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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Golikova's Healthy Knack for Numbers

APTatyana Golikova
Many of the headlines around Tatyana Golikova's appointment as health and social development minister may have focused on her marriage to Industry and Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko, but acquaintances and former colleagues emphasized her economic aptitude and experience Tuesday.

A 17-year veteran of the Finance Ministry, noted for her economic expertise and reported encyclopedic memory, Golikova, a 41-year-old platinum blonde, appears to have been parachuted into the troubled Health and Social Development Ministry to iron out financial problems.

Despite her low public profile, Golikova has played a leading role at the Finance Ministry as the principal author of the federal budget for the past five years, said Yevgeny Gontmakher, director of the center for social policy at the economic institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

After graduating from Moscow's Plekhanov Institute in 1987, Golikova joined the Finance Ministry in 1990 and rose through a series of posts specializing in budget financing to become deputy minister in April 2004.

Having worked principally behind the scenes at the Finance Ministry, however, Golikova might struggle to adapt to her new, very public role as health and social development minister, Gontmakher said.

"This job will be difficult for her, as up until now she has not been a public figure," said Gontmakher, who has known Golikova for many years. "She will have to develop her own style, and we will see how she copes."

Golikova's economic expertise seemingly makes her the perfect person to deal with the financial difficulties that have dogged the Health and Social Development Ministry during Zurabov's tenure.

Zurabov, who had been widely seen as a likely casualty in any Cabinet reshuffle, was repeatedly lambasted over the bungled financing of reforms to the pension system and the state's drug subsidy program. Plans have been previously mooted to break up the ministry.

Due to the length of her service and importance to the Finance Ministry, Golikova's appointment came as something of a shock, Gontmakher said.

"She was Kudrin's right hand and this is a very big loss for him," Gontmakher said.

A source inside the Finance Ministry, who asked not to be identified, expressed the widespread disappointment felt at Golikova's departure Tuesday.

"She is a very good professional and a very talented economist who started her career at the ministry," the source said.

A spokeswoman for the Finance Ministry said Golikova had asked not to be disturbed for a week as she readjusts to her new role.

In her duties as deputy finance minister, Golikova has been involved in implementing a boost in spending on prominent social issues, including housing for military personnel and maternity benefits.

Golikova is also a member of the government's much-heralded council for nanotechnology.