The Russian Party of Pensioners
Telephone: 7 (095) 923 09 42
Fax: 7 (095) 923 51 93
The Russian Party of Pensioners (RPP) was founded in 1997 to organize and address the growing needs of Russia's aging population. The Party was officially registered by the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation on May 29, 1998 (Certificate of Registration No. 3529). The RPP was formed by the pensioner members of the "Tyumen 2000" political party, founded in 1995 by Sergei Atroshenko, a Tyumen businessman and politician. During its first year, RPP has opened branches in more than half of the regions of Russia.
The RPP's mission is to protect the rights of pensioners by securing their economic interests; establishing and guaranteeing health and social services for older people; and, guaranteeing equal rights for older people in society. The RPP believes that by working to secure the protection and rights of older persons, they will in turn better all of Russia and create a more "civil society."
The RPP seeks to address the serious social and economic problems of Russia's 38 million pensioners, who make up almost 50% of the voting electorate. Once greatly respected as veterans of the Great Patriotic War and fondly looked upon as grandparents, pensioners are increasingly being forgotten as Russia struggles through its ongoing economic and political crises. The radical changes in government and economics in Russia over the last 8 years have had a profound impact on pensioners. Pensioners have only four sources of real income: pensions, privileges, allowances and lifetime savings. Their pensions are barely enough to live on and are often paid very late, if even paid at all. The banking crisis has prevented them from accessing their savings. As Russia struggles along its path to democracy, funds once put aside for pensioners are being cut, affecting housing, medical and other necessary social services for pensioners.
The RPP will organize Russia's pensioners as a political force to promote and protect their interests in the coming federal and regional elections in Russia. The RPP will focus on three major issues:
Sergei Petrovich Atroshenko
Mr. Atroshenko is a founder of the Russian Party of Pensioners (RPP). He was elected Chairman of the Party at the RPP's Constituent Congress in 1997.
He began his political career in 1995 when he founded the "Tyumen 2000" political party. In 1996, he ran for governor of the Tyumen region, where he won more than 30% of the votes in the second round of elections.
Mr. Atroshenko opened the first cooperative business in the Tyumen region in 1987. Several years later, he became head of one of the largest banks in the region. In that capacity, he initiated considerable investment in local industry and services. His investment in the City of Tyumen's social infrastructure exceeded contributions by the Tyumen City Government during the same period.
Mr. Atroshenko was born in the town of Novozybkov in the Bryansk region of Russia. He is a military veteran and has worked as a metal worker, studied at a Moscow college, and has played hockey for the Soviet Wings team.
Sergei Vassilievich Zapolsky
Mr. Zapolsky is a member of the Russian Party of Pensioners and also serves as a Judge on the CIS Economic Court.
He is a former Member of the Russian State Duma (1993-1995) where he was elected as a member of the Democratic Party of Russia. While in the Duma, Mr. Zapolsky presided over the drafting of the Civil Code and numerous other laws and served as member of the Russian Permanent Delegation to the Council of Europe.
Mr. Zapolsky served in various capacities in the USSR Ministry of Justice and the USSR Government Administration in 1989-1990. Since 1990, he has taken part in the creation of new professional associations of jurists in the Russian Federation, while also participating in a wide range of legal issues regarding the codification of laws and legal defense activities.
Mr. Zapolsky received a Doctor of Law from the Sverdlovsk Law Institute in 1970. A military veteran, he is also the author of numerous research studies and has presided over various expert groups. Mr. Zapolsky was born in the Sverdlov oblast in 1947.
Statement on the Political and Economic Situation in Russia
The present-day economic and political crises in Russia are direct consequences of chronic instability within the top echelons of government. The Russian people are growing increasingly disillusioned with the ruling elite and increasingly doubt its ability to devise, implement and manage a new course to steer Russia into the next millennium with significant improvements over the current situation.
Most of the existing political parties competing for power in Russia today have no meaningful doctrines of reform. Most continue to see the world through lenses of old ideological prejudice and are unable to comprehend the imperatives of present-day Russia or define its role in new global contexts. In fact, most Russian political parties have relatively small memberships and are often characterized as "Garden Ring" parties to indicate that their strength is concentrated in downtown Moscow.
