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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sharonov Promises Better State Services

The government on Thursday kicked off a campaign to breathe new life into stalled administrative reforms by pledging to introduce stringent regulations governing the quality of government services.

The proposed measures, which include setting time limits on waiting in lines for state services and restricting the number and nature of documents that can be requested by bureaucrats, are expected to speed up key services, including the issuance of passports, as soon as the next few months.

"The report of the administrative reform's death was an exaggeration," Deputy Economic Development and Trade Minister Andrei Sharonov said Thursday at a news conference. "We are moving to the point when the reform will no longer be just an obscure restructuring but will affect individuals in their interaction with the state," he said.

According to Andrei Sharov, a senior ministry official in charge of the administrative reform, the first procedures to be streamlined will be the issuance of passports, work permits for foreigners and property registration documents.

The government earlier this week ordered the allocation of 470 million rubles ($17.5 million) to fund pilot projects across the country aimed at improving government services. The money will be distributed in July to federal, regional and municipal bodies.

Over the next three years, besides enforcing limits on waiting times and the number of requested documents, the ministry will also order the improvement of basic amenities for the public, such as seating space and air conditioning in government buildings.

"There will be a 30-minute limit for waiting, electronic queuing systems will be created, and the period for the release of documents will be reduced from the current 30 days to 15," Sharov said. In addition, a system of recompense to customers for the time they waste will be created, he said.

Sharonov said the ministry also planned to change the system of medical tests for foreigners applying for work permits in Russia. Currently all foreigners are obligated to undergo tests in Russia for six diseases -- including leprosy and syphilis. Sharonov said Thursday that citizens of "developed countries" would be allowed to submit the results of tests done in their home countries for their work-permit applications.

He did not elaborate on which countries would be considered developed.

Sharonov on Thursday also refused to comment on hints made by Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov that the Economic Development and Trade Ministry's departments in charge of trade could be spun off into a separate government body.

Fradkov's Thursday remarks came just weeks after President Vladimir Putin removed control of the Federal Customs Service from the Economic Development and Trade Ministry, making it a separate government body that reports directly to Fradkov.