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On the growth of gray and lack of whiteness

A series of essays on how the future in the Russian Far East is planned and implemented. Essay 2

On the growth of gray and lack of whiteness
Photo: shutterstock

Leonid Blyakher

Professor, Head of the Department of Philosophy and Culturology of the Pacific State University, Doctor of Philosophy
In one of the responses to previous essays The desire to "add figures" was expressed. This is where the problem arises. For today, with the exception of geographical parameters, "figures about the Far East", to put it mildly, are approximate enough. If we add data on the population by municipalities, then we will not get data for the region. The data on ATC and the migration service differ, and they do not completely coincide with the data of selective studies given by election commissions. Somewhere in the number of residents include temporary workers, they are excluded somewhere. Somewhere even the dead and the crews of ships that have long since replaced their work place continue to figure in the databases. And this is the most important parameter - for the population of the region. The same picture for the number of enterprises, according to their profile, in terms of investment. Such differences (related to the banal circumstance that statistics become an element of PR and adjusted to "reporting indicators"), among other things, indicates that the region is slowly but surely turning into an "unknown land". Simply put, we do not know in which region we live. More precisely, bureaucratic knowledge of the region is entering an increasingly obvious contradiction with what the people see outside the window. That's what the residents see outside the window, and I'm trying to learn.

In part, the residents themselves work for this. They are increasingly less eager to be "visible" to the authorities. Reducing the golden rain from the budget without significantly reducing the tasks for the development of the region, the implementation of "active social policy", etc. Lead to the fact that the burden on legal business is constantly growing. This is not only taxes, although their growth also takes place. These are numerous "encumbrances" of state and municipal projects. These are fines, which, according to informants, are quite comparable in volume and regularity with taxes. This is a "social responsibility", the volume of which also continues to grow.

But the profitability of enterprises "of the tenth years" is no longer in any comparison with the previous period. Double-digit figures in percentages of income are in the past. Increasing pressure on regional businesses reduces its motivation to be visible. This motivation is further reduced due to changes in the conditions for participation in state or municipal projects. It is important not only that the orders themselves have become smaller (there is no significant reduction yet). It is significant that participation in them for business is becoming less profitable. State, municipal, budgetary and other institutions, too, go into a saving mode, trying to get from potential performers as much as possible for less money. But it was participation in these projects that was the main motive for legalization in the previous period.

The "shadow" in business is slowly but surely increasing. The "white" business is increasingly becoming "gray" or simply ending, and its leaders go to officials, move to Thailand or Macau. The reduction in the number of "white" enterprises leads to an increase in the burden on the rest. After all, the tasks of the regional authorities have not been reduced. This gives a new impetus to the movement into the "shadow". But for a "gray" business to exist, equally "gray" workers are needed. Where do they come from in the context of the continuing outflow of the population? This is where the fun begins.

In 2015/2016, with the support of the Khamovniki Foundation, I conducted a small study in the cities of the Khabarovsk Territory on the prevalence of “shadow employment”. As a result, it turned out that more than 44% of the respondents (the sample is territorial, the general population is the adult population of the Khabarovsk Territory) have additional employment. And for almost a third of them, this employment is decisive for the family budget. These are completely ordinary workers, clerks, teachers and doctors who, as the old anecdote says, "sew a little at home in the evenings." They make the details of the furniture that is in our apartments. They prepare cakes for birthdays and weddings, pies for pit stops. They sew and repair, give lessons and injections, look after children and the elderly, fish and raise livestock, build houses and dig wells, photograph and film. They do a lot.

The forms of employment are very different. Someone works for themselves. Someone works for a close or remote customer. It is important that all this happens in a "shadow" and is not visible to the state. At some point the state discovers not that the shadow itself, but some indistinct understanding that in reality everything is somehow not as it is in reality. And like every state, it rushes to search for those who have escaped from the all-seeing eye.

But this noble desire to control everything and everyone unexpectedly stumbles upon a material problem. The resources required to detect a "shadowy" need no less than to check a large plant. The incomes of the bulk of the shadow economy are not particularly high. In the interview, the informants talked about incomes from thirty to one hundred thousand rubles a month. You can live on it. But it is already difficult for someone else to "warm up" on this. As a result, the “income” from the activities of numerous inspectors turns out to be much less than the costs of their salaries. You cannot report such results to your superiors. This significantly reduces the motivation of controllers to “catch” “gray” entrepreneurs.

And the shadow grows. So far this is not the whole reality. After all, salaries are paid (although the word "delays" has already appeared), some projects are being implemented, some money is being paid. Controllers, so far as they are supposed to, control everything or are eager to do it. But the trend of movement in the "shadow" is already quite palpable. What are the consequences of this? It seems to me that it is not catastrophic at all. And, of course, not tomorrow. But about these consequences it makes sense to say specifically. It is not just the form of people's survival in the region that changes (only in the region?). The way of interaction between man and the state is changing. Of course, I'm not Vanga or even Globa. Visions are rarely visited, and only at high temperatures. But I will try to build a forecast based on existing trends. This will be discussed in the next essay.
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