We see this as a very dangerous situation for Russia. If these "empty" political parties are allowed to monopolize the Duma in the forthcoming parliamentary elections the result is likely to be a Russia with anti-democratic leadership and the perpetuation of the split between the elite and the Russian people.
Unfortunately, the past few years have not seen the emergence of any new national political parties with coherent programs to revitalize Russia. There has been no voice for the "grass-roots" Russian who has borne the brunt of the pain from the various shock therapies of the past decade and who remains aghast at the profligacy of the " new Russians"-be they politicians, financiers or other nouveau-riches. The most battered of these grass-roots contingencies is the Russian pensioner.
The West has poured hundreds of billions of dollars into Russia's Garden Ring political parties, which have used the aid primarily for self-perpetuation and enrichment. This outcome was guaranteed by the absence of the firm foundations of civil society necessary to achieve a "trickle-down" effect. Most of this river of foreign assistance flowed almost immediately back into the ocean from which it came. Russia has been left with a closed shop of "pseudo-popular" and Garden Ring political parties which attempt to block the entry of new parties interested in fostering the development of civil society in Russia.
We believe that the best possibility for a fresh political force in Russia lies within the grasp of single interest groups which can concentrate on specific problems, not only on global ideological concepts. We believe that the most appropriate of these groups in Russia is the pensioner.
Pensioners have been hit hardest by haphazard reforms, since their pension benefits have always remained below subsistence levels. Pensioners represent the backbone of unique scientific and technological knowledge and are often physically fit for full-time productive work. Most important, pensioners are the largest voting contingent in Russia, constituting more than 50 percent of the voters in national or regional elections.
By structuring itself as a single-interest group, the Russian Party of Pensioners allows members to keep their own ideological persuasions and concentrate their energies on helping the Party to find and implement answers. This is more productive than simply competing as another party in the Russian political game.
The Party of Pensioners proposes to jump-start the economy by means of a large federal housing construction project. Government resources commensurate with personal savings lost as the result of devaluations should be used for such a program. A federal housing project would not only benefit Russian pensioners who have been deprived of their rights to normal lives by the continuing economic crises, but also help their younger family members, who seem condemned to share scarce living space with their relatives.
The Party of Pensioners has already grown into a significant force. In its first year of existence membership has surged to over 200,000 in 46 regions of the Russian Federation. For example, in the Kaliningrad Region the RPP chapter currently numbers 25,000 members (compared to 5,000 in the Communist Party of the Russian Federation). The major administrative challenge the Party faces today is handling the massive membership increases which are expected to swell the rolls to an estimated million members by the end of 1999.
The Russian Party of Pensioners is actively participating in all regional elections to the State Duma. When deputies of the Party of Pensioners constitute a minimum of five percent of the voting members of the Duma, the Party will attain the status of an official fraction. Reaching this goal is a primary objective.
The Party of Pensioners has established its own weekly newspaper. Generation is the first federally distributed periodical for and about older persons in Russia. One of its goals is to promote the United Nations agenda of the "International Year of Older Persons." Other Party promotions include publication of "The White Book on the Situation of Pensioners in the Russian Federation" and the sponsoring of an International Conference on "The Situation of Older Persons in Post-Socialist States" scheduled for December 1999.
In pursuing its aims, the Russian Party of Pensioners seeks to engage the support and understanding of its foreign counterparts, especially from countries with longstanding democratic traditions. Party delegations have visited the United States, Spain, Egypt and Finland within the last year and established useful contacts with political parties, public organizations, and business circles. The Party's voice has also been raised in European international organizations such as the Council of Europe and the International Confederation of Older Persons' Associations.
It became clear in the course of these visits that the West is more accustomed to dealing with association vehicles re resenting the rights of older persons than with political parties. We attempt to explain that in Russia the magnitude and scale of the problems facing older persons is simply too great to be handled by an association, and that our members believe positive results are possible only through direct political action.
Funding for the Party's activities comes mostly from the Russian private business sector interested in political stability as a prerequisite for normal economic growth. The Party welcomes material help from the international community as well.
