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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yasin Praised But Doubt Cast on Post

Analysts were full of praise Wednesday for the professional skills of the new Economics Minister, Yevgeny Yasin, but differed as to how important his new job actually was.

Charles Blitzer, chief economist for the World Bank in Moscow, described Yasin, 60, as "professional, thoughtful, experienced" and an excellent candidate for the job.

"He's been one of the key participants in the reform effort in the last three years," Blitzer said. "He's been as much at the center of the web as anyone."

Yasin, a bald, energetic economics professor, taught many of the young economic reformers like Yegor Gaidar. He has worked on most of the major government economic projects of the last few years.

He was one of the authors of the 500-Day Plan that was drawn up in 1990 to transform the Soviet economy. In 1992 he helped devise an alternative economic program to the Gaidar government on behalf of the centrist political bloc Civic Union. More recently he has been head of Yeltsin's analytical center in the Kremlin.

"He's enormously respected," said Richard Layard, a Russian economic specialist at the London School of Economics. "He's a man on the inside who knows everyone."

Andrei Neshchadin, one of the Expert Group of the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs who worked with Yasin in 1992, said Yasin stood out for his "decency and balanced approach." He said Yasin had been independent and not associated with the politics of Civic Union.

"We worked out the plan, he tried to match it with the government's program," Neshchadin said.

But Yasin's work with almost everyone in the political establishment drew a spiky comment from one Russian economist, who declined to be named.

"He's a much better politician than an economist," the economist said, adding that he adapted to every political situation around him.

Yasin will have less political weight in the Economics Ministry than three of his predecessors, Alexander Shokhin, Oleg Lobov and Yegor Gaidar (who has held the job twice), who combined the job with being deputy prime minister.

Furthermore Shokhin's additional job of negotiating Russia's foreign debt has been given to foreign trade minister Oleg Davydov, who was made a deputy prime minister Wednesday.

This has led to speculation that the Economics Ministry may be slowly vanishing altogether. Economic reformers have long argued that it is something of an anachronism, a relic of the enormous State Planning Committee. The ministry has shrunk in size and been evicted from its former imposing headquarters on Okhotny Ryad by the State Duma.

Leonid Brodsky, writing in the business newspaper Commersant Daily, said Yasin was an "unproblematic" minister who would not play a major political role. He said the most likely outcome would be the "quiet death" of the ministry.

Layard said that as a committed free marketeer Yasin might even welcome the task of downgrading his own ministry. "There is a role for a department that is concerned with the structural aspects of economic reform, the general deregulation which is required in the economy and the regulation of those markets which require government supervision," he said. " But its role as a detailed allocator of resources must be truncated."