ANOTHER DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER

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Will Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov get another deputy?

Rumor has it that at President Vladimir Putin’s next Monday meeting with Cabinet ministers, he might name another deputy for Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov: a fourth deputy prime minister, repsonsible for supervising the fuel and energy sector and state monopolies.


Rumor has it that at President Vladimir Putin’s next Monday meeting with Cabinet ministers, he might name another deputy for Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov: a fourth deputy prime minister, repsonsible for supervising the fuel and energy sector and state monopolies.

The favorites for the job are said to be Vladimir Kogan, former St. Petersburg banker, now deputy head of the Federal Construction and Housing Agency (RosStroi); Sergei Naryshkin, Cabinet chief-of-staff; and even Economic Development Minister Herman Gref (though his chances are lowest).

All three share a St. Petersburg background and personal acquaintance with President Putin. Gref may have been born in Kazakhstan, but he got his start in St. Petersburg. The other two were born and raised in St. Petersburg. Majority opinion gives the best chances to Kogan, who was only recently persuaded to leave his own business and accept a government job. Otherwise, it’s hard to work out why a very successful entrepreneur, who was already meeting regularly with President Putin, would agree to become a second-rank state official.

Kogan’s background even overshadows the chekist past of Naryshkin (formerly on the staff of the economic advisor at the Soviet Embassy in Belgium; a number of sources say this was a cover for other, less publicized activity). If Kogan moves to the Cabinet, then Cabinet staff officials will have a new pastime: guessing where the newcomer’s office will be located and who will be displaced to make way for him, then watching the office being renovated and a new nameplate being attached.

Actually, Fradkov himself hinted back in November that he might get yet another deputy. That was when two new deputy prime ministers were appointed: a senior deputy, Dmitri Medvedev, and a regular deputy, Sergei Ivanov (also defense minister). At the time, Frakdov said: “I don’t rule out the possibility of having a fourth deputy, but we need to work on that – it’s too early to discuss it as yet.” So they have been working on it, apparently. Besides, it’s hardly fitting for the prime minister to have only three deputies when ordinary ministers already have four each. It just seems that the state administration reforms that President Putin and the new Cabinet launched in spring 2004 have been abandoned entirely.

Remember that Soviet-era movie where the hero shoots all the criminals and then introduces himself to the peasants as the new UgRo chief? “The sixth one,” say the peasants fearfully. If things keep going at this rate, we’ll soon be saying the same – especially given that there were six deputy prime ministers before the state administration reforms began.

Mikhail Delyagin, president of the Globalization Studies Institute:

There is a grain of sense in appointing a fourth deputy prime minister: nobody is responsible for regulating the state monopolies. But that isn’t a management problem; it’s more to do with political will. The monopolies could be regulated by the Economic Development Ministry, the Tariffs Service, or the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service. Creating an additional administrative superstructure won’t change anything.

If the appointment rumors are confirmed and Vladimir Kogan moves to the Cabinet, that would be a very dangerous trend: a business leader being appointed to senior government office. After all, we’ve been fighting oligarchy for a very long time, and finally it looks like we’ve won. But now it’s becoming clear that we weren’t fighting oligarchs in general – only the wrong kind of oligarchs.

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