#7 - JRL 7215
June 9, 2003
VLADIMIR PUTIN IS CREATING A "SHADOW GOVERNMENT"
A new way of putting pressure on the Cabinet to improve its performance
Author: Konstantin Smirnov
[from WPS Monitoring Agency, www.wps.ru/e_index.html]
- IT SEEMS THAT PRESIDENT PUTIN'S DECISION IS RESPONSIBLE FOR SENIOR DEPUTY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT MINISTER ELVIRA NABIULLINA'S MOVE TO THE STRATEGIC DEVELOPMENT CENTER. RUSSIA COULD HAVE TWO GOVERNMENTS: ONE TO GENERATE IDEAS AND THE OTHER TO IMPLEMENT THEM.
On Friday, the Economic Development and Trade Ministry confirmed that Herman Gref's senior deputy, Elvira Nabiullina, is leaving for the Strategic Development Center "to work on providing analytical support for the reforms". Nabiullina was considered the ministry's key specialist in macroeconomics. Her departure would definitely weaken the reform capacities of the Economic Development Ministry, if it had not been a matter of the rebuilding on the base of the Strategic Development Center of a "shadow" government of the kind that existed in 1999-2000.
President Vladimir Putin's threat to give the government "some additional political stimuli" is taking on concrete form. One after another, highly-placed officials are being removed from Mikhail Kasianov's Cabinet and transferred directly under the president's supervision. Admittedly, the appointment of former Cabinet chief-of- staff Igor Shuvalov as a presidential aide for administrative reform was above all a consequence of the bureaucratic intrigue between Mikhail Kasianov and Alexander Voloshin.
However, the transfer of Elvira Nabiullina from the Economic Development Ministry to the Strategic Development Center was initially viewed by the president as a "political stimulus" for the prime minister, according to unofficial information.
On March 19, just before his serious and lengthy illness, Herman Gref, irritated by sharp disagreements with Mikhail Kasianov, asked the president to accept his resignation - he wanted to return to the Strategic Development Center. According to our sources, Gref attributed his desire not to continue work in the government to the fact that reform plans coming out of his ministry were being scuttled in the Cabinet.
Exactly how the prime minister manages this has been reported on more than one occasion - publicly - by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin. The Finance Ministry's decisions are rewritten in a way that fundamentally changes them - either in the Cabinet staff or in the prime minister's secretariat.
Mikhail Kasianov, incidentally, is not denying this in the slightest. He explains, however, that he is forced to take such steps in the Cabinet Staff for two reasons. Firstly, both the Finance Ministry and the Economic Development Ministry often send documents that are incomplete. Secondly - and this, in the prime minister's view, is totally inadmissible - staff-members of these ministries, when working on documents already approved at Cabinet meetings, distort their main ideas.
Vladimir Putin did not accept Herman Gref's resignation. However, Gref's idea did not die. According to unofficial information, moving Elvira Nabiullina to the Strategic Development Center was first suggested while the president's address to the Federal Assembly was being written.
At the Economic Development Ministry they call Nabiullina Gref's gray cardinal. Avoiding any kind of publicity, she nonetheless plays a key role in the generation of diverse reform initiatives at the ministry.
Right after Nabiullina, there are plans to transfer a number of other Economic Development Ministry personnel to the Strategic Development Center as well. For example, rumors emerged on Friday about the impending resignation of yet another deputy economic development minister: Alexander Maslov (by the way, his possible departure is being denied by the ministry). Incidentally, both Nabiullina and Mr. Maslov worked at the Strategic Development Center in 2000.
The Strategic Development Center's new life as a "shadow government", in which basic reforms will be planned, may begin under one condition.
Reform plans have to reach the president, bypassing the "kitchen" of the Cabinet. In principle, there is something like this already in Russia: meetings of the oligarchs with the president. However, the proposals of the oligarchs end up in the government anyway. The Strategic Development Center cannot replace the government either.
This means that much depends on the reaction of the Cabinet to the "political stimulus" it has received. These are Mikhail Kasianov's options: either to reconcile himself with the fact that planning of reforms is being moved from the Cabinet to the Strategic Development Center or to continue to insist on his prerogatives, to the detriment of the speed and radicalism of reforms.
It is Mikhail Kasianov's move now.
In Russia, the main problem has always been not a lack of reform ideas, but non-observance of laws or the impossibility of enforcing them adequately. Splitting the government into one part to generate ideas and another part to implement them could only complicate the situation.
(Translated by Alexander Mazzucchelli)