How much does it affect election campaigns and results?
To answer these questions, Novye Izvestia, together with Ilya Grashchenkov, director of the Center for the Development of Regional Policy (CDRP), political scientist Konstantin Kalachyov, and Natalya Zubarevich, Chief Research Fellow at the HSE Institute for Social Policy, analyzed and assessed the socio-economic health of 18 Russian regions on the eve of the elections. After all, not all of them survived the pandemic equally. Let's see what state the regions will be in for their new chapters.
How we thought
When assessing the state of the regions (we are looking at only 18 subjects in which elections will be held on September 13), the editorial board of "NI" was guided by official data from Rosstat and the Ministry of Finance. To compile the final rating for each parameter, points were awarded - from 18 for the best indicator to 1 for the worst. The final rating is the sum of points for four indicators.
Coronavirus against industry
The first thing the regions faced was the closure of enterprises due to forced self-isolation. And if there is no production, then finances fall into a hole from which it is difficult to get out. However, in a number of regions, they went for tricks - and already in April they began to issue individual work permits to especially important enterprises as an exception. And give out in thousands. Sometimes the authorities simply turned a blind eye to the work of small enterprises, despite the requirements of self-isolation, realizing the harmfulness of restrictions for the economy.
Best of all, the degree of isolation of a region during a pandemic is shown by the industrial production index. Let's make a reservation right away: in this case, you have to believe the Rosstat data - there is simply no other accurate information in Russia.
Six regions were able to even increase last year's figures, and the Tambov region immediately added 10.6%. How? It's simple: almost no coronavirus restrictions were introduced here. Many businesses, markets and fairs continued to operate. It is not surprising that in terms of the level of infection with "covid", the Tambov region turned out to be worse than average - in 33rd place from the end (673.2 infections per 100 thousand inhabitants). The poorer the region, the less it can afford to take care of the health of the population at the expense of the economy. Die but do.
At the opposite pole is Sevastopol, where industrial production fell by almost 40%. Is it worth worrying about? According to experts, this is not necessary at all. Natalya Zubarevich explains: there is no industry in Sevastopol. In Sevastopol, whose economy is 60% subsidized, only how much money was given matters. And they were added to the elections.
There is no work, but you have to hold on
But supporting industry is not a guarantee of job security. Enterprises cut staff for survival. Even the bad loans promised to the affected enterprises to pay the minimum wage did not help. The growth in the number of unemployed is much more impressive than the dynamics of industrial production. To estimate the number of unemployed, we focused not on those registered at the labor exchange (their number rose sharply in order to receive temporary payments), but on sample surveys by Rosstat conducted in April-June 2020. These are much closer to reality.
The contrast between the Smolensk region and Chuvashia is striking. The indicators of the Smolensk region are even more striking. How did the region suddenly turn into a corner of stability, where it would be possible to flee almost in a zombie apocalypse? Does Governor Alexey Ostrovsky manage to work miracles, and shouldn't he worry about the results at all? However, experts are not optimistic about this.
Ilya Grashchenkov doubts that an economic miracle happened in the Smolensk region:
- Even Lukashenka scares the Belarusians with the Smolensk region, they say, you don't want it the way it is there? There is still some progress there: Governor Ostrovsky really managed to attract investment. If the positive dynamics persist, the year promises to be successful, and the volume of investments may significantly exceed 60 billion rubles. The main barometer of the business climate in the region has not risen to such a figure since the preparations for the 1150th anniversary of Smolensk. But then a significant contribution to statistics was made by funding for state programs. Now we are talking about private, "real" investments, the share of which in the total mass has grown significantly. These are MIRATORG, and several large greenhouse complexes (including a high-tech complex for growing flowers), the distribution center of IKS 5 Retail Group LLC (Pyaterochka chain), etc.
