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The Moscow Times, March 11, 2004

Fradkov Does Not Plan to Cut Fat

By Valeria Korchagina

Although the huge Cabinet overhaul has slashed the number of ministries in half, the new government will keep a lot of old faces and could well remain as bloated as the previous one, Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov said Wednesday.

"Staff could end up being cut, but this is not the goal," Fradkov said at a news conference held under tight security at the government's seat, the White House.

Rather than letting go some of the 1 million civil servants working at all levels of the government, the shakeup aims to make the government more transparent and efficient without increasing the number of staff, Fradkov said.

The new government, which President Vladimir Putin presented Tuesday, will be strictly divided into three levels -- ministries, services and agencies. Ministries, which were cut from 30 to 17, will be in charge of policymaking and general strategy. Services will be responsible for state services provided to society, while agencies will check compliance with the relevant laws and regulations.

"There will be a kind of pyramid of the ministries at the top," Fradkov said.

He said he decided to have only one deputy prime minister to give more responsibility to the ministries and "reduce the pressure from above that used to come from deputy prime ministers."

But as the government regroups, quite a few dismissed top officials are returning to their jobs, albeit with different titles. Former Press Minister Mikhail Lesin and former Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi will take deputy ministerial posts in the newly created Culture and Press Ministry run by Alexander Sokolov. Former Communications Minister Leonid Reiman and former Transportation Minister Sergei Frank will become deputies to Transportation and Communications Minister Igor Levitin. Former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Alyoshin will head the Federal Industry Agency, which answers to the new Energy and Industry Ministry.

A new face brought into the government was senior Yabloko official Igor Artemyev, who was appointed as the head of the new Federal Anti-Monopoly Service, which reports to Fradkov.

Fradkov said the appointments will be official once the paperwork is completed to build the new government. He said the process will take two months.

Fradkov said many ministers were retained because of a need for their skills and experience. "And we are grateful to these people for their willingness to put up with lower ranks for the sake of a greater goal," he said.

The reshuffle in the hierarchy is likely to affect the lower echelons of the government. Fradkov, however, said special effort will be made to ensure that bureaucrats do not suffer financially. Instead, he said, he wants to see better pay and more respect for civil servants.

Fradkov's remarks on the new structure of the government and the retention of dismissed ministers disappointed some observers and analysts.

"It is a disappointment that supposed deadwood is going to be back in the government," said Roland Nash, chief strategist at Renaissance Capital.

"This was a technical decision," Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky said. "All the key positions have been kept by the old people."

He said the only change is "that the government is now fully controlled by the presidential administration."


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The Moscow Times, March 11, 2004

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