The effects of the general institutional environment and its evolution on policy

The adoption of paradigmatic frameworks was also determined by the structure of the Russian political environment. In this study, I have argued that Russia's hybrid institutional structure substantially limits 'policy learning in a social manner', that is policy elaboration based on the effective interaction of diverse state and non-state actors. This feature of policy-making complicates effective elaboration of the paradigmatic basis of policy. Two factors were important in determining the limited nature of social learning in Russian housing: first, the relations between different coalitions of state and non-state policy actors operating within the housing policy sub-system; and, second, limited policy discussion in the Russian parliament.

In relation to the first factor, the housing policy sub-system considered in this book consisted of an open periphery (policy outsiders) and a closed, narrowly defined policy-making core (the policy network). Groups or coalitions of actors within the sub-system, including the policy network, were linked by interpersonal connections and shared sets of policy ideas. The relative weight of the administrative and material resources at the disposal of each of these groups varied substantially. This shaped the impact of policy ideas held by these different groups. The policy network, that is the coalition consisting of Gosstroy and Russian and international experts, was found to be most effective in introducing its ideas in the policy process during the 1990s and in the first half of the 2000s.

Experts on the periphery of the sub-system, policy outsiders, could express their views freely in the press or at academic conferences, but without vital administrative resources - namely connections to government policy-makers - their impact on policy was marginal during the 1990s and first half of the 2000s. Nevertheless, this analysis also showed that for outsider groups the most effective strategy to participate in the policy process was to make connections with the Russian parliament. Among the outsider specialist groups, two types were present: academic experts and a group consisting of experts and business interests. The latter group, due to its presence in the State Duma starting from the 1990s, was more effective in promoting its views on policy compared to the outsider academic group.

The second factor of the hybrid political environment that affected the process of social learning was the reduced competition and discussion of policy in the State Duma. Even though the executive-legislative relations fluctuated over the post-Soviet period, I did not find evidence that during the period of consensual policy-making (in the second half of the 1990s - early 2000s) the opposition parties in the State Duma promoted any new paradigmatic policy ideas, alternative to the ones adopted by the government.3 The parliamentary opposition delayed the adoption of the housing policy developed by the government. As Linda Cook (2007) argues, they managed to delay the restructuring of Russian housing policy, protecting the beneficiaries of the existing welfare arrangements. Yet, the executive, acting through presidential decrees and government resolutions, managed to by-pass the parliamentary opposition and adopt in policy all the reform initiatives that it supported from the early 1990s. The final and the most controversial of those policies (the Housing Code and monetisation of in-kind benefits) were institutionalised after the change in relations between the State Duma and the government in the first half of the 2000s.

The overall institutional setting reduced the government's capacity to learn in a social manner, that is to produce a new paradigmatic basis of policy through consultation with diverse expert and social groups. As a result, the 'social' element of the policy process took place after policy institutionalisation and merged with policy implementation. The lack of earlier consultation often meant the rejection of policies by the public, including those instances when the public could not use policies due to the mismatch between the policy and conditions on the ground. However, policy rejection provided a form of 'social' feedback for the government officials. This situation led government policy-makers to turn to alternative policy solutions proposed by different groups of outsider specialists. In the sub-case of housing property rights and to a degree in the housing finance issue area, where complex paradigmatic choice was present, policy-makers turned to the alternative paradigmatic solutions, advocated by marginalised actors, from the mid- 2000s. In the HUS issue area, while a consensus about the paradigmatic basis of policy existed among the entire policy sub-system, failures of instruments adopted in the early 1990s led policy-makers from the mid- 1990s onwards to adopt some of the alternative instruments previously championed by the outsider experts.

Overall, I found that the lack of 'intensive' social learning in this hybrid political setting led to extensive and protracted policy development, an important element in which was policy rejection by the general public.

 
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