Konstantin Kalachyov even considers the region to be one of the most "killed":
- This region can be shown to foreigners so that they do not dream of getting to Russia. The indicators of socio-economic development may indicate some kind of growth, but let's start with the level at which these incomes are growing, how many people have high wages. Second, Alexei Ostrovsky cannot be classified as a popular governor. He tries, actively travels around the region. He has a good PR manager, the strategy is based on the "practice of small deeds" - repairing houses of culture, opening a sports complex and solving problems of fences and sewers. But the Smolensk region is a depressed region. In fact, there is almost nothing there except for the production of cutting diamonds. At the same time, the region is deeply subsidized. Even in terms of the use of its location, attractiveness for tourists, investors, there is still a lot to work on. The elections will be referendum, it is impossible to say that Ostrovsky is the worst governor. To say that he is a model of efficiency, that he has raised the region and ensured economic growth is also not easy to say.
The issue of salaries is also acute in the regions - for many of those who were not fired, their pay was significantly reduced. Cutting the part issued in envelopes is not a problem at all - no laws will help. And there are no special barriers to reducing incentive payments and bonuses. But Rosstat sees no problems. Official statistics create a very favorable picture: in nominal terms, wages increased in all analyzed regions, and inflation eaten up the increase in only 5 regions out of 18. Even Chuvashia, which failed in terms of unemployment growth, showed an increase in real wages. As if in Sparta - you either die, or you become stronger.
But an increase in salaries of 3.62% amid growing unemployment is unlikely to change the attitude of the residents of Chuvashia towards the acting governor of the Just Russia Oleg Nikolayev, who was appointed to this post at the end of January 2020. Such distortions clearly will not help him in the elections, but they can play into the hands of his competitors - the representatives of United Russia. It will even be strange if the regional branch of the United Russia does not seize the moment to increase its own ratings. True, the opinions of experts on this matter differ.
Konstantin Kalachyov believes that Oleg Nikolayev also inherited the difficult past of the region.
- Chuvashia is famous for its hardworking people. The question is to provide them with work ... The main problem here is the drivers of growth and development. There were noisy stories with an attempt by Chinese investors to enter the region, but nothing moved. The population's income is low there. It is necessary to break into a cake so that new investors come to Chuvashia.
Nikolaev has not yet made the impression of a driver for the development of the region. The production of milk, meat, other agricultural products and, in general, the development of the agro-industrial complex are obvious. But the program for positioning the region and its development has serious problems. These blunders, perhaps, will give some advantages to United Russia. If any other party starts constructive criticism of his actions on the principle of "reject - offer", it will still be a priority, no matter "United Russia" or not. Chuvashia has been looking for its place under the sun for a long time, whoever gives it to her will win.
Ilya Grashchenkov dismisses the political factor:
- I don’t think that parties and politics play a leading role here. This is a purely technical situation, and the acting governor Nikolayev himself, in this case, acts more like a representative of the federal government, and not a politician. Chuvashia is, in principle, a problem region, there are few jobs, especially in rural areas (only in farms), many leave for other regions, including the Central Federal District. So there is no political motive here.
But in Sevastopol, politics, support from the federal center, the well-being of the population and election results are inextricably linked. As Ilya Grashchenkov notes, Sevastopol is not like any other region.
- Sevastopol is a special city. Previously, it was generally closed and this idea is periodically returned. So the economy is 90% dependent on the public sector, while private business is represented here either by tourism or by the remnants of the business of Ukrainian oligarchs. Therefore, Razvozhaev works with his basic electorate, which is generally correct. Higher wages among the military and industrial workers will help him win.
Hand of the Kremlin
Income, unemployment - these factors are felt primarily by people, the voters themselves. But there are still factors that can influence the governors' relationship with the Kremlin, which is also very important on the eve of the elections.
One of the most important is the level of budgetary provision and the national debt. Someone has to solve financial problems (and they all have after the pandemic) on their own, increasing the national debt and the size of future problems, and someone can count on the support of the federal authorities in the form of subsidies and subsidies.
