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Finance minister ready to become prime minister

September 14, 2011, 13:55 UTC+3

Kudrin did not rule out the possibility that he could himself take up the reforms

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MOSCOW, September 14 (Itar-Tass) — RF Vice Prime Minister and Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin is ready to become prime minister, the Vedomosti newspaper claims.

Kudrin on Tuesday was the first from currently working officials to look into the future that will follow the presidential election. “If reforms need to be carried out, I am ready to work with a government that is headed by a person who is ready to do that,” Kudrin told the Reuters Russia Investment Summit. “But I repeat, I will work [with the government] only if reforms are carried out,” he said in an interview at the Reuters Moscow office. According to him, the next prime minister will definitely have the credit for reforms.

Kudrin did not rule out the possibility that he could himself take up the reforms: “If you actively pursue reforms – it is not boring. And if we are ready to carry them out, then I am ready to work in any position that would facilitate this. If there are no active reforms, then yes, it will be less interesting. So – let’s see.”

Kudrin has publicly criticized the current policy pursued by the government and the Kremlin, Vedomosti writes. According to him, it has become “more risky,” Russia began to live beyond its means. The (Putin-Medvedev) tandem has raised pensions by increasing insurance premiums, and the pre-election reduction of these contributions for some businesses, a sharp increase of the defence program spending – by 20 trillion roubles in the next ten years – is not secured, according to the finance minister, “by any sources” of budget revenues in the long-term prospect.

Kudrin, in fact, presented the theses of his policy statement: a strict fiscal and budgetary policy. He did not rule out raising taxes. He said that it is necessary to seriously conduct the housing and public utilities reform, engage in the protection of property rights, more objective arbitration of disputes, reducing the state’s share in businesses, public administration functions cuts and increasing the authority and independence of the regions and municipalities. Reform must begin with strategic planning, which will assess the options: to raise taxes or cut spending.

Moving forward and liberal reforms are inevitable, Kudrin says.

Kudrin has clearly indicated that he is willing to work in a new government, and possibly, even head it, according to Deputy Director of the Centre for Political Technology Boris Makarenko. Kudrin is perfect for the post of prime minister who will have to carry out unpopular reforms, he is experienced and does not seek popularity, the political analyst believes. However, Makarenko would not predict that Kudrin will certainly work in a new government: “Everything will be decided by a new president, and our personnel policies are unpredictable: who cold think in the early 2000s that the military reform will be conducted by a former head of the tax service?”

Officials have long been informally discussing the possible candidates for prime minister. About ten people have been named among them, but more often than others – First Vice Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, Kudrin and President of Sberbank German Gref – the former minister of economic development.

United Russia, whose leader is Mr. Putin, very much dislikes Kudrin, the newspaper notes. Deputies of United Russia have constantly criticised the actions and statements of the finance minister (e.g., raising taxes and the retirement age), and Kudrin said that this party’s activities are alien to him. But if Putin becomes president and nominates Kudrin, United Russia will hardly reject him, a high-ranking government official believes.

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