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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ministry Dusts Off Stalled Reform Plan

A plan to give new impetus to the slow-moving administrative reform announced by President Vladimir Putin in March 2003 was submitted to the Cabinet on Wednesday by the Economic Development and Trade Ministry.

The three-year plan outlines changes to streamline government bureaucracy across the board, and will focus on simplifying procedures for registering real estate, getting passports, registering cars and obtaining driving licenses, as well as some of the procedures related to taxation, a senior ministry official said Wednesday.

The reform plan most famously made headlines in February 2004, when Putin fired Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and weeks later announced a wholesale shakeup of government ministries and agencies.

"The reform is now entering a less politicized but more structured and technical phase," said Andrei Sharov, head of the ministry's department for state regulation of the economy, which is largely responsible for overseeing the reform.

Although the reform has been frequently criticized as unsuccessful and slow, in the last 2 1/2 years the government has cut the number of business activities that have to be licensed, limited the police's power to inspect businesses and moved to close about one-third of the 18,000 state-owned firms that have sprouted around various government bodies.

The Economic Development and Trade Ministry's plan, however, acknowledged that the reform had yet to address a lot of key problems. No framework outlining quality standards for government services and access to these services have been created, while ways to combat widespread corruption has yet to be worked out and the government as a whole still lacks coordination, the ministry said.

"In other countries, administrative reforms took between 10 and 15 years, on average," Sharov said by telephone Wednesday. "As for fighting corruption, there are some ways to combat it, including tightening supervision, rewarding good work by officials and making information easily available."

As an example of an anti-corruption measure planned, Sharov cited one already being used in Poland, where customs officers can deal with clients only in areas that are constantly monitored by close circuit cameras. The officers are not allowed to have more than $40 on them at any time.

Sharov said that his own personal test of the reform's success would be how easy it became to buy and sell real estate.

"Its success will be obvious to me when I'm able to sell a flat in Moscow entirely by myself, without any need to seek anything from any administrative body," Sharov said.