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Welfare reforms in post-Soviet states: a comparison of social benefits reform in Russia and Kazakhstan


Maltseva, Elena (2012). Welfare reforms in post-Soviet states: a comparison of social benefits reform in Russia and Kazakhstan. Master's thesis / Doctoral dissertation.


Concerned with the question of why governments display varying degrees of success in implementing social reforms, (judged by their ability to arrive at coherent policy outcomes), my dissertation aims to identify the most important factors responsible for the stagnation of social benefits reform in Russia, as opposed to its successful implementation in Kazakhstan. Given their comparable Soviet political and economic characteristics in the immediate aftermath of Communism’s disintegration, why did the implementation of social benefits reform succeed in Kazakhstan, but largely fail in Russia? I argue that although several political and institutional factors did, to a certain degree, influence the course of social benefits reform in these two countries, their success or failure was ultimately determined by the capacity of key state actors to frame the problem and form an effective policy coalition that could further the reform agenda despite various political and institutional obstacles and socioeconomic challenges. In the case of Kazakhstan, the successful implementation of the social benefits reform was a result of a bold and skilful endeavour by Kazakhstani authorities, who used the existing conditions to justify the reform initiative and achieve the reform’s original objectives. By contrast, in Russia, the failure to effectively restructure the old Soviet social benefits system was rooted largely in the political instability of the Yeltsin era, and a lack of commitment to the reforms on the part of key political actors. And when the reform was finally launched, its ill-considered policies and the government’s failure to form the broad coalition and effectively frame the problem led to public protests and subsequent reform stagnation. Based on in-depth fieldwork conducted in Russia and Kazakhstan in 2006 and 2008, my study enriches the literature on the transformation of post-communist welfare regimes, and contributes important insights to the central question in the literature on public policy, that is, when, why and how policies change. It also enhances our understanding of political and public policy processes in transitional and competitive authoritarian contexts.


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Maltseva, Elena