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Elections test civil servants-presidential philosophy (comment).
By Veronika Voskoboinikova, Mikhail Kalmykov
January 2, 2003

President Vladimir Putin's televised and radio dialogue with the nation last December began with an uneasy question from Khabarovsk, whose resident asked: "The number of civil servants keeps growing with every day, but all are reluctant to address people's needs. What can be done about this?"

The president, who earlier described himself as a civil servant, hired by the people on the basis of election returns, to "provide services to the population," was not at all confused.

The gist of his reply given in the live broadcast was that all state construction-related matters were too important to be farmed out to the state machinery. He believes that citizens, too, must take the initiative and to display statesmanship in their attitude to elections of any level. In a word, the civil servants must pay attention to the people, and the people must scrutinize the civil servants' performance. One has the impression that the president is already making himself ready for the election test due in a year's time. Proceeding from this philosophy the authorities and citizens must cooperate in their efforts to build a stronger state. The authorities last year did their utmost to walk their part of the road.

Relations between various branches of power continued to be reformed, although no breakthroughs were achieved. President Putin quite agrees with this: "There was too much confusion in power sharing between the federal government and regional authorities. "

A system of clear distribution of financial resources is inexistent, too. It was not accidental that these issues were on the agenda of two State Council Presidium sessions in a row last autumn and of an on-site conference on the problems of the Central Federal District.

"The administrative reform should begin at last. So far the government has done little to make it a reality," Putin said.

He urged transition from theoretic, unspecific talk about an optimal delimitation of powers to action, and more rational distribution and more effective spending of funds disbursed to Russia's constituent member-territories and local authorities. This, in turn, will require an updated legal base that would prevent the delegation of duties to member-territories and local self-governments without proper financial backing.

Putin sees a future role of lower tiers of power as not that of idle spectators or mechanic executors. Their range of competencies must include initiative in the search for both sources of financing and ways of more rational spending of funds. This pattern must help achieve the end goal of raising living standards. The population, in turn, will have elections as an effective means of control. The people must develop the habit of using this instrument and never feel shy to do so.

With the aim to clear the terms "civil servant", "bureaucrat" and "apparatus" of the negative connotation and let them regain the original meaning the authorities last year announced practical steps to reform the civil service.

President Putin submitted to the State Duma a bill on the system of civil service and signed decrees on two programs to reform the civil service in 2003-2005 and on general principles of code of conduct for civil servants.

The bills propose fundamentally new definitions of the civil service as a mechanism of state control, and differentiation of the services into federal civil, federal military, federal law enforcement and state civil service in constituent member-territories.

The aim is to optimize the composition of the civil service by the end of 2005 and create a stable civil service system answerable to a civil society. The president attaches great importance to this reform, supervised by the first deputy chief of the presidential staff Dmitry Medvedev.

The judicial reform is another crucial segment of state construction. Last year saw the emergence of a series of laws and decrees, which, the president said, were geared to reforming the procedures that guarantee the protection of the right of the person and availability of justice. In part, this applies to the revised versions of the Code of Criminal Procedure and Code of Arbitration Procedure, laws on the status of judges and lawyers, system of pardon, and future amendments to the operation of the prosecutors' offices.

"Making new laws will be not enough. Court personnel must be trained and proper control of courts established. The new judicial mechanism has been just formed and it will be fully operational only after sometime," Putin said.

The president said the implementation of the judicial and legal reform was a two-fold political and economic task. The existing laws must be adequate to the social and economic situation in the country and guarantee not so much strong punishment as inevitable punishment.

Putin's pre-election year will be crucial in the sphere of state construction, just as in many other spheres. The president will in fact present an account of the first results of reforms to the nation - the people whose support the authorities count on in their further state building efforts.

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