Monthly Public Administration Discussion Meeting: Uwe Wagschal on a „Stress Test for Public Finances“

On October 10, the HSE School of Public Administration hosted its monthly discussion series. This month’s event was entitled ‘Stress Test for Public Finances – Policy-Responses to the Financial and Economic Crisis in the OECD’ and was led by Prof. Dr. Uwe Wagschal of the University of Freiburg (Germany).

Uwe Wagschal is Professor of comparative political science at the University of Freiburg, Germany. He holds a diploma in economics and a PhD in political science from the University of Heidelberg, Germany. Prior he was also a lecturer at the University of Zurich, Professor of Empirical Political Science and Policy Analysis at the University of Munich (LMU, 2002-2003), and Professor of Comparative Politics at the University of Heidelberg (2005-2009), where he also served as chairman of the Department of Political Science. His professional career further includes visiting fellowships at the Universities of Amsterdam, Hull (UK), and Colchester (UK). Uwe Wagschal served as a Senior Political Scientist und Senior Economist for the think tank Avenir Suisse (2001-2003).

Uwe Wagschal’s talk focused on the consequences of massive monetary and fiscal stimulus for the public purse and will compare the fiscal packages in 28 OECD-countries aimed at combating an economic downturn following the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008.

Decision makers usually acknowledge that the crisis is over, after trillions of taxpayers money had been spent to bailout banks and stimulate economic activity. But the consequences of these actions are still visible today. And its most dramatic effects are still to come. Spending money on bailouts today means government will have to cut staff in government agencies tomorrow.


A New Bus Scheme for Moscow

Moscow introduced a new public bus system in early October. Muscovites will experience five new features:

  • New buses. Newly bought cars in Mosgortrans corporate skyblue-color replace significant number of old vehicles. As far I have been observing mainly trolleybuses have been replaced.
  • New routes: Several old routes covering the same main roads have been merged and renumbered. Take Leninskiy Prospekt as an example: Former bus routes 33, 64 and 84 all went from cinema center Udarnik down Leninskiy Prospekt and then to the area around Metro Station Yougo Spanaja, and even beyond. All three have been merged into the new route M4. I consider this to be a good thing, since it avoids confusion and clear-cuts the endless list of existing bus routes in Moscow.
  • Semi-public Marshrutkas have been completely abolished. Both in peak hours and in late evening these seemingly licensed mini-taxis carried a significant number of passengers on the main traveling routes. Standard fare was 35 or 40 rubles, which is less than the standard fare of 50 rubles for a single ride in Metro or buses. Now they have disappeared over night.
  • New social routes. There are new bus routes which intend to bring community members to social institutions like hospitals, or one stop agencies.
  • New designated bus lanes. In front of Bolshoi theater for instance there is now a bus lane heading down to Okhotny riad. Before the new scheme you could only travel into direction of Lubyanka and Kitai Gorod.

At least to me the new scheme demonstrates a significant amount of innovative and error-correcting behavior within Moscow City government and administration. And it’s already the second innovation in public transport within the last six months, the first being the launch of the new Moscow Ring Railway, or Moscow Central Circle.

One costly potential improvement is still left: Installing display panels at all bus stations. Because uncertainty about the next departure, that is, waiting time, is a main source of dissatisfaction among passengers.

featured picture above: Moscow’s Kremlin in the late evening, Bus route M1 will take you there.