According to Natalia Chernysheva, the head of the People's Control Committee, the amount of the total debt of the Russian residents for the consumed public utility services is underestimated. She says that during the lockdown in spring and early summer, the total collected payments fell 30-40% in some regions. Sometimes the collection rate decreased by 70%.
During the crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russian authorities imposed a moratorium on back payments for utilities. The ban has been in effect since April. It allowed many Russian families to avoid financial collapse by delaying payment for utility services “till better days.” However, it is expires January 2021. According to experts, it might lead to grave problems for a huge number of families all over the country. “Chances are if the Russian families don’t pay up the debts for the consumed housing and communal services, they will be left without lighting, hot water and heating,” the Argumenty i Fakty weekly quotes experts.
It is noteworthy that they give a lot of arguments in favor of these predictions. Thus, experts from the Russian Academy of Science and Technology and the Gaidar Institute for Economic Policy have done monitoring of the situation. According to it, in the first half of 2020, the debts of the Russians for utility services amounted to 6.3% of the total amount of bills received. This is significantly more than in all previous years when this indicator was below 4.7%. Analysts of both institutes believe that the decline in personal incomes due to “the coronavirus crisis” was not the root-cause of the situation. To their thinking, a huge number of the Russian residents have not understood correctly why the authorities introduced a moratorium on penalties for non-payment of housing and utility services.
“In January 2021, the fines will have to be paid on a full-scale basis,” the authors of the research say. “There is no chance that the penalties will be canceled.” In addition, it is underlined separately that as the Russian authorities have not offered any explanations or informed people about who is allowed to pay and who is not, the fault for this situation entirely rests with them.
In this regard reporters even asked experts to assess the scale of the coming disaster. Thus, Natalia Chernysheva, an expert in the segment of housing and communal services, believes that the amount of the total debt of the Russian residents for consumed utilities is underestimated. She says that during the lockdown in spring and early summer, the sum of collected payments fell by 30-40% in some regions. Sometimes the collection rate decreased by 70%. According to her estimates, by the end of 2020, the debt on payment for housing and utility services throughout the country is likely to reach the level of 1.5 trln rubles ($19.19 mln.)
At the moment, most experts agree that the Ministry of Construction should urgently take measures to avoid economic disaster and to explain to people what exactly debtors in the housing and utilities sector might as of January 2021. It is necessary to make it clear to the residents whether they will have to pay all the debts for the consumed services, which have accumulated since April 2020, or they can count on proposals for paying by installments. Additionally, it is necessary to specify if the debtors might come to face with forced disconnection from hot water supply and heating in the dead of winter. Experts underline the absence of clear-cut answers to all these questions.