As the nights draw in and Russians turn up their collars against the looming threat of winter, the country’s rulers turn once again to the task of drafting the budget for the coming year. Yesterday the State Duma overwhelmingly approved the first reading of Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin’s federal budget for 2010, effectively signing off on deficit spending funded by the first foreign borrowing in a decade.
By Tai Adelaja
With the Kremlin set to pass the baton of leadership back to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin next year, Alexei Kudrin, the man widely credited with effectively managing Russia's financial resources through thick and thin, has ruled himself out of playing any role in Russia's next government. The long-serving finance minister made the unexpected announcement on Saturday in Washington, where he has been attending a bi-annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
Alexei Kudrin (Алексей Леонидович Кудрин) was born October 12, 1960 in Dobele, Latvia. A Russian economist, he served as Russian Finance Minister from May 2000 until his resignation in September 2011.
In 1983, Kudrin graduated from the Economics Faculty of Leningrad State University. In December 1985 he began graduate study at the Institute of Economics of the Russian Academy of Sciences. He spent the late 1980s working as a researcher at the Academy of Sciences, before taking a position in the St. Petersburg city administration under influential Mayor Anatoly Sobchak in 1990. For the first three years he served in various financial posts, including deputy chairman of the Committee for Economic Reform. In 1993 he was appointed deputy mayor, a position he would serve until Sobchak was defeated by Vladimir Yakovlev in mayoral elections in 1996. During Kudrin’s time in the St. Petersburg administration, future President Vladimir Putin also served as a deputy mayor.
Following Sobchak’s defeat, Kudrin moved to Moscow, becoming deputy chief of Boris Yeltsin’s Presidential Administraiton, with responsibility for trade, economic and scientific-technological cooperation. In March 1997, Kudrin was appointed first deputy finance minister. He was promoted to finance minister in 2000, following Putin’s election to the presidency. In the same year Kudrin was appointed deputy prime minister, serving in the post until 2004. He was reappointed deputy prime minister in September 2007.
Kudrin is widely credited with safeguarding the Russian economy during his term in office. His plan to pour a percentage of oil revenues into a stabilization fund, despite criticism from other members of the government, proved particularly insightful. The government later used this fund to mitigate the effects of the financial crisis in the late 2000s.
In mid 2011, Kudrin was tipped as a potential future prime minister in a new government formed after 2012 presidential elections. In late September 2011, however, this appointment looked unlikely following President Dmitry Medvedev’s announcement that he will back Vladimir Putin in March 2012 elections. In turn Putin later said that he would make Medvedev prime minister of the new government. Two days later Kudrin announced that he would not work in a cabinet run by Medvedev, citing the president’s support for increased military spending, which is set to grow by 3 percent of GDP between 2012 and 2014, for his reticence. On September 26, 2011, Medvedev gave Kudrin a day to resign, signing his resignation late that evening.
Kudrin’s track record is likely to secure him some position in Putin’s team to help finance ambitious development plans. In the run-up to State Duma elections Putin plans to increase bureaucrats’ salaries by 6.5 percent. He is also aiming to push Russia into the world's top five economies by 2016, for which he has said economic growth will need to increase to between six and seven percent per year. Kudrin’s steady hands could also prove crucial in fighting rising capital outflows, as foreign investors pull funds out of Russia amid fears of rampant corruption and restrictive bureaucracy.
Kudrin has been married twice and has two children.