Property Rights and the Rule of Law, Illustrated

5

February 10, 2016 by AK

Pictures first.

Then the BBC’s latest from Moscow:

Authorities in Moscow have begun a big campaign to demolish street kiosks and convenience stores, sparking an outraged reaction among some residents.

Some 100 stores were to be torn down, reports said, amid claims operators had no legal title to the land.

But critics counter that the demolition, which began on Monday night and targeted dozens of stores, is itself on shaky legal ground…

The premises targeted, say observers, are often to be found outside metro stations and range from small kiosks to shopping centres with up to three floors.

Up to three floors, that’s right. The BBC’s “convenience stores” headline gives a better idea than The Moscow Times‘ “kiosks“: is this a kiosk?

Some of the property owners have valid building permits issued by the Moscow city government in the 1990s. Some have won court rulings confirming their right to use the land on which their stores were built. The mayor’s office merely changed the rules in December 2015, and the buildings were doomed.

It’s not Putin or the Kremlin or FSB at work. (Admittedly, one can never be sure.) The current mayor of Moscow, Sergei Sobyanin, was appointed by Medvedev and confirmed as mayor in an election that was much less unfair than the typical federal election in present-day Russia. But even the man in the Kremlin pays more attention to legal niceties, even if they are an empty shell of due process.


5 comments »

  1. Tim Newman says:

    So what’s driving this, then? Non-payment of tax? He wants the land for himself? Doesn’t seem to make much sense to me.

    • AK says:

      The principal counsel for Navalny’s anti-corruption foundation has claimed that the mayor’s office promised those land plots to some developer two years earlier. A kickback is always presumed in such a situation. According to another theory, it was Sobyanin enforcing his idea of how Moscow should look.

      • Tim Newman says:

        Ah, so bog-standard Russian corruption being executed with its usual subtlety, then.

        • AK says:

          That’s what Moscow residents assume by default. Also by default, pretty much any construction (and demolition) activity in Moscow leaves grease on some city official’s hands. As I’ve said, the primary driver could be mayor Sobyanin’s wish to prettify Moscow according to his personal urban aesthetics (he grew up in a small Siberian town so he’s like an Alaskan running NYC) but his administration won’t be any poorer for that.

  2. […] property – leased out for 100 years or something. Which means it can be taken away on a whim, like this. As the song […]

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