Ex-Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin set out his four main goals following his appointment as the new head of Russia’s Audit Chamber, a state agency that oversees the work of the government.
Previously Kudrin was expected to come back into politics with an important post in either the new government or the presidential administration, sparking hope that Kremlin will play its reformist "joker" in the pack.
Russian watchers have been disappointed by Kudrin’s appointment to the Audit Chamber, a relatively toothless body that has never played an important role in domestic politics. However, there is a chance that the intention is to beef up the Chamber’s role with Kudrin at its head and make it an auditor with clout. On balance, Kudrin’s new role is being seen as a blow and lack of commitment by the Kremlin to making the long overdue deep structural reforms the country needs.
Kudrin has accepted the job as head the Audit Chamber, which some have also seen as a positive as Kudrin will at least be able to promote his policies from inside the government.
His four main objectives in the Audit Chamber will be curbing corruption, tying Russia's strategic development goals to the actual budget, enhancing the methods of budgetary control, and informing the public on realisation of national strategic goals.
"The question is not, whether we spend the money in accordance with the procedures, but whether the spending is getting us closer to the national strategic goals," Kudrin is cited as saying by Vedomosti .
Kudrin referred to the goals set out by the President Vladimir Putin as "extremely ambitious", but stressed that effective budget spending and quality monitoring is essential in reaching them.
Kudrin is one of the most respected figures in Russian government and also appeals to international investors. He is the author of much of the programme Putin has adopted for his next six years in office.
Putin’s speech unveiled a very ambitious reform plan during his state of the nation speech on March 1. The President wants productivity growth to accelerate to 5% per year (since 2009, the average growth was only 1%) during next decade, the share of SMEs in GDP to go up to 40% (from current level of 20%), the number of people employed in SMEs to go up from 19mn to 25mn people, and to halve the number of people living below the poverty line (currently 13.8% of the population or 20mn people).
As part of government reshuffle Kudrin gave up his seat at the supervisory board of Russia's largest bank Sberbank that he held since 2012, a separate report by Vedomosti claims.
"Overall, this is better than him remaining on the sidelines but not very inspiring...," Vladimir Tikhomirov of BSC Global Markets commented as the news on Kudrin's appointment were confirmed by RBC's sources on May 11.
"But one should also keep in mind that Kudrin's allies and protégé - [Finance Minister Anton] Siluanov and [Tatyana] Golikova - will play dominant roles in the Cabinet on economic front, so now we have a trio of pro-market liberals running Kremlin's economic agenda," he added, referring to Siluanov's and Golikova's promotion to Deputy PMs in the new government.
One of the signs that the Audit Chamber may becoming more important is that until recently the Audit Chamber was run by Golikova, who used it to report on the efficiency of government spending and laid the ground work for the larger role it could play with Kudrin at the helm.
Kudrin is credited with building the strong fiscal buffers in the form of the Reserve fund that helped Russia weather the 2008-2009 crisis and maintain sound government balance that is still the backbone of Russia's high sovereign credit ratings.
He was sacked from the government in 2011 after a public disagreement with PM Medvedev on growing military spending.
Since then Kudrin remained an influential policymaker and in the run-up to the 2018 presidential election co-chaired the presidential economic council and headed the Centre for Strategic Research (CSR) think-tank, which penned a so-called Plan K economic development strategy that was a basis for Vladimir Putin's pre-election address.