Economics expert is named Russian prime minister

President also considers closing Energy Ministry

May 11, 2000|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

MOSCOW -- President Vladimir V. Putin named as prime minister a chief foreign-debt negotiator and liberal economics expert yesterday. The long predicted move, some experts said, bodes well for efforts to tame Russia's feral style of capitalism.

That view was bolstered by a separate report yesterday that Putin might abolish the Fuel and Energy Ministry as he reorganizes the Cabinet. The immensely powerful agency has often been attacked as a seat of corruption and a brake on capitalist reforms.

The new prime minister, Mikhail M. Kasyanov, has been first deputy prime minister, then the government's No. 2 post, since Putin became acting president in January.

Kasyanov, 42, is best known as the pragmatic and savvy negotiator who persuaded private Western creditors in February to agree to a reduction of nearly $32 billion in Russian debt.

The creditors, known as the London Club, agreed after months of talks to accept bonds worth as little as 62.5 cents for every dollar owed them. That now seems an exceptionally good deal for Russia, which was - and is - reaping an unexpectedly large income from a rebounding economy and exports of high-priced oil.

The nomination of Kasyanov goes to the lower house of parliament, the State Duma, which plans a vote Wednesday.

The speaker, Gennady Seleznyov, a Communist, predicted that Kasyanov would be confirmed easily, even though the Communists have serious questions about the Kremlin's economic bent.

The consensus among Russian experts was that Kasyanov would continue to have a strong hand in fiscal policy, pushing for a streamlining of tax and regulatory codes.

The chairman of the Budget Committee in parliament, Alexander Zhukov, said the government was preparing "drastic changes to some of the main taxes," including the income and excise taxes.

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