#1 - JRL 7010
January 9, 2003
PUTIN ESTABLISHES ORDER AT THE REGIONAL LEVEL
Regional and local governments face changes in relations with Moscow
Author: Indira Kvyatkovskaya, Alexander Sadchikov
[from WPS Monitoring Agency, www.wps.ru/e_index.html]
ONE OF THE MOST DIFFICULT REFORMS HAS BEEN LAUNCHED IN RUSSIA. THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AND REGIONAL AUTHORITIES IS LIKELY TO CHANGE DRASTICALLY. THE RELEVANT BILLS ARE EXPECTED TO BRING ABOUT HEATED DEBATES IN PARLIAMENT.
The Russian president has submitted amendments to two laws for the Duma's consideration. The amendments in question deal with general principles of establishing state authority bodies in subjects of the Russian Federation and general principles of local government arrangement. Thus, one of Putin's most large-scale reforms, that is the federal one, has been launched. The expected outcome of this reform presupposes drastic changes in the relationship of the federal government with regions and regions with municipalities. But this will happen only of the reform's designer, deputy head of the presidential administration Dmitry Kozak, will manage to overcome resistance of regional elite. It was the latter that the president tried to associate with during his recent visit to the City of Ufa.
The objective of the first law of the two is to "ensure coordination and a systematic approach in legislation concerning the status of federal government bodies in the regions". To put it simply, the law is meant to make regional leaders and legislatures abide by uniform rules. The law redefines the role contracts and agreements of the federal government with regions. Contracts and agreements may be concluded only in exceptional circumstances like when it is "preconditioned by economic, geographical and other peculiarities of Russian regions" (if necessary, any regional leader will be able to prove that they are an "exception", however). Each contract of that kind must be affirmed by federal law and prescribe particular rights and duties to the parties. It has been proposed to introduce a chapter into the law which would specify "economic principles of the operation of state authority bodies" and "major principles of state property management and administration". The Kremlin would like to unify "principles of formation and execution" of regional budgets as well. This is, however, another phase in the reforms which is only being approached yet.
Amendments to the law on the general principles of local government arrangement are no less important. Actually, a new version of the law is being discussed (the current law took effect in 1995 and is outdated in may respects). The federal government is not satisfied with "ambiguity in specification of powers for municipal institutions... discrepancy between resources and assigned duties... detachment from the population... imperfection of the principles of interaction between state authority bodies and local governments", an explanatory note to the bill reads.
The second law has the same objective, which is unification. Uniform principles of local government arrangement are supposed to make it possible "to put into place at the local level a system of inter-budgetary relations for which the main provisions can be found in the Budget Federalism Development Program of the Russian Federation for the period up to 2005. The program enables laying a real financial and economic foundation for local government institutions, and offering incentives to augment revenue at all levels".
The author of the bills, Dmitry Kozak, will defend them in the Duma. The lower house of parliament will be in Christmas recess until January 13. On January 14 the Duma Council will assign consideration of the bills to the relevant committees, and then Kozak will have to hold consultations with parliamentary factions and defend the bills in the committees. As far as the judicial reform is concerned, he failed. They say in the Duma that the local government reform will prove a "harder job", for it infringes a great deal of regions' interests (primarily economic ones). Besides, pre-election fever will soon take hold of Duma members.
In order to spare the regions feeling a lack of attention from the federal government, President Putin made a detour to Ufa from Magnitogorsk for a few hours.
During his short visit to Ufa, Putin managed a private meeting with President Murtaza Rakhimov of Bashkortostan, and also met with the teaching staff of Ufa State Petroleum Technical University. The president inspected the living conditions of students in one of the university's dormitories. Putin also had a meeting with Supreme Mufti Talgat Tadzhuddin.
(Translated by Sergei Kolosov)