The Party of Pensioners represents a new wave in Russia today. It is the only new national party to emerge in Russia on the eve of new parliamentary and presidential elections. It is a single-interest group with a strong commitment to building a democratic civil society in Russia as a prerequisite for a strong market economy. Finally, it is a political force with a highly active and motivated membership. The Party of Pensioners intends to do its best to help Russia and its people into the new millennium.
The Russian Party of Pensioners
The Situation of Pensioners and Elderly People in the Russian Federation
The problem of discrimination against pensioners in the Russian Federation is serious and multi-faceted. Russian pensioners have suffered the most at the hands of unprincipled bureaucrats who have attempted to circumvent laws providing for their support in order to divert those resources elsewhere. More shameful is discrimination against pensioners regarding healthcare, for which they are the most dependent element of society. Cynical bureaucrats rationalize here that special medical care for the elderly is irrational because their days are numbered. While these practices are not widespread, their existence is disturbing.
There are also grounds for being concerned over discrimination against pensioners in the workplace regarding salary levels, promotions, etc. Many pensioners not only are very qualified to work, but have invaluable experience to share. Most important, their constitutional right to work is the same as that of younger citizens. Nonetheless, elderly persons remain the last to be hired and the first to be fired in Russian society today.
History of the Pensioners' Party
The All-Russian Party of Pensioners (RPP) was founded at the end of 1997 and was registered in May by the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation as a political organization whose purpose is the protection of the social and economic interests of pensioners. The RPP evolved in Tyumen, where problems are especially acute, from the pensioners' organization "Tyumen-2000." During its first six months of existence the RPP opened branches in more than half of the regions of the Russian Federation.
The Founding Congress of the Party was held on November 29, 1997, when delegates approved the charter for the All-Russian Public-Political Organization "Party of Pensioners." The RPP was registered on May 29, 1998 by the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation (Certificate of Registration #3529).
The Place of the Party in the Political Process of the Russian Federation
One of the central features which defines the character of today's political process in Russia is the contradiction between the State and an evolving civil society.
The USSR was, to a large extent, a fully developed totalitarian state when it fell apart in 1991. The only official relationship allowed within the community was "citizen - State." From the maternity hospital until death, citizens of the Soviet Union dealt only with state organizations. The material well-being and social status of each person was determined almost entirely by his position in the state hierarchy-more precisely, by the opportunities for "feeding off" the State his position provided. Other classes "fed" themselves at their own risk, and the Government's eyes were usually shut to the larceny. But any manifestation of normal civil society, such as personal responsibility, honesty, decency, or an unusually keen sense of justice-in general, everything which makes a person not only a government employee, but a citizen of his country-all of this was suppressed and excised. The people rarely had the opportunity to act like citizens.
Especially insidious was the fact that civil society in the USSR was not simply absent; it was simulated. In principle, the structures of a civil society existed in the country: trade unions with millions of members, the Yong Communist League, cooperative societies (collective farms and the like), as well as other diverse and numerous public organizations. In practice, all of these "public" organizations were rigidly bound to the State through the system of Party control and, in fact, did not differ from State organizations at all.
It is important to note that the ruling "nomenclatura" during those times aimed to dispose immediately of any (even the most inoffensive) public organizations which were created by citizen initiative rather than Party decree. Such sprouts of civil society were implacably eradicated.
The "Revolution" of 1989-1991 was not like revolutions in the West, where civil societies rose against the existing authority. Our "Revolution" was run from the top, initiated by the most advanced group of the "nomenclatura" who realized that the old regime had exhausted itself. The result in Russia was partial renewal instead of radical change of the ruling elite.
First and foremost, the new "nomenclatura" retains its attitude toward the State as a source of "feeding." Moreover, its "new" ideology (which in essence is the old ideology with a change of polarity) has allowed the new "nomenclatura" to "feed" in even greater quantities and with even less circumspection than was possible under the old regime.
