Staunton, July 7 – Many Russians are unaware that in Russia, only five percent of all highways are federal or that the Plato fees are collected only when long-haul truckers make use of them (ura.news/articles/1036271393), but there is one group of people who is very much aware of this reality: Russia’s governors.
On the one hand, they have lost a major source of revenue as a result of the federal Plato system which is intended to be a substitute for taxes and fees that the federal subjects have been collecting for road repair. And on the other, truckers are using non-federal roads more heavily in order to avoid having to pay the hated Plato fees.
And so it was perhaps inevitable that a regional leader would declare that Russia’s regions need their own Plato fee systems to pay for the upkeep of the 95 percent of the country’s roads. That has now happened: Igor Vasilyev, the transportation minister for Stavropol kray has called for precisely that (newstracker.ru/news/society/07-07-2017/regionam-nuzhen-svoy-platon-mindor-stavropolya).
But his proposal will not only outrage truckers who will view it as another tightening of the noose around them but also local delivery companies who presumably would have to pay any such fees as well. As a result, such an idea, if adopted, would almost certainly trigger a far larger strike, one including not only long-haul truckers as in the past but also local drivers as well.
Moreover, there are two additional “unexploded mines” underneath such ideas: They would cost the regions dearly because the latter would have to create their own system of weigh stations and the like, and they would highlight the absence of fiscal federalism in the country, not at issue Vladimir Putin wants raised in this pre-election season.
In another development concerning the continuing long-haul truckers labor action and political protest, officials in many regions are reporting an upsurge of bribes given by drivers to highway police in order to get around the Plato system. Moscow faces a Hobson’s choice as a result (newstracker.ru/article/general/06-07-2017/stavropolskih-dalnoboyschikov-oblozhili-danyu-be8b2865-beeb-4960-93d5-de902303b9f8).
If the central government doesn’t crack down, it will lose much or all of the revenue it hoped to gain from the Plato system and will stand exposed as a hypocrite as far as opposition to corruption is concerned. But if it does crack down, it will spark resistance both among the truckers and among the highway police who are the chief beneficiaries of the new order.