, the research carried out on these topics that correspond to the scientific interests of the EUROGRAD developers will help urban leaders to cope with complicated socio-economic problems currently facing their communities, before the appropriate legislative decisions are taken by Central Government. The results of this questionnaire are shown in Table 2.

Table 2. Priorities of R$D, the study of the experience of the EU states, as defined by Russian towns and cities (listed in ascending order of priorities)

Subjects Marked as essential (in % of a number of towns)

l.Economic and financial expansion of towns 82,1 2.Economic policy and long-tern strategies 55,2 3.Organization of municipal Services 50,7 4.City marketing 43,4 5.House building schemes and housing Provision 35,8 6.Municipal land-use and land deals 23,7 7.Attracting foreign investors 21,5  Social support 17,9 8.Environmental policies 13,2 9.International organizations and urban development projects 9,2

For more detailed study of the data, the answers were grouped by regions. The result was as follows. City marketing is especially important for local authorities of the North-West and West of Russia (71%), and also for a half of towns and cities in Siberia, the Central region and the North-East of Russia; the research on municipal land use is essential for almost 40% of local authorities in the Urals and for 1/3 of the Volga Basin towns and cities; scientific and practical recommendations on ecological issues are needed by 30% of the Volga Basin and 25% of the North-East communities. Methods of attracting foreign Investment into economy and social area are urgent for many towns and cities of the Volga Basin (30%), Siberia (25%), North-West (25%) and North-East (25%). From the answers obtained, it could be noticed that cities and towns from all the regions of Russia need the assistance of international organizations and experts in reaching their potentials, in conducting long-terrn economic policies, in organization of municipal Services and of house-building.


1. Through a poll taken of leaders of 76 Russian towns and cities that are located in different regions of Russia and that vary considerably in a number of inhabitants, the following socio-economic development priorities were stated: - finance and budget, - municipal Services, - house building, - assistance to the poor, - maintenance of public order.

2. Local authorities of Russia seek scientific and practical assistance from international organizations, experts, and the EUROGRAD-XXI International Program within the following lines: - economic and financial expansion of towns and cities, - economic policy and long-term urban development strategies, - organization of municipal Services, - city marketing, attraction of foreign investments.

3. The poll results will be taken into account in selecting the themes for international congresses and Seminars for high-ranking official of local government held in the context of the EUROGRAD-XXI activities, in planning the R$D carried out in joint efforts with the Institutes of the EU states.

4. Due to the information obtained, the EUROGRAD Institute gained the opportunity to invite to cooperation in particular events the towns where the related problems are especially acute, thus increasing the efficiency of workshops held by the EUROGRAD Institute.

5. The EUROGRAD Institute, accumulating the interests of Russian towns, will use the results of polls in its publications in order to attract the attention of the Russian Federation leaders and members towards seeking the legislative solution of the most acute socio-economic problems of Russian communities. The Institute will also provide information for potential Investors from the overseas states that are seeking particular Investment objects in Russia, and for intergovernmental foundations that are interested in providing financial assistance to particular towns and cities on concrete projects, in the context of international programs of assistance to the reforms in the CIS States.

Last changed: March 13, 2002