Monday, September 24, 2007

New Government in Russia

The changes announced today seem to be driven by two objectives.

One, as we saw with changes in the run-up to the 2003/04 elections, is to dismiss "scapegoat" ministers (in this case, Health Minister Sergei Zurabov and Vladimir Yakovlev, in charge of regional development) seen as having been ineffective in dealing with social issues. German Gref, dismissed as minister of the economy, might also be seen as a "scapegoat" for his role in curtailing social benefits, but his replacement by his deputy Elvira Nabiulina and the elevation of finance minister Alexei Kudrin to a deputy prime ministership are also indications that economic policy will remain unchanged.

The second is to ensure policy continuity around Putin's stated objective of furthering economic growth. Some have interpreted the promotion of Kudrin's deputy Tatyana Golikova to be the new health minister as a sign that, along with Nabiulina's promotion, there will be no major shifts in Russian policy.

One of the possible presidential successors, Dimitri Kozak, Putin's presidential envoy to the southern region of Russia, was returned to the cabinet, and given the regional development portfolio in the government, with expanded authority (with some transfer of responsibilities from the economics portfolio).

My interpretation? This is a temporary government for now, meant to keep the ship of state on an even keel in the run-up to the preisdential elections--but that this is not the final cabinet to be expected.

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