This time the regions were distributed almost equally. But if you look at the size of the change, then good news is only in the Krasnodar Territory, but negative news - in 4 regions at once: Arkhangelsk, Rostov, Irkutsk regions and Kamchatka Territory. Four against one - the regions are clearly not doing very well with the state debt.
The Krasnodar Territory, by the way, ranks 6th in the TOP-10 regions in terms of the volume of federal subsidies in the first half of 2020. In the first 6 months of this year, they have doubled compared to the same period last year. In general, 22% of the regional budget expenditures are provided by federal money. And the growth of the state debt of the Irkutsk region is closely associated with the appointment of Acting Governor Igor Kobzev in December 2019. Prior to that, the national debt was gradually decreasing, but with the arrival of Kobzev, it almost doubled. It seems that from the very beginning he understood that he should not expect help from Moscow (he made a career in the Ministry of Emergency Situations in the Voronezh region and was appointed acting governor as a liquidator of the consequences of a flood, and not as a financier with connections), and his expectations were justified: in May This year, the Irkutsk Region received nothing when distributing subsidies for the equalization of regional budgets.
Rating of post-coronavirus economic health of regions
According to the sum of points in the final table, we can see that the Jewish Autonomous Region, about which practically nothing is heard on a national scale, survived the pandemic better than all the other "pre-election" regions in terms of economic indicators. Kaluga and Smolensk regions are in the lead with her. The main question here is, of course, how big is the participation of Rosstat with its curious statistics in this leadership ...
And outsiders are Tatarstan, Kostroma and Irkutsk regions. And if no one worries about the prospects of Rustam Minnikhanov, then the positions of the governor of the Kostroma region, Sergey Sitnikov and Igor Kobzev from the Irkutsk region, are not so stable. If the leadership in these regions changes during the elections, then the new governors will have excellent opportunities to prove themselves - there is no end of work.
Foggy prospects: not becoming a hero
But does the economic health of the regions after the pandemic really affect the upcoming elections so much? Natalya Zubarevich is absolutely sure that all these “popular” indicators do not play a role: “ The economy does not influence these elections”, - the expert believes.
The 18 regions in which the September 13 elections will be held have different initial data: even the deterioration of the indicators of the same Tatarstan will not make it a Jewish Autonomous Region. So it is much better in terms of career growth and ratings to come as a governor - in a developed region, where something can be improved, but it is not easy to spoil, or in a depressive one, where you can improve everything that falls on your eyes, and it is also convenient for those that any positive change would be beneficial in contrast to the devastation? According to experts, the opportunity to show heroism is not yet a reason for envy.
- In a prosperous region, the main thing is to ensure continuity, not to break everything that was built before, because if the region was prosperous, then the previous government worked well. As for the regions where you can distinguish yourself, these are deeply subsidized, those who need a defender, a driver of development and where the demand for renewal and change has grown, where they want a new person. For example, in Kamchatka there was such a request, and now Vladimir Solodov communicates quite well with everyone: the population, public organizations and even with those journalists whom the previous governor "did not let on the doorstep." But there are also regions where everything is not so simple - Irkutsk Oblast, Arkhangelsk, Kostroma, but examples of poor work of the headquarters are visible there.
- The main thing for the governor is to meet expectations. It often happens that a person actually does something, but people do not perceive him and vice versa. There are governors who ruled worse than ever, but people justify him "well, he tried." An illustrative example is Moscow, where Sobyanin shifts the tiles three times a year, but he is more likely to be disliked for this, whereas in any other city in Russia such generosity would be perceived by residents "with a bang." But it is still better to work in a prosperous region, because where everything is already bad, bright promises will break into reality too quickly. And where something can be done, there is a chance that the voter will like the improvements.
An interesting situation turns out: that is, if in a depressed region the people expel the former governor (probably a pro-government one) and elect an oppositionist, then the newly elected head will be extremely difficult to prove himself. The negative background, as experts say, will still prevail, which means that the new governor will have to bow to Moscow, make excuses and ask for money. No options. And it will be very good if they give him money, and do not start, for example, digging into his past.