Expanded use of territorial approach will improve governance quality

It is only occasionally that the strengthening of the territorial approach in the system of state governance in Russia is observed – for example, in the development and activities of specialized bodies, including ministries, carrying out state policy related to specific territories, or in the approval and implementation of strategies and government programs aimed at social and economic development of certain regions of the country.

Since 2012, among Russian federal ministries, several new ones have appeared that are designed to govern the development of specific regions: the Ministry of the Far East (Minvostokrazvitiya), the Ministry of the North Caucasus (Minkavkaz), the Ministry of Crimea (Minkryma). The latter, however, was liquidated soon after its creation.

In recent years, the federal government has approved the strategies of social and economic development of all federal districts. The approved list of Russian government programs also contains territorially oriented ones. In addition to the Far East, North Caucasus and Crimea government programs, there are programs for the development of the Arctic and the Kaliningrad region. At the same time, in state programs for the development of separate industries, the regions are only vaguely present: there are no sections dedicated to the impact of specific activities on the development of certain regions or macro-regions. The analysis of the structure and content of government programs showed that there is often a conflict and duplication of activities in respect of certain regions in the government programs designed for industry sectors and territories. The adoption of a territorially oriented government program can lead to inaccuracies in assessing the effectiveness of implementation of the existing strategic documents in the area (or macro-region).

In general, despite the active development of regional policy as a scientific and practical field in Russia in the 2000s, the approaches to the management of separate Russian regions’ development stayed unsystematised. A common problem is the distribution of powers in terms of strategic planning and state regulation of macro-regions’ development. The creation of a special federal ministry responsible for the entire regional policy is also questionable. In modern Russian history, there have been several attempts to create such a body at the federal level, as well as to create bodies responsible for the management (control) of separate territories’ development. The first group includes the ministries that were created and subsequently liquidated, responsible for federal relations, regional policy and regional development (the Ministry of Nationalities, the Ministry of the Federation, the Ministry of Regional Development), the second group – consisting of federal ministries and other authorities designed to control areas with special conditions of farming and life – includes, in addition to those already mentioned, the State Committee of the Russian Federation for the Development of the North (Goskomsever) that has been created several times.

The analysis of management structure in foreign countries shows that creation of such government bodies is although rare, but it happens; Canada, USA, and China have this experience. In our country, the best way, in our view, could be creating specialized bodies not in the form of federal ministries responsible for the shaping of state policy, but in the form of agencies under the Ministry of Economic Development (or the Ministry of Regional Development) having only coordinating functions in the framework of the implementation of programs aimed at the development of certain areas. “Lowering” the status of a number of ministries to agencies would help to avoid potential conflicts arising because of the competition between agencies over the implementation of certain tasks. At the same time, these territorially oriented federal agencies should exist because, in the framework of integrated social and economic policy, it is desirable to have participants that can influence the adjustment of government measures regarding separate regions.

The clarification of principles on which the combination of sectoral and territorial approaches in public administration is built, as well as expanding the use of territorial approach could improve the quality of governance in solving urgent tasks facing the federal government as well as tasks in the framework of strategic planning.

Vladimir Klimanov – PhD in economics, Head of the Department of state regulation of the economy at RANEPA School of Public Policy