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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: Government Cannot Rely On Chubais

Moscow has recently been filled with rumors that Anatoly Chubais may soon return to the government. These suspicions were fueled only last week when President Boris Yeltsin chose to meet Chubais on a brief break from his vacation, giving him time while not bothering to meet Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko.

At one level, talk of Chubais' return to the government is almost irrelevant. He has hardly left it. Since leaving his post as first deputy prime minister for economics in March, the veteran liberal economist has remained close to the levers of power.

He was quickly appointed by the government to head Unified Energy Systems, the state-controlled energy monopoly, which is one of the key institutions in the Russian economy.

A few weeks after that, Yeltsin, desperate for Western aid to bail Russia out of a financial crisis, named Chubais his special envoy for negotiations with the international financial institutions.

But the talk of a return for Chubais is important in that it underlines the lack of any one powerful minister to take responsibility for the totality of economic policy.

The government has plenty of eager beaver young ministers with varying degrees of competence but none carries much political clout either in Russia or in the rest of the world.

Neither Kiriyenko nor Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov, apparently, knew how to conduct the crucial negotiations with the International Monetary Fund. The lines of responsibility on domestic economic policy have also been rather confused with deputy prime ministers Viktor Khristenko and Boris Nemtsov having no clearly defined spheres. Tax chief Boris Fyodorov has emerged as a dynamic but occasionally isolated figure.

All of them are cut from the same mold, all talk the same technocratic and liberal economics, all stress the need to respond to the financial crisis with a radical austerity plan.

But the government does feel the want of Chubais' international stature and his ability to identify key objectives and coordinate all arms of government to push them through.

So bring back Chubais? No. First off, he probably does not want to return, preferring the private sector where he can earn a higher salary. Moreover, for the communist-dominated State Duma, Chubais' return to the government would be like a red rag to a bull. The lower house of parliament would abandon immediately any consideration of the government's legislative program. Chubais' return would also unnecessarily antagonize those oligarchs who drove him from office.

Chubais should remain on the sidelines. It is up to Kiriyenko and his team to improve their game.