Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mr. Putin's Paradise for One

A private poll of 5,000 students at Moscow State University found that 80% intended to leave the country. Nor are Russia's filthy rich too patriotic about the motherland. Negative capital flows doubled this year from $34bn to $70bn. Even if the price of crude oil hit $125 a barrel, more money would be flowing out of the country than in. As it is, four times as much money (as a percentage of GDP) is going out than in. It tells you everything you need to know about a Russia digging in for another 12 years of Putin.

Mr. Putin holds all the cards in Russia at this time. His enemies are in prison or dead. His friends and cronies hold positions of power around the country, and pay him tribute on a regular basis. Anyone willing to publicly threaten Putin within Russia would have to be crazy.
The going rate is $50m for a governorship, $500,000 for a middle-ranking bureaucrat. Little wonder that once in power, their job is to get a healthy return on their investment. There are decent governors, and the group saw one at work effectively attracting foreign investment in Kaluga, south of Moscow, but the directly appointed system itself is rotten. Putin makes little secret of his disdain for the alternative, freely elected governors. Some observers say he has a pathological hatred of democracy. To underline his disdain he has now, for the second year in a row, told the story of the elected governor who legged it out the back door rather than face the fury of the mob after a local disaster.

But, truth be told, Putin is also at a loss when he gets jeered. And this, according to the pollsters, will happen more often. It is not just that Putin's personal brand is ageing. The popularity of the entire St Petersburg clique around him is falling with him. United Russia, the party of apparatchiks he created, will by hook or by crook, but largely by crook, get the required percentage of votes in Sunday's Duma elections. Last time round Moscow students were told by tutors to take digital snaps of their ballot sheets if they wanted the right grades – one of many examples of the "vote early, vote often" variety. But the party is a fragile instrument of power because it represents no one but itself.

Putin's problem is not staying in power. It is leaving it – without all hell breaking lose between rival boyars, and with his personal fortune intact. _Guardian
Putin is easily one of the wealthiest men alive. In third world countries, that is how men grow rich -- through political power. In such states, opportunities for success outside government are minimal, and never secure or lasting. That is why the truly ambitious and competent persons in such countries who do not wish to work in the public sector, often emigrate to freer environments.

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