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    RUSSIA: NEW PREMIER CANDIDATE CALLS TO MERGE MINISTRIES, ENHANCE CABINET RESPONSIBILITIES

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    MOSCOW, March 2, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - Russia needs federal ministries merged, ministerial decision-making responsibilities increased, and the number of Vice-Premiers cut, prime-ministerial nominee Mikhail Fradkov said to a session of the Communist parliamentary group at the State Duma, lower house.

    As for the government staff, he had the following to remark: "I take that staff with a grain of salt. The fewer it is the more efficient, that's what I think." The government is to consist of blocks, said Mr. Fradkov, while meeting with the Liberal Democratic parliamentary group.

    If his nomination finds parliamentary approval, he will demand the number of ministries and federal agencies drastically reduced. The same goes for deputy prime-ministerial portfolios, and offices within the government staff. "Functionaries will gain more than anyone else when the bureaucratic network becomes smaller and the redundant personnel goes," he added.

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