Strengthening Local Administration of Social Assistance in Russia

Author
Raymond J. Struyk, L. Jerome Gallagher
Content Type
Working Paper
Institution
Urban Institute
Abstract
A hallmark of the administration of social assistance under the socialist regimes in Eastern Europe and the USSR was the universal nature of eligibility for benefits, either to all citizens or to categories of deserving citizens, e.g., the physically handicapped. During the transition period since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation has taken limited steps to improve the targeting of benefits. The challenge to improvement is acute because the administration of the great majority of programs rests with agencies of local government. The question addressed here is how amenable local program administration is to improved targeting and more progressive program administration in general. Presented is an analysis of the results of assessments of two pilot programs implemented in two Russian cities in 2000–2001. The “school lunch pilot” introduced means testing in the school lunch program on a citywide basis; eligible families receive cash payments and all children pay the same price for their lunches in cash. The “jobs pilot” is a new, local means-tested program that provides cash support to families while unemployed workers search for work; continued receipt of funds is conditional on a minimum job search effort. We find that both programs were successfully implemented and that there was little resistance to the sharper targeting. On the other hand, a variety of problems with program administration were identified—problems that need to be addressed if program integrity and credibility are to be maintained.
Topic
Economics, Government, Human Welfare
Political Geography
Russia, Europe, Asia