'Large govt' doesn't mean more bureaucrats – Medvedev

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said that an extended government – the creation of which he proposed earlier - would not lead to a larger number of officials and should not be a burden to taxpayers.

Speaking at a meeting with representatives of the Public Committee of his supporters, Medvedev touched upon the earlier voiced proposal of establishing a “large government”.

“Of course, I didn't mean an increase of the number of bureaucrats,” he said, adding that the idea has been interpreted in different ways.

“On the contrary, I believe that he bureaucratic core of such a government should be absolutely compact, not expensive, and not a burden for taxpayers, for all our citizens,” Medvedev said.

Wednesday’s meeting became the second between Medvedev and his supporters. Last Saturday, during the first gathering, the head of state put forward the initiative to create an extended government. Deep reforms in administrative governance as well as a wide range of other topics were discussed today at the presidential residence of Gorky, outside Moscow.

No stagnation is permissible

After Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accepted Medvedev’s proposal for him to run for the presidency in 2012, there have been fears that his highly possible comeback to the Kremlin could result in political and economic stagnation similar to that in the Brezhnev’s era.

Commenting on the matter on Wednesday, Medvedev said that these analogies are “lame” and make no sense.

“The [analogies with Brezhnev’s time] are senseless, because we live in a different country, we are different, we have a different social system and different economic relations,” he noted.

However, the president stressed, Russian citizens must not forget the Soviet past.

“No stagnation is acceptable,” Medvedev underlined. The country should be confidently moving forwards, he said, admitting that changes should be applied gradually in some areas.

“This is my credo…One must sequentially and continuously progress towards achieving one’s goals,” Medvedev declared.

Russian authorities more accessible

According to Medvedev, it is easier today for ordinary citizens to reach out to authorities, including the head of state, than it was in the ’90s or in the USSR. However, the efficiency of such appeals is insignificant and that is a real problem.

“It is a sign of the inefficiency of the power structure in general when, in order to solve a simple problem, [citizens] have to apply to the president, the prime minister or a governor of a large region,” Medvedev said.

He added that often heads of regions only learn about decisions made by the government from the media. And those are concrete economic decisions that refer to them personally.

Authorities are remote from each other. “Even the [governors] with whom I regularly communicate happen to be out of this global and communication stream. This means that our mechanisms are bad; they don't work,” he observed.

The president called for the building up of a system of administrative managements that would allow the effective solution of “elementary” issues without the intervention of the country's top officials.

“That is what we lack. If we don't [create such a system] we won't develop properly. And that is exactly what should unite us in our work,” Medvedev said, addressing the participants of the meeting.

Increase in military spending boosted army morale

The president also called upon the society not to allow the reversal of the military reform in Russia and the loss of its recent achievements.

“A strong military force that we are dealing with in a new way over the past few years is also a very important institute of public life. We must do it in such way that the reforms that have taken place already do not vanish and I hope you will also support me in this,” he said.

Medvedev also repeated his stance on increasing the military budget, apparently hinting at the position of the former finance minister Aleksey Kudrin.

“Whatever are the words of some of my colleagues who suggest that spending on military forces a waste of money, my opinion is principally different. We really started to reform the military forces, the troop morale has really changed and this, by the way, was demonstrated in 2008. Salaries are different there, monetary allowances are different, the spirit is different and the hardware is different,” Medvedev said.

President Medvedev also said that in the nearest future he will make a statement on the placement of the US missile defense systems in Europe. The president stressed that the statement still required further development of some conditions and promised that it would be made soon.

Russia will survive if snubbed by the WTO

When one of the supporters asked Medvedev to be more cautious when negotiating Russia’s entry into the WTO in order not to undermine the potential of regional agricultural sector, Medvedev said that participation in the WTO is not a priority in itself.

“All must understand, including our partners in WTO entry that this is not purely in Russia’s interests. This is in the interests of various businesses, foreign businesses and as a whole for proper regulation of the international trade flow. This is a two-way street,” the president said. “Of course we are ready for this, but if they tell us for some reason that we are not good enough, we will survive it. This is for sure and I am completely sincere,” he added.

The president also said he was absolutely sure that Russian agricultural sector will be effective and that the living conditions in the villages will improve. “Our agrarian business has proved its competitiveness by its work over the years,” Medvedev said.

The president suggested the next meeting with the public committee be held on December 5, the day after the parliamentary elections, to sum up the results.

Medvedev – who heads the majority United Russia party election list – vowed to invite his supporters to join the “extended government” in case the vote is won. He also expressed confidence that they “have every chance of winning.”