Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 51

Aleksandr Kotenkov, President Boris Yeltsin’s representative in the State Duma, says that a major government overhaul is planned for later this year. (Obshchaya gazeta, March 5) As Yeltsin hinted in his state-of-the-nation speech to the Russian parliament last month, the reorganization is likely to see the abolition of the post of deputy prime minister and a reduction in the number of federal ministries. Since last July, a reform commission has been reviewing the structure of the government apparatus, co-chaired by Kotenkov and Mikhail Krasnov (who was, until he resigned last month, Yeltsin’s adviser on legal affairs).

If the multiple deputy prime ministers are abolished, they would be replaced by a single deputy premier, whose task would be to substitute for the prime minister when he was out of the country. This in turn would necessitate the dismissal of one of the current first deputy premiers — Boris Nemtsov or Anatoly Chubais. At present, there are eight deputy prime ministers, who are charged as liaisons between the president and government ministers. Unless they simultaneously head specific ministries of their own (as some of them do), they lack their own administrative-operational staff and have generally proved unable to push reform proposals through the labyrinthine bureaucracy. They are forced to rely on specially created commissions (and media publicity) to advance their policy agenda.

Another concern of the reform commission is to reduce the plethora of agencies with overlapping and ill-defined jurisdictions. There are currently nearly a dozen different types of federal agency: ministries, state committees, ordinary committees, services, supervisory agencies, ordinary agencies and departments. The commission wants to reduce all this to a core of about twenty ministries. The reform will also try to tackle the ongoing problem of privileges and special services for government officials of all ranks. At present, these range from subsidized housing to state-provided dachas and cars, and cost more than salaries.

…Don’t Hold Your Breath.