Key Putin-era spin doctor appointed deputy prime minister
Deputy prime minister posts have seldom been purely sinecures, the responsibilities are still too great. And these posts have never been used to remedy image problems, even under Prime Minister Putin, not to mention real cabinets – those of Gaidar and Chernomyrdin – that actually carried out reforms. Incidentally, both of the latter were deputy prime ministers in 1992. And what illustrious deputy prime ministers there were in the Chernomyrdin government – Soskovets and Chubais alone are worthy of note. And now compare their breadth of scope with that of the “newcomers” – Rogozin, who will show NATO countries Russia’s most fearsome weaponry (from a distance) – weapons more suitable for Russian roulette than actually engaging an enemy in combat – and Vladislav Surkov, who is now responsible for introducing gadgets among the broader working masses ...
Thankfully, Surkov was not given a serious post such as Economy Minister or, heaven forbid, Education Minister, even though this would certainly suit him – he has proven himself a master at brainwashing Russia’s youth. If they wanted to just bury him – they would dump him in the wilderness as Agriculture Minister. But such nuances in status have been observed – the very same demon of Russian politics is not to be banished from the mountaintops back down to earth, and the post is quite meaningless – what innovations are there in Putin's economic model? Some are banished to Saint Helena, and others to Skolkovo, not far from Brezhnev's former summer residence, a favorite location of the current “national leader.” Incidentally, further along the Skolkovo Highway lie the grounds of the International University, of which Surkov is listed as a graduate, although of course, he is more the talented self-taught type, the “quick-witted Newton” of political strategy. And the Skolkovo grounds extend over the former Soviet Communist Party’s Kuntsevo compound where figures such as Dolores Ibarruri and Comrade Lenin's niece Olga Ulyanova whiled away their time. So the new deputy prime minister's relationship with Skolkovo is strong and non-coincidental.
Removing Surkov could be considered a sure sign of change. But we must be careful about the wording and say that there is rather the possibility of change. That is because now the master of the political chess-board is Vyacheslav Volodin, who claims to be a supporter of democracy. Moreover, the evolution of Rosmolodyozh (the Federal Agency for Youth Affairs) and the various pro-Kremlin youth movements should be closely monitored to see whether their activity tapers off dramatically, and whether the Lake Seliger camp dries up – then yes, it would be possible to agree that Surkov's demonic shadow has been banished to the netherworld of new composite materials and LEDs.
But apparently, Surkov himself had tired of his role as either Faust or the devil. Innovation is a quieter operation. He was the chief political consultant, and will now become simply the chief consultant. Without the political component.
Putin says the crisis is over, Medvedev advocates improvements to investment climate
The last government meeting of the year ended with the announcement that the crisis is over, but officials, unhappy with Russia’s economic achievements, are urging caution in view of the “great depression,” which President Dmitry Medvedev says is approaching.
“We had to exert considerable effort to get out of the hole the crisis pushed us into, but the Russian economy overcame the effects of the crisis by yearend,” Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday during President Dmitry Medvedev’s cabinet meeting.
Putin pointed out that the government has done a great deal to strengthen the Russian economy’s foundations, which is “a solid achievement,” he said. At the same time, some issues need to be addressed as a matter of priority “irrespective of our domestic political calendar.” “These are social issues, they concern our citizens’ incomes,” the prime minister said. According to federal statistics service Rosstat, Russians’ take-home incomes did not grow this year.
President Medvedev also spoke about outstanding issues. “First of all, there is the investment climate, which I believe needs to be radically improved,” he said, adding that previous efforts to change it have failed. “Corruption remains a key issue in state agencies, and we must take the most radical measures to combat it,” Medvedev said. He also spoke about Russia’s achievements, such as WTO accession and launching the Customs Union. He said he hopes that being part of the WTO will create conditions for the Russian economy to become more competitive.
Independent experts agree that WTO accession is a major achievement, alongside inflation being at a record-low and the absence of recession. “Economic growth against the backdrop of decreasing inflation is the achievement of the government and the Central Bank,” said Mikhail Korolyuk, head of investment management and analysis at Solid investment company. “Those who criticize 4% growth don’t understand that it is close to Russia’s average long-term figure at this stage. Russia cannot grow 6%-7% a year, because it is no longer comparable to China or India.”
“The decisions to join the WTO and establish the Customs Union are among this year’s achievements. Failures include the inadequate pace of industrial recovery after a period of economic instability. Besides, small businesses and companies producing import-replacing goods are not growing fast enough,” said Vyacheslav Andryushkin, deputy board chairman of SDM Bank.
“External conditions were favorable for Russia this year. High oil prices helped us execute the budget, ensuring a surplus and keeping all financial indices within their limits,” said Agvan Mikaelyan, general director of the FinExpertiza audit and consulting group. However, he stressed that “we have not yet taken a single step toward modernization, liberalization, the development of domestic industrial relations and business, or economic diversification.”
Russians lose confidence in euro
Although Russians have grown accustomed to keeping their savings in euros, their confidence in the common European currency has plummeted of late. The ruble is not a favorite either. So what else is there?
Russians seem quite disappointed in the euro as a safe haven for their savings. At the same time, they are reluctant to save in rubles. So, they’ve gone back to buying dollars, Finmarket reports.
Russian euro acquisitions have been falling since August 2011, even while the summer holiday season was still in full swing. This downward trend continued into October despite the euro’s rise against the ruble, which would normally encourage conversion. Incidentally, the demand for euros in Russia did not plummet like this in 2010 when the debt crisis started gaining momentum in Europe.
Russians, disenchanted with the euro, have not yet lost confidence in foreign currency in general. Dollar sales have been experiencing a steady rise since June, with demand surging in August when the Russian ruble weakened in relation to both the dollar and the euro. In fact the demand for dollars shot up almost proportionately to the plummeting interest in euros.
“Russians are probably wary of the euro losing part of its purchasing power with all the discussion going on about Europe’s debt problems, the possible disintegration of the eurozone and a return to the former national currencies,” said Alexei Devyatov, chief economist at Uralsib Capital. “The dollar is still stable, and, even though U.S. debt problems tightened in August, that country generated less alarming news. Russians have no other options apart from dollars and euros. Other currencies are too rare and exotic for savings.”
In fact, during an online conference on the RIA Novosti website, Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak also said there was no alternative to the dollar for savings. “The dollar’s general ability to be converted into goods is a guarantee that the U.S. currency will maintain its leadership position indefinitely,” he said, adding that, according to his estimates, the dollar will fluctuate at around 31 rubles in 2012.
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