Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 176

The wave of sweeping economic reform legislation that Russia has seen this year is likely to create unprecedented favorable conditions for sustained economic growth. The country now has a unique chance to catch up with its more successful Eastern European peers in the process of postcommunist economic transition. While much remains to be done and questions remain about the implementation of reform legislation the Duma has adopted, there is compelling evidence that President Vladimir Putin and his team will be able to accomplish more than any of their recent predecessors to transform Russia into a “normal country” with a dynamic economy. There is a consensus in Moscow that the amount of reform legislation the Duma is likely to pass in the next several months will be even greater than that in its spring session. Given the government’s de facto majority in the Duma, the upcoming session of the parliament is likely to be quite fruitful, provided that the newfound cooperative relationship between the legislature and the executive remains intact.

The State Duma’s autumn session opened on September 19. Of the 2,000 bills awaiting discussion in the Duma, approximately 700 are scheduled to be reviewed by the end of this year. Of these, 125 have been given high priority. Among them are the land and labor codes, packages of bills on pensions, banking, tax and judicial reforms, and the 2002 budget. Some bills are expected to have hundreds of amendments because many controversial laws and regulations were passed hurriedly in the final weeks of the spring session.

Reforms concerning the structure of the federation appear to be on hold this year, following the successful reassertion of the center’s judicial and fiscal authority over the regions in 2000. Efforts to further reform and develop fiscal federalism and to legally define the status of local authorities are planned for next year. However, at least one important piece of the puzzle has been quietly changed in 2001: Legislation was adopted that removed the requirement that heads of regional police departments be appointed and dismissed with the agreement of regional governors. The necessary amendments were approved by the Duma on July 12 and signed by Putin on August 4. As a result, the ability of governors to use coercive powers when resolving business disputes in their regions has been significantly reduced, given that the heads of regional police are now formally independent from the governors (Renaissance Capital, September 20).