Today in Russia the old relationship between the State and civil society remains much the same, and most real (as opposed to counterfeit) sprouts of civil society continue to be suppressed. Administrative obstacles from top to bottom entangle "free enterprise." Businessmen can survive only by entering into pragmatic relationships with bureaucrats. It is no wonder that 90% of large fortunes have "nomenclatura" origins. Official trade unions continue to be the same counterfeits of Soviet times. Likewise, women's, veterans', young peoples' and other "public" organizations continue to exist and block the road to new organizations. "The multi-party system" in practice has turned out be a "small-party system"-with the exception of the KPRF (The Communist Party of the Russian Federation). The "free press" is completely dependent on government subsidies and financial support from the "nomenclatura." Its main role is to force ideological opposition in the community by creating and supporting the image of an enemy, without which no "nomenclatura" regime can exist.
It should nevertheless be noted that until 1993 the climate was favorable enough for the initiation and development of a civil society. The "nomenclatura" was distracted by power struggles and was forced to appeal to public opinion. The State's media attacks on civil society were considerably eased. A great number of new political parties and public movements emerged, as did a truly independent press. Honorable and vigorous people, who sincerely believed that talk about freedom and democracy were not meaningless words but reference points which could actually determine the life of Russia, arose in business and public life.
After the attack on Parliament in October 1993 the split in the "nomenclatura" was healed, and the State once again turned its power upon the infant civil society. This was not a deliberate State policy, but the instinct of the "nomenclatura" which began once again to interpret any manifestation of independence in societal life as a hostile action. The new institutions and the people were faced with a rigid choice: either to try and join the new "nomenclatura" and take advantage of the windfalls, or go their own ways. Many joined; many left for private life. Civil society lost this first skirmish.
Though the "nomenclatura" kept its authority, its absolute inability to rule the country has become clearly apparent today. All "reforms" have resulted in economic collapse- a fact that is no longer denied by anyone, including the acting authorities. The people's confidence in these authorities and in political institutions is exhausted. Under these conditions, the next skirmish between the State and civil society is inevitable, since only the formation of a full-fledged civil society can, in the long-term, lead the country out of its economic, political and ideological deadlock.
The total number of Russian pensioners (38 million), their political activity (up to 50% of the active electorate), precarious economic situation, and the incessant encroachment on their interests by the ruling elite makes them potentially an extremely powerful political force. So far this force has not been harnessed because it has not been organized, and pensioners' votes have been dispersed among existing parties. Consequently, until now, pensioners have been voting not for their own real interests but for certain ideological ideals-such as "capitalism," "communism," "patriotism"-which, generally speaking, are slogans in which the "nomenclatura" wraps itself and in which it seeks legitimization of its authority.
The main idea of the RPP is to convert the Russian pensioners from a potential political force into an actual one. The first priority is to use this force to effect economic policies which are necessary for their survival. The next priority is to influence the outcomes of federal and regional elections. This is objectively the only way for the pensioners to improve their living conditions. Only in this way will they be able to force the political elite to take them into consideration, not just in word but in deed.
The full-scale realization of the ideas incorporated in the RPP's Charter can bring about a real breakthrough for the creation of civil society in Russia.
Certainly, realization of the RPP's goals will depend to a great extent on the energy, stability and political skills of its organizers. Without doubt, the RPP will have to deal with counter-attacks from the "nomenclatura" including State, Federal and Regional authorities, the media which those organizations control, and various social organizations. These attacks have already begun and can be seen in the difficulties encountered during attempts to register the RPP, in the distinctly negative response of veterans' organizations, and in the attempts to discredit the Party and its leaders in the mass media and elsewhere.
During the period of the RPP's formation and in the face of these intense attacks, the help of foreign organizations can be extremely helpful in guaranteeing the Party's survival.
The Purposes and Problems of the RPP
The purpose of the RPP is to transform the population of Russian pensioners from a potential political force into an actual one by organizing them for the sake of promoting their concrete interests-first and foremost, economic interests-and combining their votes to support these interests during the coming federal and regional elections.
Accordingly, the RPP will participate in the elections to the State Duma in 1999 as an independent political force. If by the time of such elections the RPP is able to create a strong regional structure, the formation of an RPP faction in the State Duma will become practicable. The independent participation of the RPP in the presidential election in the year 2000 will be the next natural step. The Party's strategy will be to pool votes for an RPP candidate for the first round, which can be transferred in subsequent rounds of voting to the candidate who is deemed most beneficial to the Party's goals. The RPP will also participate in regional elections during the next several years. The Party's program has five core economic demands:
As regards pension reform, the Party's program is based on two main principles: 1) pension payments must not drop below subsistence levels; and 2) a fair scale of pension payments based on lifetime work histories.
