"Cash vs. Benefits: Efficiency, of Assault on Russia's Soul? What is a perk worth? More than Putin will give us, many worry," by C.J. Chivers, New York Times, 18 June, p. A3.
Big scary bill in Russia's Duma from Putin: proposing to scrap decades of free this and that for masses, substituting government stipends in their place. A lot of old-timers would suffer most in this scenario. As one independent Duma member put it: "For the Russian people it means completely changing their psychology and their tradition, a Soviet-style tradition of life in Russia."
Putin really wants to prioritize government subsidies for those who need them most, whereas providing things like free public transportation for all means everyone gets something, whether they need it or notósomething this government simply cannot afford as it moves ahead with market reforms.
That Putin is moving ahead with this very difficult dismantling of one of the last vestiges of Soviet central planning only demonstrates how committed he remains to reform.