Konstantin Sonin, writing in the Moscow Times:
Two events this month proved that Russia has no real parliament — neither a lower nor an upper chamber. The first event was when State Duma and Federation Council lawmakers published income declarations.
The most unpleasant aspect of this was not the discovery that the lawmakers are very rich, but that their parliamentary duties are far from their primary occupation. Most are businesspeople primarily. In theory, the more businesspeople we have in the country, the wealthier the country will be. But we also need a functioning parliament that represents and defends the people’s interests.
The second event was the double explosions at the Raspadskaya coal mine in Mezhdurechensk in the Kemerovo region on May 8-9 that claimed the lives of 90 people. It also led to clashes between angry miners and the police.
Why does the mine explosion point to the need for a properly functioning parliament? First, we see that the miners there have no political representation. In a healthy democratic society, the lawmakers representing Mezhdurechensk and Kemerovo would have raised a cry in the parliament and the media. If the people elected the senators, then the senator from the Kemerovo region — whose political fate would depend on how vehemently he defended the interests of his constituents — would have acted as the “voice of the miners.”
Russian economics professor Konstantin Sonin, writing in the Moscow Times:
Russia is a country with large geopolitical ambitions. Both the Kremlin and the general populace dream of having as much influence on global affairs as during the glorious days of the Soviet Union. Yet the country produces slightly more than 3 percent of the world’s gross domestic product, and thus it will probably not play a major role at the Group of 20 summit to be held in Washington on Saturday. The only chance for President Dmitry Medvedev to make a significant contribution would be if he could bring to the summit some innovative proposals to help solve the global financial crisis.
Unfortunately, up until now, the country’s leaders have focused more on criticizing the way the world order is evolving over the last two decades– and particularly the U.S. role in causing the crisis and its excessive dominance in global affairs — than on putting forward any new, productive proposals to improve the situation.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown heads a country with the same share of the world GDP and roughly the same level of economic clout as Russia wields. Nonetheless, he has been much more active in offering useful suggestions that have made the headlines of leading newspapers. One of his more practical ideas to help mitigate the crisis is to convince the Persian Gulf states to participate in the International Monetary Fund’s efforts to help the countries that are most in need of financial assistance.