As to subsistence levels, the Party considers that existing formulas do not take into account special needs of pensioners for medicines and medical services, special nutritional requirements, and special care facilities in extreme circumstances. Subsistence levels for pensioners may be higher than those for younger citizens of given regions.
As regards the problem of compensation for savings that were wiped out as a result of the Gaidar reforms in the early 1990's, the Party insists that pensioners have top priority for any restitution.
The RPP considers it necessary to pass a law which will make the payment of internal Government debt carry equal (or greater) importance than payment of external debt. Feeding the Russian population must take precedence over the satisfaction of foreign creditors.
The RPP believes that municipal reform in Russia will be possible only after pensioners are completely indemnified for their losses. Further, the State must not enact laws or other measures which have the effect of reducing absolute incomes and standards of living of pensioners. In the event that federal law were to provide such protections, municipal reforms (such as the establishment of credit terms for the payment of utility bills, etc., by pensioners) would be facilitated.
As regards the organizing of pensioners for mutual and self-help, it must be kept in mind that Russian pensioners have four sources of real income: pensions; privileges, allowances; and lifetime savings. A system of mutual self-help for pensioners might include payments from their income into pension, investment and assistance funds which could better provide for their needs, as well as offering the possibility of discounts on goods and services. As the number of members in the RPP grows, these possibilities will grow into real benefits for its members.
As regards the problem of protecting the health of pensioners, the root of this problem lies in the lack of adequately financed public health services in the Russian Federation. So-called "free medical care" in Russia is not able to provide adequate services for the elderly, who are not able to take advantage of newly emerging commercial medical treatment opportunities.
The RPP insists on sufficient financing of public health services so that every pensioner can at any time receive all necessary medical services authorized by law.
Demands of the Party of Pensioners (From the Declaration of the Establishment of the Party) Upon the establishment of the Party of Pensioners, we declare our intention to achieve the following basic rights:
The RPP represents the interests of some 35% of the Russian electorate-sufficient, if properly organized, to achieve its objectives through well-directed influence on government authorities and candidates for elective office. We hope that by the end of this century honorable, skillful and far-sighted politicians will appear in Russia who will compassionately and correctly perceive the interests of pensioners. The RPP will support such politicians in the coming federal elections. If Russian politicians continue to ignore the interests of pensioners, the RPP, as an independent and powerful political force, will field its own candidates.
Methods for Accomplishing our Objectives
The most powerful weapon in the pensioners' arsenal is their voting strength. Pensioners comprise at least half of the active voting population of Russia. As pensioners combine their votes for a single cause, government authorities will learn quickly to take their demands into serious consideration. It is urgent that ideological issues for pensioners be defused and that economic issues take highest priority. Pensioners should be encouraged to look more closely at candidates' stand on pensioners' needs rather than at their general ideologies. "Can he be believed?" "Is he competent?" And most important, "never vote for anyone who has made unfulfilled promises in the past."
The fight for the rights of pensioners is never-ending. In Nizhny Novgorod, for example, pensioners were able to take control of the payment system for housing services. As a result, seven city organizations were disbanded, unnecessary managers fired, and associated costs cut. The results were lower housing costs for pensioners. In Samara pensioners were likewise able to lower their monthly rental costs.
These collective achievements of pensioners on the local level can be mirrored by the RPP at the federal level. For example, the RPP will interact with the State Pension Fund not only regarding public monitoring of expenditures of its assets, but also regarding attempts by enterprises to default on mandatory pension contributions through appeals to the courts. The struggle for pensioners' rights is a non-stop process.
The Party intends to raise the consciousness of the public concerning discrimination against pensioners, to take action against violations of pensioners' rights, and to support prosecution of government officials involved in such violations. One of our tactics will be the use of lawsuits against such officials, with the goal of punitive damage judgements in favor of pensioners.
