Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 99

Newly appointed Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko promised to streamline the Russian governmental apparatus, which is notoriously Byzantine in structure. On May 15, Kirienko announced the abolition of thirty-six governmental commissions, which sounds impressive until one realizes that most of the key commissions are still in place. (Kommersant-Daily, May 19)

A governmental commission holds periodic meetings of officials from ministries and other federal agencies, and is supposed to coordinate their work and tackle specific, pressing problems. In practice, it confuses lines of command, and is often used to create the impression that an emergency problem is being tackled. As it turns out, Kirienko will preserve two of the most powerful commissions: the Committee on Operational Questions–to be chaired by First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov–and the Emergency Committee on Tax Collection. Nemtsov will also head the commissions on natural resources and agrarian policy, and handle problems in coalmining regions. Kirienko himself will chair the commissions on foreign investment and economic reform. First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko will head the commissions on federal budget income, monetary policy, tax and customs waivers and agricultural credits.

With eleven of the government’s twenty-two ministers new to their jobs, it may be unrealistic to expect any radical improvements in bureaucratic efficiency anytime soon. Kirienko’s reform, while a step in the right direction, is unlikely to change the course of the Russian administrative Leviathan.