Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has been appointed Head of the Presidential Council on Fighting Corruption, for the period of the first six months of 2004.
This decision was made at the first Council meeting took place in the Kremlin on January 12. President Putin offered to appoint Mikhail Kasyanov the first Council Head, and agreed with the idea of choosing new Chairman for the Council every six months. Kasyanov's appointment was unanimously accepted, RIA Novosti information agency reports.
The Council chief members are Chairmen of the Russian Supreme Court, Supreme Arbitration Court, Constitution Court, Prime Minister and Chairmen of the Russian Parliament two Chambers.
President Putin said that corruption results from abusing power on all its levels. "I mean the acts violating equality, rights and freedom of business activity. As the result, the rights of citizens are abused and constrains are set for the economic development and growth", Russian President said.
"Empty conversations, search for sensations and campaigning methods in this sphere should remain in the past. We need carefully elaborated realistic measures to fight corruption, and, more importantly, to prevent it".
President Putin said "the preliminary period of establishing the Council should be finished as soon as possible, including quick forming its expert and operating bodies". "The authorities in Russia repeatedly declared in public that it is necessary to fight corruption, they developed programs for this, undertook separate, sometimes tough measures but, telling the truth, tall this produced little effect", President emphasized.
In his opinion, corruption "will be decreased as the law will be better enforced in the country and the democratic institutions and civilized market economy will be firmly established, and the authorities will start fighting not only with the consequences of corruption, but also with its causes".
The President set the key directions for the Council's work
Vladimir Putin set the key directions for the Council's work, Interfax new agency reported. President said that the need of "establishing constant and systematic anticorruption expertise of the legislation" must be made the priority. "It is necessary to reveal the positions in both the current laws and bills under consideration which may lead to abusing power and the opportunity of corruption", President said.
Vladimir Putin emphasized that laws may not contain "regulations bearing double interpretation and internal contradictions, laws are required to have only precise and realistic requirements and precise mechanisms for their application". President Putin also requested the Council to become involved in analyzing the activity of authorities on all levels. He said that this "does not mean interfering in work of local authorities". "I speak about analysis".
According to President Putin, executing any administrative procedures "requires having maximum transparency, and authorities must stop their practice of solving the problems of the state and regions outside the framework of the budget and tax laws". "The budget and the state and private foundations established by law are required to become the authorities' only form of distributing finance".
According to President Putin, one more clue for fighting corruption is "strict regulation of rights and duties of officials". "Officials are required to be placed within strict procedural framework, and the results of their activity must be open for civil society, for people who are taxpayers funding the work of the state officials".
Vladimir Putin added that "we should not be ashamed of raising material well-being of officials and their salary, but their activity should be absolutely transparent, open and accountable to the society". President requested the Council to form the operating commission of experts "knowing these issues and having high authority in professional and public sphere". According to him, the formed Council "is requested to have objective information about spreading corruption and knowledge the areas highly contaminated with corruption".
President Putin recommended the Council to be guided by "unequivocal legal criteria of estimation" in its work. For this purpose "we are required to give the exact qualification to the notion of "corruption" and realize what factors maintain its existence nowadays". President Putin expressed support to strengthening institutions of civil control which "reduce chances of abusing officials' power both in personal and in group financial interests”.
"One of the tasks for the Council is to develop effective forms of public control for state and municipal authorities", he said. Putin recognized that "we have not created any effectively operating control mechanisms so far". President requested the Council to submit all its offers to the government and President in the form of bills.
Within the framework of the Council, Heads of the operating groups and commissions also will be appointed. The Commission on Counteracting Corruption, affiliated to the Council will be headed by Deputy Prime Minister Boris Aleshin. First Deputy Head of the President Administration Dmitry Kozak said in an interview to Rosbalt information agency that he will be the Head of the Commission on Work Ethics. According to Kozak, the Presidential Council on fighting corruption will not replace law enforcement bodies and will not investigate criminal cases. The Commission on Counteracting Corruption will search for the causes of corruption, being engaged in the examination of legislation and the analysis of the activity of authorities. The Commission on Work Ethics will deal with the issues of conflicts of interests between the officials appointed by President and the government.
The optimism expressed by Prime Minister Kasyanov is just an attempt to hide the real state of affairs. The Prime Minister is unlikely to remain in his position (they say Minister of Finance Alexey Kudrin is going to replace him). "Fishing Case" of corruption in the Far-East fishing industry, supporting of ex-Head of Yukos company Michail Khodorkovsky who is currently under arrest, connection with the "family circle" of former President Yeltsyn are among the negative factors for Kasyanov, and his advantages are impressive economic parameters. Michael Kasyanov was right to compare 2003 with the successful post-crisis 2000. In 2000 the growth of GDP reached 9 percent, but inflation was too big - it exceeded 20 percent. "Therefore the 6.7 percent growth of GDP and 12 percent of inflation in 2003 is much more valuable result than this of 2000 ", said Prime Minister, as always, with a smile. Mikhail Kasyanov also added that the last year economic growth was based on internal consumer and investing demand. Manufacturing capacities are being modernized and labor productivity is growing in the country, he said.
The pleasure expressed by Kasyanov was spoiled by President adviser Andrey Illarionov. According to Illarionov, the growth of the Russian economy equivalent to 4 percent of GDP was provided exclusively by extremely favorable external economic conditions. On the whole, high oil prices provided more than half of the economic growth parameters. Andrey Illarionov said that if all other components influencing economic growth were at the same level last year, the growth of GDP in 2003 would constitute only 4 percent. Due to the oil prices was slightly over 6.5 percent. According to Andrey Illarionov, in 2003 the growth of GDP exceeded official forecasts two times. The first forecast was 3.5 percent, the second - 4.5 percent. "This proves that the Russian economy can grow faster than the prognoses for it", the President adviser said.
According to Andrey Illarionov, the Russian economy continues having "unstable and not constant development", the periods of rise are often continue with stagnation which sometimes lasts for several months or even pass into the stage of recession of industrial production. Can such a mode of development be named the success of the government?
The President adviser made his statement in the beginning of December, and the Prime Minister - before New Year holidays. Therefore their "argument" has taken place. Then the long period of holidays started, the country had fun and forgot about everything, including Kasyanov. Probably for this reason Kasyanov decided to remind of himself.
External promoting Kasyanov
Prime Minister Kasyanov criticized again the authorities actions concerning Yukos oil company. In his interview to the Vedomosti newspaper Kasyanov gave his comments to the requirement of the Ministry of Taxes and Tax Collection to Yukos to pay additional 98 billion roubles in taxes. The Ministry considers the company to save on taxes in 2000 with the help of the schemes used by some other firms as well. Kasyanov said, "If lawful actions on minimizing taxation are recognized illegal much time after they took place, I treat this fact negatively. For the simple reason that the law has "holes" allowing to minimize such payments".
"The Tax Code did not forbid Yukos and other companies from conducting deals through internal off-shores", Kasyanov continued. He said this means that the institutions "making injections, putting thermometers" must immediately do their best to get rid of such holes in the law. Meanwhile, for the last three years these institutions produced only attempts of criticism, and they are required to accept the responsibility as well.
"Not only the Minister on taxation, Minister of Finance, but the entire government including me bears the responsibility", Kasyanov said. He refused to discuss the issue of possible bankruptcy for Yukos. "Discussing this issue now makes no sense. We would only lift a wave of inappropriate judgments", Kasyanov said.