The RPP considers that educating pensioners about their rights is a top priority. This is especially true in Russia today, when laws, decrees and regulations are in a constant state of flux.
The Party's Leader
Sergei Petrovich Atroshenko was born in 1958 to a family of physicians in the town of Novozybkov in the Bryansk Region. He is married and has an eleven-year-old son. After leaving school he worked as a metalworker at a machine shop in the town of Podolsk and studied at a Moscow college. He completed his compulsory term of military service and played hockey for the Soviet Wings.
In 1979 he left Moscow for the Tyumen Region. He opened the first cooperative business in Tyumen in 1987 and several years later became head of one of the largest banks in the Region. In that capacity he initiated considerable investment in local industry and services. His investment in the city's social infrastructure amounted to more than the city government contributed during the same period.
He became a politician in 1995, when he founded the regional social and political movement "Tyumen-2000." In 1996, as the leader of this movement, he stood for election to the post of Governor of Tyumen Region. In the second round of that election he won more than 33% of the votes cast.
In November 1997, as a result of his effort to establish the All-Russian Party of Pensioners, he was elected Chairman of the Party by the Constituent Congress.
The Party's financing comes from membership dues, sponsor contributions and international assistance.
The West and Reforms in Russia
Until now, Western policy towards assistance to Russian organizations and to the country as a whole seemed to be based on a misunderstanding of the "nomenclatura" nature of the current Russian revolution and reforms. The key criteria for such assistance were the Western perception of commitment to free enterprise, human rights and democracy. There was an implicit assumption that the basis for civil society existed in Russia, and that by means of privatization, market reforms, democratization, and freedoms of the press, etc., the shackles of totalitarianism would be released. This view underestimated the power of the "nomenclatura" system to prevent the development of civil society in Russia.
Ironically, this misunderstanding by the West resulted in its support of the of the "nomenclatura" state, which effectively suppressed the development of civil society, instead of support for the true champions of civil society, who were perceived by the West as "conservative reactionaries" working against the "reformist" government. This misplaced Western support often served to downplay social dislocations-most dramatically, that of the pensioners.
Some Russians today see this sort of Western policy as a premeditated attempt to weaken the Russian state and community as much as possible. We do not ascribe to that idea, but believe that the weakening which occurred was an unintended result of Western support of the "nomenclatura" state, with the result that a cancerous tumor has been formed in Russia-one sixth of the earth's landmass.
We believe that the West's objective was to help the Russians to create a healthy and free community and state on the basis of a system of values common to all mankind. Unfortunately, the policy has had the opposite effect. Russia today is further from the solution of these problems than it was in 1992. The concepts of democracy, capitalism and free markets have been largely discredited, and many citizens who were sincerely prepared to accept the Western system of values are now disillusioned. Two of the most striking moments in this process were the "pragmatic" position of the West during the attack on Parliament in 1993 and the manipulated elections of 1996.
Today Western publications are full of opinions on "how we lost Russia." Former policy decisions are being reevaluated. There seems to be a growing understanding that Russia's problems will not be solved through support of the "nomenclatura" state and of the importance of helping Russia to build the foundation for a civil society.
The Party and its Partners Abroad
First of all, it is necessary to inform potential Western supporters of the inevitable conflict which the RPP faces with the "nomenclatura" state over its intention to assist in the creation of civil society in Russia. The partners of the RPP should clearly understand that their interaction with the RPP may be unpopular with the Russian authorities, who may classify the RPP as part of the "anti-reform" and "populist" forces and attempt to discredit its leadership.
It is also important that Western supporters understand the need for the RPP to stress political activities, especially in connection with election campaigns, more than social programs. Until we are able to complete the foundation for civil society in Russia, social programs will not have the firm support they need to grow and prosper.
Historically, associations of pensioners developed in the West much later than other structures of civil society, such as trade unions, etc. Once civil society was fully established, it became possible for organizations such as the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) in the US to form and establish the social programs that are so beneficial to its members.
In Russia the RPP is in the forefront of the battle for the development of civil society. Therefore, its most direct and natural path is to move directly into the political electoral process and fight for the interests of pensioners there. The RPP eschews ideological affiliations. It is neither red, white nor green. It is solely focused on the protection of the rights-primarily economic, to begin with-of pensioners. This is not to say that social programs are not a priority for the RPP, but rather that political action is the highest priority today.
