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Reform rolls on with mixed success

Each month since last August, Vladimir Putin’s government has attempted to put in place a new aspect of economic reform. But some problems, notably the banking sector and the entrenched Soviet-style bureaucracy, are particularly intractable.

The Russian Duma has enacted a flurry of reform
bills in recent months

The wait is over. The Russian government is for the first time making a considered and systematic attempt to reform the economy and put in place the market-oriented mechanisms that will enable it to grow. Since the end of the summer, there has been a constant stream of laws and plans from the economic development and trade ministry (MinEcon), headed by economics tsar German Gref, which is overseeing the reform process.

Any start at all is good news in Russia after a decade of neglect. But, for all the good intentions, the programme has not progressed smoothly. The most severe challenges of reforming banks, natural monopolies and land laws were already proving difficult only three months into the process. And if the government cannot keep up the pace, then the relative economic prosperity Russia is enjoying will peter out and die, as oil prices dip and the last benefits of the 1998 devaluation are eaten away.

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