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Books by Grigory Yavlinsky
Economics and Politics in Russia
The Center for Economic and Political Research (EPIcenter)
Nizhni Novgorod-Moscow, 1992
CHAPTER 2. The New Policies of the Administration.

2.2. Social Policies

The problems of establishing a social policy

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The formation of a model of social policy, the justification of the role of government in solving problems of social welfare policy, the imposition of influence and mechanisms between different levels of government and social service institutions are among the most difficult problems to solve in the switch from one economic system to another. This is especially difficult in the change from a centralized economy to a competitive society.

It is impossible to overestimate the importance of choosing the correct social policies, inasmuch as the goal of this transformation is not simply the support of the most important elements of social spending, the cushioning of the results of economic and political crises, and the settlement of social conflicts. The most important reason is that one is aiming to create the social foundation upon which this change will be based. This will guarantee the irreversibility of this transformation, provide a sense of social partnership and, finally, will help establish and support government powers.

There exist several important characteristics, as we see them in today's situation, which must comprise this model of social policy.

Firstly, the policy must have a transitional character to it, and thus should include elements of the old system along with the seeds of a future one. It is most likely that the final model of the social policy will be significantly different from the one which would be most effective today. Furthermore, considering the formidable national, ethnic and cultural differences, the economic and political situations, the territorial relationships that exist in the former Soviet Union, those states that have declared themselves independent countries will probably have very different models of social policy, different levels of government involvement in the welfare sectors of the economy, different ways of distributing authority at governmental levels in political, social and other spheres. All the same, previous experience gives evidence that it is extremely dangerous to demolish old systems of social services and wish to go immediately to new forms. In conditions of severe financial crisis and economic and political instability, this would mean an almost complete disengagement of the most important social institutions, the re-creation of which demands years. Therefore the social transition must be managed gradually and with sufficient care.

In the transition stage, the dominant assignment of the social policy must be the protection and support (as much as possibilities allow) of the existing system of public services and a gradual process of their extension at the expense of new forms and a new competitive economy. The gradual and transitive nature of the social reform is tied to the psychological inertia in the population. New systems of wage payments, the transition from social guarantees and services toward social insurance and new forms of medicine and education need not alienate the population. For the public, these are the first and most palpable results of reform.

Second, the social policy and its results must not simply blend completely with the economic reforms, but the measures must be play an organic part in the process. One must examine the changes in the social sphere and the most difficult processes as unique indicators and limiting factors to the the general economic transformation. From these positions comes the realization of the most vital changes, as if independent from the thought of the public or at the expense of the public, the road to the strengthening of social stresses, the seizure of reforms and the loss of control over the social changes in the country. The inertia of these processes, loss of the orientation of the public toward reforms, fanatical faith that things will get better all by themselves, smooth out the appearances of social dissatisfaction but generate its potential, but accordingly the strength can be seen in the results. But the main thing in these processes is not even their likelihood or strength of a social explosion, but the appearance of new models of behavior for the public, not connected with the direction of reforms and not controlled by government institutes. There begins a sense of unpleasantness regarding the reforms which is at the final expense of a fall in government rule at the first level. The population, not believing in those that hold power, try to solve their problems by themselves, sometimes legally, but more often by illegal means. The criminal situation gets worse. The most active part of the population tries not to take part in reforms, but to go abroad. To carry out reforms with the public in such conditions is practically impossible. That is why we consider that in the conditions of post-socialist reform, programs tied to different transformations in the economy, including the structure, institutions, properties and institutional forms are necessary. Measures in the framework of these programs must be coordinated in time. It is important so that the administration can formulate a corresponding program of measures in society and orient the population toward one or another action within the framework of the reforms -- and not outside them.


Thirdly. Especially important from the viewpoint of the creation of the social policy is the determination of subjects and objects. Considering that the reforms were initiated from above, the social activity and readiness for them was low. The special role of a defined social policy must be held by the government. The social transformation process must not be spontaneous and unregulated. The executive programs must have fully concrete directions and goals. This is especially important because the liquidation of the nomenclature and its domination is impossible without the liquidation of socialism as a socio-economic system. That means that the creation of new society formed by new social structures will exist -- and already exists -- in the form of sharp social conflicts.

Social policy right away revealed itself to be a hostage to political opposition. Used in its capacity as a means to attract supporters, the majority of reformists, and conservatives too, could not surmount the difficulties in that sphere of stereotypes. At the stage when these campaigns were beginning to be felt, the policy had an obviously populist character, hiding serious problems which are being felt today. It is highly likely that the absence, until now, of a thought out social policy of the administration and president of Russia will demand in the future highly contradictory steps which will not help the situation of the public, but will hurt the general economic and political situation.

A few words about the objects of social policy. Examining the policy today, one sees a system of alms distribution, with so-called unprotected groups as its main object of concern. However, a transition of such global proportions, the changes encompass practically all strata of the population. Besides that, in countries where, still at the beginning of reforms, from 50 to 80 percent of the population found itself at poverty's doorstep, to speak of a poll regarding social support is rather difficult. One must

speak instead about going toward different methods of support, of at least a minimum standard of living for the population, of the decentralization and individualization of policies (a change from intermediary approaches to an abstract "soviet people" toward the working out of a policy regarding the relationship toward concrete social strata and groups among the population. That is one additional aspect of the government's social policy in the transition stage which is atypical of former policies; the question of the limits to the functions of central and local organs of power, and the creation of regional social policies. That the actions of the central administration in those areas can provoke the appearance of another confrontation in, among others, the political sphere, is not exceptional. In any case the tactic of throwing social problems at the regional level without administrative agreement regarding the limits to functions and corresponding sources of their financing has already heightened the contradiction between regions and the center.

In this manner, one of the most important conditions for the establishment of new social policies is its isolation from the sphere of political feuding, and the determination of its subjects and objects with reference to concrete government establishments.


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