Experts on Social Policy

On March, 18th public debates devoted to the social policy took place in Lomonosov Moscow State University. The meeting was organized by the Association of independent centers of economic analysis.

The speeches of two major participants of the debates – RAS Institute of Economy director R.S. Grindberg and SU-HSE vice-chancellor L.I. Yakobson – though unlike in general theoretical approaches to the definition of the social policy phenomenon had much in common when the following issues were considered:
1. Impossibility to increase the pension age.
2. Planned unprofitability of social sphere.
3. Introduction of progressive scale for incomes tax.
4. Necessity to adopt measures to decrease social inequality.

One cannot disagree with the experts’ opinion on the impossibility to increase pension-age in Russia either at present or in mid-term prospect. This measure will undoubtedly cause acute social protest which will level the very essence of the social policy. The reasoning that it will be possible to increase the pension rate as a result of the rise in the pension age seems unconvincing since in case the pension age increases, taking into account the life expectance in Russia only a small group of citizens will be pension recipients.

In connection with the right in its essence idea of the necessity of pension rate increase the experts worded a very important thesis on the planned unprofitability of the social sphere. Both R.S. Grindberg and L.I. Yakobson mentioned in their speeches that neither the social sphere as a whole nor the pension system in particular could be judged on the basis of their profitability. Effective pension system providing for at least minimally acceptable pension payments cannot function independently of the state budget financing. This can be supplemented with the fact that the efficiency of pension can be increased not by a risky increase of pension age or by mythic profitability of pension system but by stricter control over administration in this sphere.  

The issue of budget financing sources is closely connected with the thesis on the necessity of progressive taxation scale, in particular for income tax, mentioned by the experts. Recognizing the difficulty of administration in this system especially in Russia all the participants of the debates admitted that an even taxation scale is abnormal element of taxation system. The presented data demonstrated that only 12 countries out of 210 have an even scale of taxation at present.

Besides the function as a source of additional budget earnings necessary for instance for financing of social expenses the progressive taxation scale can serve as a civilized mechanism for alleviation of social inequality which was referred to as the most acute problem of modern Russia. Taking into account this problem and extremely low life standard of the majority of the citizens in Russia which are socially unprotected the experts taking making part in the discussion estimated Russian social policy as “conventionally satisfactory” or directly “unsatisfactory”.

One cannot disagree that the whole spectrum of estimations of the social policy in Russia is at present exhausted by these two wordings. Such a situation sets urgent tasks both to stimulate national economic and political development and for more effective redistribution of financial resources to provide minimum material provision for the poorest citizens. It is the long-term growing social instability that is the alternative to adoption of the urgent measures in these directions.

Kazantsev D.A. – Senior Legal Expert, Department of the Appraisal and Development of Normative-legal Acts