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#17 - JRL 7265
July 24, 2003
Putin passes initiative to government
Svetlana Borozdina, Ivan Petrov

The government and the president acted in tandem as Vladimir Putin signed a decree implementing reforms to the organs of state power in 2003-2004, followed an hour and a half later by the prime minister appointing vice-premier Boris Alyoshin to take charge of the work.

As Gazeta.Ru sources close to the government explained, the presidential decree is exactly the ''impulse'' that the president had promised to convey to Mikhail Kasyanov in his annual address to the Federal Assembly this spring.

In fact, the decree addresses the main problems that the Ministry for Economic Development and Trade has been working on lately. In other words, the president has put his signature to the ideas of German Gref.

Now, just like the liberal-minded Gref, the president believes that it is necessary ''to develop the system of self-regulated organizations in the economy, as well as to distribute powers to those which pertain to the regulation of economic activity, inspection and control, managing state property and state organizations providing services to individuals and legal persons''.

The decree sets priorities for the administrative reform. First and foremost, the changes are aimed at restricting the states interference in business activities or privately owned companies. In particular, the decree calls for an end to excessive state regulation of businesses, and for excluding the duplication of powers by the federal organs of the executive power.

The government has been looking into these very matters lately: the curtailment of ministerial functions has already begun and the government has repeatedly considered abolishing the excessively bureaucratic hurdles in the economy.

According to Gazeta.Ru sources, the strategy laid down in the decree has conformed to the actions both of the president and of the government of late. This became particularly obvious after German Grefs return to work after several weeks of illness, which put an end to the squabble between the Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and the deputy to Gref, Mikhail Dmitriyev, who is a key person in the administrative reform plan.

In his decree, the president also announced the goals of the reforms already under way. The president maintains that they are necessary so that the state does not interfere in the economy. In other words, the economy can, and must be, self-regulated.

Some observers, however, assume that the decree is more of a PR move, aimed at enhancing the authorities image after the prosecutor generals sustained attack on YUKOS.

Deputy chairman of the liberal SPS faction in the State Duma, Boris Nadezhdin, told Gazeta.Ru: ''The political practice, especially in light of the onslaught on YUKOS, makes one think that the president says one thing, while his subordinates do the opposite. The most important issue is not who heads the commission, but the evident discrepancy between presidential ideas and reality.''

The formation of a work group to oversee administrative reform has not proved unexpected either. The premier himself first raised the issue approximately a month ago, and the only problem was who would become the chairman of the commission. Political analysts polled by Gazeta.Ru believed that it would not be correct to task the government to engage in reforming itself, taking into account that the commission was being set up at the initiative of Kasyanov, not the president. But the Wednesday decree has proved that the president is ready to give the premier the go-ahead.

Whats more, the commission will be headed not by Mikhail Dmitriyevs boss, German Gref, who is close to the president, but by the vice-premier Boris Alyoshin, who is equally distanced from everyone and does not belong to any political ''groupings''.

The president, apparently, believes that to control the work of the commission it will suffice to install a member of his administration, namely Igor Shuvalov (the former chief of staff in the Kasyanov government).

The chairman of the Centre for Political Science, Mark Urnov, in comments for Gazeta.Ru called the candidature of Boris Alyoshin as ''absolutely neutral''. ''People who are trying to stall the normal democratic development of Russia, as far as I understand, are not expected to take the chairmans post of the commission,'' notes Urnov. That is why, according to our interlocutor, the problem is not so much in the candidacy for the chairman of the commission, but in the presidents directive.

That the premier remains the principal figure confirms one more small fact: not only will the commission for the administrative reform be headed by a vice-premier, i.e. a subordinate to the premier and not to the president, but as Mikhail Kasyanov has reported, the technical assistance to the commission will be provided by a special department in the government administration, which is to be set up shortly. This will give the premier practically unrestricted opportunities for controlling the commissions work at all levels.

The commission is to be set up in the near future, and will comprise ''representatives of the federal organs of executive power, business circles, regional and municipal authorities''. That group that almost entirely coincides with the composition of the ''commission for doubling GDP'' currently being set up under the presidential administration. The administrative reform, the declared goal of which is the liberalization of the economy, is also being conceived to promote economic growth, meaning two approximately similar commissions both in terms of composition and functions.

As Mark Urnov notes, one should not perceive the appointment of presidential administration officials to the governmental work group as a move aimed at weakening Kasyanov. At the same time, analysts do not expect any revolutionary deeds from the commission. A definite concept is not likely to be adopted before March 2004.

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