Kinds of Help the RPP is Seeking from its Partners Abroad
The RPP intends to make wide use of the international experience and methods of the United Nations, particularly as outlined in its "Brief Handbook on Establishing National Goals on Problems of the Elderly."
The Party of Pensioners will participate in events planned by the UN within the framework of the International Year of the Elderly Person-1999. Programs including a Russian "Local Agenda on the Realization of the International Year of the Elderly Person" and "Observations on Organizing at the National Level within the Framework of the International Year of the Elderly Person, 1999" have been drafted and are in the process of being enacted.
The RPP proposes to hold a conference on the "protection of the elderly in post-totalitarian states" in Russia in October-November 1999, and a second conference on the "development of social self-consciousness of elderly people in the course of building a civil society in Russia" in May 2000.
The RPP intends to establish relations with all organizations and committees of the UN concerned with the problems of the elderly (WHO, ELO, UNPRO, etc.).
The RPP and Similar Organizations Abroad The slogan of the RPP is "Pensioners of the World, Unite!" The RPP intends to establish direct links and professional relations with organizations of elderly people in countries the world over.
The following are letters which were written by Sergio Petrovich Atroshenko and Michael Camdessus, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, to discuss the roles of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund regarding pension issues:
February 2, 1999
While Russia lives through a period of economic and political transition the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund's painstaking efforts to alleviate the country's current problems are highly appreciated and closely followed by the Russian public opinion. At the same time your personal contribution to the success of these activities is noted with special satisfaction and gratitude in Russia.
It is evident that under such circumstances much good faith is expected of mass media highlighting the multiple efforts of the international financial institutions in Russia. Unfortunately such attitude is not always present.
One example may be one-sided coverage by the most Russian mass media of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund's approaches to the problem of pension benefits in Russia. A point of view is consistently imposed upon the 40 million retired persons in Russia that it is on the initiative and under pressure of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund that the Russian government is forced to weaken the economic status of the Russian pensioner year after year. Thus on January 26, 1999, the KOMMEPCAHTL-Daily surprised its readers with an article from which one learnt that the World Bank proposed that a single minimum pension rate be introduced in Russia. It came up with this proposal at the IMF - Russian Government jointly sponsored seminar, according to the newspaper.
It might be no secret to you that the amount of the pension benefit for the majority of the Russian retirees is currently less than 20$ per month. Under these conditions the problem for Russian pensioners is related not so much to human dignity as to survival.
With this in view may we ask you to clarify the situation and let us know as to the official position of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund regarding pension benefits in Russia.
We are convinced that correct understanding of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund's position would help promote the real humanitarian aims and goals pursued by the international financial organizations in Russia.
We expect that the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund will make every effort to come to the rescue of the Russian pensioners and that the Institutions' activities might give retired persons in this country at least a measure of hope to see the situation improved. Moreover, bearing in mind the 1999 International Year of Older Persons' celebrations.
March 3, 1999
Dear Mr. Atroshenko:
Thank you very much for your letter of February 2 providing us with the opportunity to clarify the position of the International Monetary Fund with respect to pension benefits in Russia.
Let me assure you that in our view the well-being of the 40 million retired persons in Russia must be a fundamental goal of economic policies. We believe that to meet that goal, it is necessary to establish a financially sound pension system in the framework of a well-managed, buoyant Russian market economy. To this end, the IMF's policy advice, in past years, has given priority to the solvency of the Pension Fund and the clearance of arrears to pensioners. In particular, we have encouraged the Russian government to broaden the payroll tax base, improve taxpayer compliance, and reduce administrative costs and these objectives are part and parcel of our present dialogue with the authorities.
