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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Economists Welcome Dubinin, Fear He Lacks Clout

Economists on Thursday welcomed Russia's new acting finance minister as a committed monetarist, but feared that he will have little ability to control spendthrift government.


"I could not think of a better candidate," said Alexander Livshits, an economic adviser to President Boris Yeltsin. "Dubinin is one of the most qualified financial experts."


Analysts had feared that Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin would pick a new finance minister who would favor easing the tight spending policy of Boris Fyodorov, who resigned Wednesday, warning the country of "an economic coup."


But Sergei Dubinin, 43, was Fyodorov's choice and, Livshits said, "he holds the same economic convictions."


He will get a baptism by fire in his new post, where his aides are calculating furiously how they are supposed to finance the additional expenditures and credits that have already been promised by Chernomyrdin and top ministers.


But Fyodorov and most analysts agreed that Dubinin stands little chance of standing up to heavyweights Chernomyrdin and Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko, who feel that last December's parliamentary election results have given them a mandate to cushion the effects of reform by pumping money into troubled industries.


"Of course reformists were in the minority before the government reshuffle as well, but they enjoyed the trust of the prime minister and could pursue their policies," Fyodorov said in a television interview Wednesday night.


"Now the problem is that the balance has changed. Now that the prime minister dramatically changes course," Fyodorov added, "any civilized monetary policy becomes impossible."


Dubinin received mixed praise from one Western economist. "He's a sweet guy, and a good economist with his heart in the right place," the Western economist said. "But clearly he is not going to have the influence Fyodorov had in 1993 otherwise Fyodorov could just have kept his job."


Unlike Fyodorov, Dubinin will have to run the Finance Ministry without any political base and without the extra authority of being a deputy prime minister, which would have given him some control over the budgets of other ministries.


Dubinin was a lecturer of economics at Moscow State University and aide to the former Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev.


Before he joined the Finance Ministry last year, he was deputy chairman of a state committee on relations with neighboring republics, according to an aide to Fyodorov, Yevgeny Buchelnikov.


As first deputy minister of finance, Dubinin gained experience in dealing with the parliament, where he had to defend the budget against attacks from the same conservative deputies who now dominate the State Duma. He also handled a series of payment conflicts with the neighboring republics.


Although he so far has only been appointed acting minister, Buchelnikov said Dubinin stood a good chance to stay at the helm of the ministry.