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21 Oct, 2010 07:24

Changing of the guard - Moscow confirms new mayor

Newly-approved Moscow mayor Sergey Sobyanin has officially been sworn into the office.

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said that the new mayor’s main task will be to raise living standards in the city.

"The duty of the new mayor will be not only to keep the current living standards from decreasing, but to raise the living standards of Muscovites and everyone who comes to our capital to work and live,” he said. “It is not an easy task."

Russian president also noted that Moscow’s role as financial center should increase in scale in future.

"Moscow is not only the political capital of our country, but also the center of business activity,” he said. “That is why we decided to turn Moscow into a financial center for Russia and, in the future, into a financial center for the whole of Eurasia."

Earlier the Moscow Duma’s lawmakers approved the candidacy of Sergey Sobyanin for the post as the head of the city.

32 out of 34 deputies present at the session voted for Sobyanin to assume the role. He has already stepped down as deputy prime minister and chief of staff to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Addressing the deputies prior to the session, Sergey Sobyanin pledged to maintain all the social benefits that Moscow citizens have. However, he criticized the budgetary policy set up by the previous Moscow administration, saying it is “a dead-end for the city and for its development.

I am strongly convinced that corruption and bureaucracy can devalue many, if not all, of the competitive advantages of Moscow. It is obvious that the city needs a more transparent and effective management system,” Sobyanin said. His predecessor Yury Luzhkov, who kept his post for 18 years, was widely criticized for mismanagement and corruption in the capital.

For more on the political program of the new Moscow mayor read “New Moscow mayor ushers in winds of change”

Sergey Sobyanin was proposed from a shortlist of four candidates by President Dmitry Medvedev, who described him as an “experienced manager” capable of solving the city’s problems.

Dmitry Polikanov, deputy head of the Central Executive Committee of the United Russia Party, which was responsible for creating the shortlist of candidates, says Sergey Sobyanin is a good choice because of his broad experience in the government sector.

First of all, he has close links with the party, he is the member of our Supreme Council within the party, but also he is a very good professional. He is a man who has experience in various roles. He was mayor of a small town, he was the governor of one of the richest and most efficient regions of the Russian Federation, he also passed the test of being the head of the presidential administration and then head of the Putin’s staff in the government, so he knows well the economic situation, he knows well how to manage the process here, how politics works, so this makes him an ideal candidate,” Polikanov says.

Dmitry Polikanov believes that as a mayor, Sergey Sobyanin will have to concentrate on social issues and the economic development of Moscow. “He will have to find a fine balance between the need for social security so that most of the social payments and benefits that people get in Moscow they will continue to get. At the same time, he will have to give new impetus to the economic development of the city. This is why his major priorities will be obviously the traffic problem, because we all suffer from heavy traffic in Moscow. He will have to ensure that the plans to transform Moscow into a financial center will come to fruition. And also as he said he will fight against corruption and will do [everything] to raise the efficiency of the apparatus in this city,” Polikanov says.

Sergey Sobyanin is to replace his controversial predecessor, Yury Luzhkov, who ruled Moscow for 18 years. Dmitry Medvedev fired Yury Luzhkov on September 28 with the explanation being “over a loss of confidence.” Meanwhile, the ex-mayor of Moscow has taken a job as dean of the International University in Moscow with the salary of just one ruble a month.

The new mayor’s primary challenge is to start controlling the enormous city spending, most of which is currently going to waste, says Vladislav Inozemtsev of the Center for Post-Industrial Studies. Because of the lack of control over the massive construction and infrastructure works in the city, Inozemtsev points out, the Moscow government is currently giving away some 2.5 times more money than it is actually investing.

“The Moscow city budget…is really huge. The city spends more than $10 billion each year on infrastructure works and construction, and it seems to me… that this money is spent inefficiently. It’s not only because of corruption. It’s because of the lack of control on every step of these construction works,” he said.