Decentralization in Regional Fiscal Systems in Russia: Trends and Links to Economic Performance

53 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2016

See all articles by Lev Freinkman

Lev Freinkman

National Research University Higher School of Economics; World Bank - The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD)

Plamen Yossifov

International Monetary Fund (IMF)

Date Written: April 1999


Considering the positive impact decentralization has had on regional economic performance and expenditure structure, Russia's federal government should: - Decisively protect local self-governance and budget autonomy. - Make intergovernmental fiscal relations more transparent. - Develop universal models of interactions between regional and municipal governments. - Impose stricter limits on total debt and budget deficits of subnational governments.

To shed light on decentralization in Russia, Freinkman and Yossifov examine intergovernmental fiscal relations within regions. To analyze trends, they review channels of fiscal allocation within regions-tax sharing and local transfer schemes. To evaluate the potential impact of various fiscal decentralization patterns on regional economic performance (including growth and the budget deficit), they study data on the structure of 89 Russian consolidated regional budgets for 1992-96.

They find that local governments' relative share of Russia's consolidated budget, although substantive (roughly a quarter of the total budget), did not expand after 1994. The federal government's relative role in financing public goods and services declined as the relative role of local governments increased substantially. Local governments collected more revenues in 1996 (6.4 percent of GDP) and spent more than regional governments. They also substantially increased social financing (including health, education, and social protection).

Russia made no progress toward a more transparent system for tax assignments.

The average level of expenditure decentralization is similar for ethnically Russian regions and national republics and okrugs but revenue arrangements differ greatly. True decentralization has taken place in oblasts and krais, where local authorities are provided with a bigger share of subnational tax revenues. A redistribution model applies in republics and autonomous okrugs, where greater local outlays have been financed through larger transfers from regional governments.

Regions near each other tend to have similar budget arrangements - the result of intensive interactions between neighbors and probably supported by the activities of regional associations. The size of a region's territory does not influence decentralization outcomes.

Fiscal decentralization seems positively related to the share of education spending in regional budgets. And regions with more decentralized finances tend to experience less economic decline. But budget control is weaker in more decentralized regions. Instability and lack of transparency in intergovernmental fiscal relations provide subnational governments little incentive for responsible fiscal policy. Further decentralization without greater transparency could bring greater debt and deficits.

This paper - a product of the Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Sector Unit, Europe and Central Asia Region - is part of a larger effort in the unit to study fiscal decentralization in transition economies. Lev Freinkman may be contacted at

Suggested Citation

Freinkman, Lev and Yossifov, Plamen, Decentralization in Regional Fiscal Systems in Russia: Trends and Links to Economic Performance (April 1999). Available at SSRN:

Lev Freinkman (Contact Author)

National Research University Higher School of Economics ( email )

Myasnitskaya street, 20
Moscow, Moscow 119017

World Bank - The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) ( email )

Washington, DC 20433
United States

Plamen Yossifov

International Monetary Fund (IMF)

700 19th Street NW
Washington, DC 20431
United States

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