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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Medvedev Says State Is Not the Best Manager

Itar-TassDmitry Medvedev
First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said late Friday that the state was not the best manager of assets but that it must preserve control in key strategic sectors.

Medvedev, 40, is chairman of state-controlled gas giant Gazprom and considered by some as a possible successor to President Vladimir Putin, who must by law step down in 2008.

"The state on the whole is by far not the most effective owner but must be present in a certain set of critically important companies," Medvedev told reporters.

He said the state needed to preserve control of assets such as Gazprom and the nuclear and defense industries. "Everything else can be bought and sold as one likes," he said.

Putin's drive to strengthen state control while removing key barriers for investment has made the role of the state in the economy a key issue ahead of 2008, as investors seek any clues to the thinking of possible successors.

Moscow political salons are awash with rumors about who will succeed Putin and nervousness about the possibility of a battle emerging between competing clans for the Kremlin's crown.

Medvedev's competitors, analysts say, could include Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, also a deputy prime minister, and Russian Railways chief Vladimir Yakunin.

A lawyer who studied in the same department as Putin at Leningrad State University, Medvedev declined to comment on whether he would take part in the 2008 elections and steered clear of political questions.

Putin has put Medvedev in charge of four priority "national projects" on health care, education, housing and agriculture. But Medvedev has complained that officials have been dragging their feet.

The Kremlin's drive to boost state control over the oil and gas sector, seen by senior officials as one of Russia's few remaining tickets to the top table of world politics, has raised concerns that Putin has turned away from market reforms.

Foreign companies have faced problems getting a foothold in the oil, gas and engineering sectors, while the state has taken control of automobile and media companies.

"I hope that such processes carry an explainable and predictable character. An it does not mean that those assets that have become state property cannot be sold in three to five years," Medvedev said.

The government said Friday that the Cabinet would study how the activities of major Western companies affected national security.

A Cabinet meeting on Thursday ordered the economy and energy ministries and the Russian Academy of Sciences to submit a report on the issue in the third quarter of 2006, the government said in a statement.