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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Managers Without Borders

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I wonder if St. Petersburg City Hall is brave enough to let the foreign company that plans to get into the cleaning business this year serve as an example to local providers of communal services. The newcomers may show local companies how to deal with staircases, yards and garbage, all of which are shockingly mismanaged in St. Petersburg.

In January, City Hall announced plans to sign a deal that puts the German company Peter Dussmann in charge of providing communal housing services to 104 residential buildings in the city center. The Germans have promised to organize their employees so that residents will be able to contact service people at any time. They also pledged to provide their staff with mobile phones and good salaries of about 16,000 rubles ($570) a month.

I hope that the average plumber will not spend it all on more liters of vodka -- in addition to what many service professionals habitually consume on their way to work, at work and after work. At least, this is what most St. Petersburg residents experience when they need to call the plumber. Whenever he shows up, he reeks of alcohol, no matter what time of day he is called in to tackle a leak.

The reaction of the local communal service providers to the upcoming changes was fantastic. They were obviously scared of losing their shirts and for this reason started promoting their point of view in the local media. They claimed that "The Germans won't be able to cope with local conditions."

In other words, "What's good for a Russian will kill a German," as the popular Russian saying goes. Perhaps this is what local communal service providers expect will happen with the German expansion into the local market. The main point of this proverb is that Russians are convinced that only they can tolerate and even thrive under extreme conditions. This includes the boiling temperatures in Russian bathhouses and the huge amounts of vodka Russians consume. By the way, the Finns share these predilections, so they are not really things that set us apart.

Filth is what is truly fatal for Germans and Finns. Unfortunately, dirt has become an inescapable part of Russian society, which developed without private property. Anyone who doesn't believe this should take a look at the shoulder right after you cross the Finnish-Russian border. Trash litters both sides of the road once you pass the sign saying "Russia: Speed limit 90 kilometers per hour on freeways."

I think Russians can learn to keep their country clean. For this reason, the introduction of German property management ideas can only be a good thing for St. Petersburg. Just look at the project launched in Almaty, Kazakhstan, in the 1990s, when a French company took over the management of the public water system. In a couple of years, the people in Almaty completely forgot what it was like to live without hot water for a month in the summer, an experience that Russians know all too well.

Germans may do the same for St. Petersburg, but only if the strong lobby from local communal service providers fails to convince Governor Valentina Matviyenko that they should be allowed to maintain their bloated payrolls. Much of their staff will probably have to be fired anyway, not because of the specifics of the local environment, but because of their work ethic.

In the end, it doesn't matter what a manager's nationality is -- German, British, American or Russian -- provided they are good at what they do. A good manager doesn't tolerate employees with flasks in their pockets staggering around on the job.

For this reason, the communal service providers should face facts: The Germans will invest and earn a profit, and in return, Russians will get to live in clean, well-maintained buildings.

Vladimir Kovalyev is a Staff Writer at The St. Petersburg Times.