MOSCOW, March 13 (RIA Novosti) – Salaries for staff of the Russian government’s central apparatus have been doubled, as have those for staff of the presidential administration, a Kremlin spokesman said Tuesday in response to a report by a well-known business magazine.
Forbes Russia had reported earlier in the day that the wage hike at the government’s so-called apparat – which comprises over 30 subdivisions, including the secretariats of the prime minister and his deputies – took place last fall following a comparable increase in President Vladimir Putin’s administration.
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, confirmed to Business FM news radio that salaries at the two loci of executive power had indeed been nearly doubled, saying the rationale was to get the wages closer to those of military and security officials, and also that the raise had to do with an attempt to monetize public servants’ official, non-cash perks.
In exchange for higher wages, government and Kremlin staff lost their right to discounted stays at certain hotels and sanatoriums, as well as to certain medical services, Peskov said, without elaborating.
According to Forbes Russia, a department head in the government’s apparatus is now making about 300,000 rubles, or nearly $10,000, a month – up from 125,000 rubles (about $4,000) – not counting various bonuses that often far exceed the base salary. Salaries for lower-ranking bureaucrats were hiked accordingly, the report said, adding that government staff salaries still remain lower than those in the presidential administration.
The Kremlin’s staff was the first to get their salaries nearly doubled, in line with a September 1 decree by Putin shortly after his return to the presidency last spring, the magazine said.
Staff in the government – which is headed by Putin’s predecessor, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, and has been known to compete with the Kremlin for influence – were reportedly offended by the perceived slight.
“The salary increase for the presidential administration staff had a bombshell effect in the government,” Forbes quoted an unidentified government staffer as saying. “People at the White House didn’t talk about anything except that injustice,” the staffer reportedly said, referring to the building housing the government’s central apparatus.
The resulting increase in government salaries – calculated using a complicated mix of components – was ordered by Putin in November and came into force officially in January, according to Forbes, but had not been reported before the magazine’s story this week. (Business FM’s question to Peskov had identified the start date of both increases, in the government and the presidential administration, as September, according to the radio station’s website.)
While the government staff raise does not cover federal ministers, who are considered a separate class of public servants, the affected salaries are now comparable to those in the private sector, Forbes said. The magazine noted, however, that department heads at large state-run companies such as Gazprom make 500,000 to 600,000 rubles a month (some $16,000 to $19,500), while officials at ministries and other public-sector agencies make significantly less than staff at the government apparatus and presidential administration.
At the same time, an expert on administrative reform from the Moscow-based Center for Strategic Research, Vladimir Yuzhakov, told Forbes he believed the main reason for the raise was to secure officials’ support or loyalty, “and a hungry bureaucrat isn’t loyal.”
A “hungry bureaucrat” may be considered a liability in another way as well: In recent months, the Kremlin has been ratcheting up its calls to fight corruption among Russian officials – a notorious problem that served as a rallying cry for the anti-Putin opposition movement of 2011-2012.
Last year, the head of the Audit Chamber, a government watchdog, estimated that embezzlement from bidding for state contracts alone had amounted to 1 trillion rubles ($32.6 billion at today’s rate).