Site map
0The virtual community for English-speaking expats and Russians
  Main page   Make it home   Expat card   Our partners   About the site   FAQ
Please log in:
To register  Forgotten your password?   
  Survival Guide   Calendars
  Phone Directory   Dining Out
  Employment   Going Out
  Real Estate   Children
   September 23
News Links
Business Calendar
Phone Directory
 Latest Articles
 Archived Articles
Analysis & Opinion
15.07.10 Voluntary Repatriation
By Tai Adelaja

Facing a dwindling workforce and an economy in need of some quick fixes, the Kremlin has decided to sweeten the policy plan aimed at encouraging Russian speakers residing abroad to resettle in Russia. A new draft document posted on the Web site of the Regional Development Ministry on Wednesday promises ample benefits, including permanent residence permits and six-month unemployment allowance to former Russian citizens willing to tie their fate with those of other compatriots. The new document particularly emphasizes the country’s willingness to leave the door wide open to entrepreneurs, promising an accelerated resettlement in any region of their choosing.

The new plan would be submitted to the government by the Regional Development Ministry in September, after coordination with related state ministries, the Vedomosti business daily reported on Wednesday. The program was first initiated in June of 2006 by the then-President Vladimir Putin, with a decree dubbed "on measures to assist the voluntary resettlement to the Russian Federation of compatriots living abroad." State-supported social and financial aid programs in the initial project included a fast-track naturalization process (within six months), a one-time payment of 40,000 rubles ($1,300) as a relocation fee, and a moving allowance paid for by the federal government. Then, as now, the program was meant to address the country's demographic crisis by attracting ex-compatriots, and at the time officials expressed hope that the program would entice a 300,000-strong working population to Russia by 2009.

Since 1991, the Russian population has declined sharply by 6.6 million, mainly as a result of economic and social chaos that accompanied the fall of the Soviet Union. Even as the birthrate inched up by 1.5 percent in the first quarter of 2010, State Statistics Services reported an overall population decline of 35,500 to 141.9 million. State statistics also show that Russia's population would have declined by 87,300 in the first quarter, had it not been for migration, mostly from former Soviet republics in Central Asia and the Caucasus. A report commissioned by the United Nations Population Fund, published in March, said that foreign workers make up as much as ten percent, or between seven to eight million, of the country's workforce, although Russian experts have disputed the figures, saying that the economic downturn has forced many immigrants out. The country's official workforce stood at about 74.5 million people, or 52 percent of the population, as of February 2010, according to the State Statistics Service.

The Kremlin’s new, spiced-up action plan, however, is expected to stimulate population growth by benefiting a wider range of former Soviet citizens, including many immigrants and their descendants, Alexei Chernyshev, the assistant to the Minister for Regional Development, said. In addition to a number of resettled workers, who already benefitted from the program when it took off in 2007, Chernyshev said the government will cast a wider net in efforts to help other categories of former citizens to relocate. He said the government has earmarked 1.2 billion rubles to fund the program till 2012.

Among the novelties in the new draft is a proposal to categorize program participants into groups, such as workers, students, entrepreneurs, farmers and rural community settlers. There will also be a special category created for exemplary citizens based on their meritorious services, according to the document. The government will create a numeric scoring system on or before December 1, 2011, to help in the selection processes. Anyone resettled under a specific category could lose the status if he or she engages in activities unrelated to those for which the admission was granted, the document said.

In addition to compensation for relocation and resettlement, which is being paid out since 2007, the new project aims to confer special rights and obligations on businessmen, farmers and community members, including the right to defer payment of customs duties on goods brought into the country for three years. Repatriated individuals will also enjoy a three-year tax holiday on goods and equipment, if such goods are meant to alleviate productive activities. Returnees will only be required to pay reduced taxes on any capital goods or property acquired for the purpose of resettlement in Russia, with the government guaranteeing a fast-track customs inspection and clearance for such goods, the draft document said.

Resettled citizens will also be entitled to unemployment benefits for six months “if their business activities failed to yield immediate profit.” They will have the opportunity to receive bank loans even if they lack homes of their own, simply by registering at government-designated addresses. Of about 8,000 people resettled annually since 2007, only about eight percent benefited from such extensive government support, Chernyshev said. He said the new, well-padded program could boost the number of returnees by up to 50 percent.

But critics have highlighted some fundamental flaws, which they say seriously compromised the implementation of the initial program and could well blight future implementation, unless corrected. Russia’s “repatriation” program, unlike similar state programs in Germany and Israel, does not open the door for all ex-compatriots willing to return. The policy plan defines "compatriots" as people "raised in the traditions of Russian culture who speak Russian and do not want to lose their ties to Russia." However, Russian speakers who don't have a legal status in the country in which they reside could not take part in the program. Vitaly Yakovlev, the head of the department that oversees the program at the Federal Migration Service, said the program aims to help not everyone, but “those who have made a conscious decision to return to Russia.” In the past three years, he said, about 20,000 people have been resettled.

Another key flaw is that only 22 regions in need of skilled workers are providing accommodation to Russian-speaking immigrants, even though program participants may want to resettle in a region different from those offering perks, experts say. Anatoly Korendyasev, vice-chairman of the State Duma Committee on the CIS, said the initial purpose of the program was to attract more than 25 million Russians in the Diaspora, but the purpose has been defeated in practice mainly because of insufficient material support to resettle participants. “A lot of money is needed to resettle those willing to come,” Korendyasev said. “It is easier to bring them back, but resettling means providing them with housing and jobs.” There must first be a program for the development of the region that clearly maps out where a workforce is needed before the Ministry of Regional Development can implement its resettlement program.
Modest Kolerov, editor of the Regnum news agency and the former head of the Presidential Department for Interregional and Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries, told Vedomosti that the program was ineffective in the past because the regional authorities had killed interest in the program by offering meager monthly salaries of less than $300 to those who returned. The new incentives, he said, could entice many more to join the program.

Zhanna Zaionchkovskaya, the director of the Laboratory for Migration Research at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Economic Forecasting, said that millions of former compatriots, primarily energetic people with a similar mentality and culture, were ready to move to Russia after the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, but crisis-ridden Russia was not prepared to accept them. Russia has missed its chance by taking in far fewer immigrants than expected in the pre-crisis days, she said, adding that CIS workers currently arriving in Russia will go to immigrant-friendly countries unless the Russians respect their work. Zaionchkovskaya, who broadens the definition of “compatriots” to include former Soviet citizens, said Russia would need as many as 25 million immigrants in the future in order to compensate for the natural reduction in the economically active population. "Russia is in no position to do without immigrants, even if it becomes more technologically advanced," Zaionchkovskaya said. "International experience shows that, as long as cheap labor exists, employers are in no hurry to mechanize production. The industrial world's experience indicates that no country has so far managed to facilitate sustained economic growth during a time of workforce contraction," she said.

But First Deputy Director of the Federal Migration Service Mikhail Tyurkin has a different take on the issue. He told journalists in September that the success of the program should not be assessed in quantitative terms, suggesting that a befitting slogan for the program may well be "the fewer, the better." He said the moral and financial assistance provided by the state is sufficient to help participants to move and resettle in a new place and to find work. Tyurkin also put a positive spin on the program even as he unveiled that only 13,800 of the 20,000 people who had received documents to resettle in Russia actually arrived in the two and a half years of the program's existence. He said 155 participants actually renounced their hard-won citizenship, preferring to return to their former abode.
The source
Copyright © The Moscow Expat Site, 1999-2023Editor  Sales  Webmaster +7 (903) 722-38-02