You asked specifically whether the Fund has endorsed a single minimum pension for Russia. In our discussions with the government, we have stressed the importance of clearing all pension arrears and remaining current on pension obligations, prior to any general indexation of pensions. In our view, it would be irresponsible - and would provide no real relief to pensioners -- to legislate increases in benefits that cannot be paid, and that would simply lead to a further accumulation of arrears. We continue to back the government's medium-term plan, developed in conjunction with the World Bank, for a three-tiered pension system, incorporating a minimum pension provided by the government, a mandatory pension based on individuals' savings, and a supplementary nongovernment pension scheme. We are nevertheless of the view that the implementation of this plan cannot start until the financing required for a transition to such a system is made available.
In a fundamental sense the ability of Russia to provide for a decent standard of living for all its citizens, and particularly to its pensioners, ultimately depends obviously on its success in generating sustained economic growth and low inflation. These objectives have guided the policy advice that we have provided to the Russian government during the entire course of our relationship, and will continue to do so. We are working hard to assist the government in defining the elements of a program which could achieve these objectives and which could then be supported by the resumption of IMF lending. We hope that such an objective could be achieved promptly.
March 18, 1999
Thank you very much for your reply to my letter asking for clarification on the IMF position regarding pension benefits in Russia.
Your prompt reaction to the Russian pensioners' concerns is constructed by us as the Fund's disposition to base its judgments not only on official statements but also upon data obtained through open and constructive dialogue with major Russian political scene protagonists.
In my interview to the Russian NTV Network March 6, 1999 I took the liberty of quoting from your letter to make the Fund's position on pension benefits better understood if compared to some fallacious interpretations by mass media. I also stated that the Fund's recommendations for pension reforms in Russia are feasible and correct while the main responsibility for the actual plight of older persons rests entirely with the Government and the Duma. We came to this conclusion after careful study of pension benefit schemes applied in the United States of America, France, Finland and some other countries.
May I take this opportunity to brief you on the Russian Party of Pensioners (RPP) which is planning to nominate its own candidates at State Duma elections and hoping to overcome the 5 percent qualification barrier.
It is important to realize that the RPP represents a new quality phenomenon in Russia's modern public life. First, the RDP is the only federal level political formation that has emerged prior to forthcoming parliamentary and presidential elections; secondly, it is a corporate organization proper to the developed democratic societies with market economies; and finally, it is a political body with a potential electorate of approximately 40 million pensioners that leans upon a highly motivated electorate of older persons assuring over half of total vote at any suffrage in Russia. In just one year of its existence the Party's ranks surged to over 200 000 members in 46 regions of the Russian Federation. For example, in the Kaliningrad Region the RPP chapter currently counts 10 000 members (compared to 2 000 in CPRF). At the moment we complete the Party's regional offices accommodation to trigger off, these days, a massive enrollment campaign which will bring us an estimated 1 000 000 members by the end of November 1999. We are also about to launch the "Generation" newspaper - the first federally distributed printed paper on older persons' problems in Russia. It is also designed to promote the Untied Nations' goals in connection with the International Year of Older Persons 1999. Among other projects are: (1) issuing "The White Books on the Situation of Pensioners in Russian Federation"; and (2) sponsoring an International Conference on the Situation of Older Persons in Post-Socialist States to take place in December 1999.
As to funding the RPP's activities and the above-mentioned projects be it known that we mainly rely on donations of the Russian private business sector which needs political stability as main precondition for normal functioning.
We would be grateful if timely advised on possible new IMF assessments and recommendations as to pension reforms in Russian to get a clear and correct picture of the UMF position often distorted by local mass media.
May we hope that in the course of the forthcoming meetings with the representatives of the Russian Establishment you might find it possible to stress the urgent importance of Russian pensioners' problems and solutions as part of the democratic process in Russia.
Thanking you very much again for giving attention to my letter and hoping to hear from you.
April 5, 1999
Thank you very much for your letter of March 18. I am pleased that my previous letter was helpful in clarifying the position of the IMF with regard to pension benefits and the well-being of pensioners, and that you agree with our recommendations for pension reform. I was also interested to read of the activities of the Russian Party of Pensioners.
You may rest assured that in our continuing dialogue with the Russian government we will stress the importance of maintaining a financially sound pension system, clearing pension arrears, and providing for an adequate retirement income for all pensioners.
PO Box 20022, New York, NY 10025
Phone: +1 (212) 557-3163 - Fax: +1 (212) 557-3164