The new government appointed by Yeltsin last week, with its strong contingent of economic reformers, was hailed in the West as promising continuity and stability. The Russian media were less enthusiastic: Moskovsky komsomolets called it "a government of missed opportunities." (Moskovsky komsomolets, August 17) Despite Yeltsin’s promises and the string of meetings he and Prime Minister Chernomyrdin held with rival leaders, nothing came of the idea of a coalition government. Also still-born were Economics Minister Yevgeny Yasin’s proposals for streamlining the government to reduce the influence of institutional lobbies. Instead, the new government announced on August 15 was very similar to the old one. It contained several new faces but brought few surprises.
The main surprise was the appointment of Aleksei Bolshakov as the most senior of three first deputy prime ministers. Described as "a normal Soviet apparatchik," Bolshakov will run the government when Chernomyrdin is absent. (Reuters, August 15) Most remarked upon was the appointment of 35-year-old commercial banker and international economist Vladimir Potanin as first deputy prime minister with responsibility for macroeconomic policy. Opinions differ over his appointment. Some predict that he will open the Russian economy up to international business; others warn that he may be tempted to use his position to the advantage of his own Oneximbank. The only thing everyone agrees on is that Potanin’s appointment confirms growing importance of Russia’s banking sector.
Two former Yeltsin aides entered the government. The reformist economist Aleksandr Livshits became finance minister with broad powers to draw up next year’s budget and assert control over the vexed problem of tax collection. Viktor Ilyushin becomes first deputy prime minister with the thankless task of overseeing social issues. Otherwise, it was business much as usual. The power ministers remained unchanged and, to general relief, the reformist Yevgeny Yasin remains economics minister.
Winner Takes All.