Pressure Mounts on Kudrin

kudrin1120.jpgWhenever a financial crisis happens, it is both natural and unfortunate that politicians go after the minister of economy (just take a look at the rapidly shifting hero to villain status of Germany’s Peer Steinbrück). In the case of Russia, it is Alexei Kudrin who is once again under fire, this time from Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, who is calling for one of Russia’s last intelligent, independent fiscal liberals to be sacked. Many readers will recall that Kudrin has spent the last few years hanging on the edge as Igor Sechin’s clan has relentlessly attacked him, imprisoned his innocent deputy minister of finance, and sought to push him out in order to wrest control of the national piggy bank. Kudrin is probably one of the only guys in Russia who can openly embarrass Putin and keep his job, and one of the last individuals making good decisions in that government. From the Moscow Times:

Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov asked Putin to fire Kudrin over the financial crisis that has rocked investor confidence in the country and wiped hundreds of billions of dollars from Russian stock prices. Replying to Zyuganov’s speech, Putin said Russia’s economic policy has “pluses, which are also the merits of the government’s economic bloc”. “There are minuses too, but I will not talk about them now,” he added. “We need to do everything very carefully.”

Kudrin has become the darling of many bond investors since he was appointed finance minister in 2000, presiding over a spectacular turnaround of the country’s public finances, helped by the oil price rise.Kudrin, who helped land Putin his first job in Moscow in the 1990s, has earned plaudits from ratings agencies and investors for his fiscal prudence, but has caused tensions at home, where some politicians would prefer to spend Russia’s oil wealth on boosting infrastructure and welfare.The New Times magazine this week cited rumours that Putin was unhappy with Kudrin’s opposition to the government’s market rescue plan and wanted to replace him, but a source at the Finance Ministry denied there was a rift between the two men.