While Argumenty i Fakty this week named Kirienko, Nemtsov, Stepashin and Voloshin as possible replacements for Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, Rossiya put forward a different scenario. Putin, the newspaper predicted, will dismiss his cabinet on March 14, its main sin being that Russia’s “army of state officials” has grown enormously under Kasyanov’s stewardship, currently consuming almost 50 percent of total budget outlays. According to the paper, Putin is consider replacing Kasyanov with either Vagit Alekperov, head of the Lukoil oil company, or Mikhail Khodorkovsky, head of the Yukos oil company. The new prime minister will be tasked with cutting the state bureaucracy by two-thirds, the paper reported. Khodorkovsky, who along with four other oligarchs was named earlier this month to sit on the government’s Enterprise Council, has indeed over the last year been calling for a reduction in the size of the state bureaucracy and, according to Rossiya, has made this case directly to Putin (Rossiya, February 27; Lenta.ru, February 15; Radio Ekho Moskvy, April 27, 2000). Khodorkovsky’s role as a fighter against bureaucracy is something of switch for him: In several interviews in 1997, he said that business would always be intertwined with the state in Russia and that politics was Russia’s “most profitable business.” The issue of Russia’s massive bureaucracy is, of course, a serious one: In April 1998, Kirienko, who had just become prime minister, told the State Duma that the state bureaucracy had grown by 1.2 million employees from 1992-1997 and public expenditures for the upkeep of the bureaucracy had grown by 62 percent in 1997 alone.
Kasyanov’s cabinet, it should be noted, has also taken up this issue: Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Kudrin announced yesterday that the cabinet will at its next meeting take up a series of draft laws aimed at de-bureaucratizing the economy. These include laws aimed at simplifying procedures for registering and licensing businesses. According to Kudrin, the cabinet has already agreed that the number of business activities requiring licenses should be reduced from 340 to ninety-one (Russian agencies, February 27). Meanwhile, Viktor Pokhmelkin, first deputy head of the Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS) faction in the State Duma, has introduced a draft law, called “On administrative procedures,” which meticulously lays out and codifies the administrative procedures state bureaucrats must follow when interacting with either individuals or businesses. Pokhmelkin said he had no illusions that the law, which is aimed at ending corruption and bureaucratic arbitrariness among state officials, would have an easy time winning approval in the parliament’s lower house. “It is beyond any doubt that there will be colossal resistance” to the law, he said in an interview, adding that besides the SPS, only the Yabloko faction currently backed the proposed law. Pokhmelkin said supporters of the bill were in discussions with the presidential administration in hopes of winning Kremlin backing for the bill, which in turn would help win support for it from pro-Kremlin factions like Unity and People’s Deputy (Segodnya, February 26).
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