Thursday, November 25, 2010

Russia Plans Massive Population Shift - Development Agencies Begin Drooling

Get your attention?

This is about a week old, but Agence-France-Press (behind subscription wall) has reported that Russia plans a “major population shake-up”. If that sounds alarming – well, it isn’t. Aside from a misleading headline which, I must admit, prompted me to open the article, the population shake-up is in the form of a policy that hopes to reverse the Stalin era effort to urbanize everything that was not cemented in place already.

A new, not-so-secret, government paper recommends a plan to concentrate the bulk of Russia’s people in 20 urban centers rather than scattered across the country. The document says that developing small towns with a population of less than 100,000 people (90 percent of Russia's towns) had no perspective in the future and conditions should be created to speed up migration from small towns to larger centers. The document warned, however, that if the process was carried out in a disorganized fashion there could be serious risks for the state due to imbalances between regions. I’d add – among other things.

In perhaps one of the biggest understatement of the year, a government official said “Changing the map of the country is a necessary but not simple task which needs to be done very carefully as any overreaction could lead to a fight for urban resources".

Why is this at all relevant to anything – I mean aside from the shear scope of the concept which seems very Stalinesque in nature?

Think of the development assistance Moscow may source to implement a project of this magnitude. The World Bank, USAID and EC could be at the feeding trough for decades assisting the Russians in the planning and execution of the plan. And then, mid-way, re-thinking, re-designing and re-implementing the project – something development agencies have perfected over the past thirty or forty year under the theory that there is never enough time to do it right, but always enough to do it twice.

Seriously, once President Medvedev announces the secret plan I will bet the ranch that international development professionals – from experts in administration, transportation, land policy and urban planning to environmental protection and family planning – will be beating down all the Kremlin gates.

Hell, it’ll be like an annuity.

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