Russia's Putin raps budget plan, ministers

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 18, 2012 10:29 AM
Russia's Putin raps budget plan, ministers

By Darya Korsunskaya

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin issued a rare rebuke to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's government on Tuesday, criticizing its fiscal plans and accusing cabinet ministers of failing to act on orders he issued after his return in May for a third Kremlin term.

Putin's comments, in a meeting on budget strategy in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, suggested his patience was wearing thin with Medvedev just four months after the formation of a new government.

The 59-year-old Kremlin leader, who has dominated Russia since 2000, said that the three-year draft fiscal plan failed to take into account commitments in the decrees he issued after returning to Russia's highest office.

"If everything remains as laid out in the (budget) plan, then some or other of the points of these decrees cannot be implemented, I already see this. But they must be implemented," Putin said.

Putin's comments ran counter to his typical leadership style, which is based on strong loyalty to his political allies and continuity in government, and where disputes are rarely aired in public.

They were made in the absence of Medvedev, who was chairing a meeting outside Moscow of his 'open government' initiative, a forum widely criticized as a talking shop that has generated few worthwhile policy results.

Putin and Medvedev ruled Russia as close allies until early this year in what became known as a 'tandem' arrangement.

Medvedev had taken over the presidency from Putin in 2008, as the former KGB officer was prevented by the constitution from serving more than two terms in succession. Putin retained supreme power as prime minister until his return to the presidency this year and Medvedev's dispatch to the post of prime minister. Since then there has been speculation Medvedev's star could be waning.

REPRIMAND

Putin called on Medvedev to reprimand two cabinet ministers for failing to implement measures contained in the batch of decrees setting out the policy priorities for his six-year term.

In addition to raising questions about Medvedev's authority, Putin's comments also raised doubts over Russia's commitment to balancing the budget over the medium term after heavy spending ahead of the presidential election in March.

Putin singled out for criticism Labour Minister Maxim Topilin and Regional Development Minister Oleg Govorun.

He said that, while it was not his personal responsibility to reprimand ministers, he was drawing Medvedev's attention to "the need to issue a reprimand to the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Regional Development."

"The work of a minister implies personal responsibility for the sector. And if something scheduled has not been implemented, then this responsibility should be borne," Putin said.

Putin said that despite his earlier order to the government to produce a plan for pension reform by the end of this month, no plan had yet been produced.

He also said that the government had failed to produce proposals for accelerating the development of Siberia and the Far East, also called for in his earlier presidential decrees.

The budget plan is due to be formally discussed by Russia's cabinet on Thursday. Putin's harsh criticisms mean that the plan is unlikely to be adopted in its present form.

(Writing by Jason Bush; Editing by Douglas Busvine)