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Monday, June 23, 2008

EDITORIAL: Putin "Speaks"


Putin "Speaks"

It's clear that a private investor wants to make profits, and the bigger and sooner the better, but I am calling on everybody to behave responsibly. As far as irresponsible behavior is concerned, I will tell you directly, and maybe a bit rudely: I will take [the profits] from your stomach and distribute them among the poor. I am not sure that everything has been thought out here. We need to see how we will maintain a single energy space.
Gosh, almost sounds like he still rules the country, doesn't it?

Last week The Moscow Times reported the above comments from Russian "Prime Minister" Vladimir Putin following a meeting at the Energy Ministry between Putin and the Ministry staff and national electrical monopoly UES, represented by its chairman Anatoly Chubais.

Georgy Bovt revealed, in a column last week in the MT which we republish below, that the salary of a mailman in Moscow is $1.25 per our ($200 per month for four 40-hour weeks of work). Russia's civil servants are starving (and the average male postal worker won't live to see his 60th year), so it's not too surprising that "Prime Minister" Putin is concerned about the situation.

His solution? It's the Soviet one, of course, the only one he knows. Reach into the stomachs of "dirty bourgeoisie pigs" and rip out their dinners. The MT states: "Prime Minister Vladimir Putin may have changed jobs, but he doesn't appear to have lost his taste for coarse statements." Indeed, it's not only what he says but how he says it that smacks of the wonderful days of communism and totalitarianism to which Russia is rapidly returning.

What's that you say? Russia has rich people, so it can't be communist? Study more history, dear chap. There were plenty of rich folks in Soviet times, all you had to do was join the right party and, in the manner of the mafia, make your bones there. As the MT states: "UES, the national power generation and transmission monopoly, will cease to exist as of July 1, with the transmission grid being run by a new state-owned entity and the Energy Ministry overseeing the sector as a whole. With less than two weeks left before it takes over, on paper the Energy Ministry still has a staff of only five — Shmatko and his four deputies — said a woman who spoke on condition of anonymity because she was still waiting for her official appointment as spokeswoman." That's the Soviet Union, all over again.

In all fairness, it would be pretty ridiculous for anyone to suggest that a man like Putin who has no economics or business training or experience and who has spent his whole life proudly serving the secret police could possibly be expected to come up with actual solutions to problems of this kind. The Russian people chose to be governed by such a person, so they've gotten what they deserve.

Russia needs to invest nearly $1 trillion in its electricity sector just in order to keep pace with demand as brutal price inflation makes ordinary commodities more and more impossible for ordinary Russians to afford. But Putin would much rather spend Russia's ready cash on a new military confrontation with the West and doling out favors to his cronies -- again, just the same thing that happened in Soviet times.

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