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Open Government says it is “alive”

May 24, 2013, 11:30 UTC+3

The Open Government discussed on Thursday draft main directions of Russia’s tax policy for the next year and in the midterm

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The Open Government discussed on Thursday draft main directions of Russia’s tax policy for the next year and in the midterm, prepared by the Finance Ministry. However, the main result of yesterday’s session was the confirmation that the Open Government is still “alive” although President Vladimir Putin has cancelled Russia’s entry into the Open Government Partnership.

The Moskovsky Komsomolets daily reminds the readers that on May 20, President Putin backpedaled on Russia’s entry in the Open Government Partnership this year. This has triggered a negative reaction of media. Reporters once again “buried” the Russian Open Government project. It was clearly stated at a session of that expert-consultative agency on Thursday: you wish! “As you see we are alive and keep working,” Minister for Open Government Mikhail Abyzov said.

The main directions of the tax policy are yearly approved by the government as a basis for the budget of the next three years. After last year’s criticism by the State Duma, the Finance Ministry has pledged to make the drafting of the document more public, the Kommersant daily writes. However, already at the beginning of the session Finance Minster Anton Siluanov said that the main “divarications” had been already settled during discussions the government had had. There is no time for revising the document, as the government intends to approve the document at its session on May 30. There were four such outstanding issues. The first one is who should pay so that Russian oil refineries begin producing better quality petroleum. The second one is cigarette excise tax. Insurance payments were the third disputable matter, and real property tax for individuals was the fourth one. According to Mikhail Abyzov, after being discussed by the Russian Open Government, the expert report will be sent to the White House on May 27. “If this work had started in February as scheduled, the quality of ‘directions’ and the level of their understanding by experts and citizens would be much better,” Abyzov summed up.

Practically Mikhail Abyzov is the only seeable confirmation that the Open Government project has not been buried as of yet, although it has been discredited a lot in the eyes of bureaucracy, business and rank-and-file Russian nationals, the Nezevisimaya Gazeta notes. Experts have explanations for that. “People don’t understand and they don’t see what Abyzov is doing, his use,” the vice president of the Political Technologies Centre, Alexei Makarkin, says. According to him, the idea of an open government is good in itself, but if fails to take root in Russia. Political apathy of a sizable part of the Russian society is the reason behind that. Opposition-minded people could potentially take part in the work of a shadow cabinet. But they are sure officials are not going to take their view into account, he believes.

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