Dmitry Fetisov, political scientist
Until January last year, Mikhail Mishustin could not be called an active and public official, and the choice of his candidacy surprised many politicians and experts, not to mention the broad masses of the population. But this surprise was explained only by the non-publicity factor of Mishustin himself. The President had three serious motives to appoint him to this position. First, Mishustin made tremendous transformations as head of the Federal Tax Service, not only increasing the efficiency of its work, but also significantly changing the image of the department towards greater openness, modernity and, as far as this can be applied to this structure, “customer focus” for citizens. Secondly, Mishustin has never been seen in conflicts with other representatives of the federal elite, and this allows us to speak of his political tact and diplomatic ability, which is an important advantage for a person who comes to such a post. Thirdly, Mishustin is well versed in how the economy should function, this is noticeable by the principles that he introduced into the work of the Federal Tax Service. Moreover, he is not a theoretical economist, but a practitioner. It is natural that the demand for a leader of this type exists now, when the President is constantly talking about the need for the Russian economy to make a qualitative leap forward.
Due to the high-profile appointment, in the first month of work, they expected some significant and revolutionary steps from Mishustin. It took the new prime minister time to understand the structure of the government and the mechanisms of its functioning, but as soon as this happened, such steps were not long in coming. Changes in the composition of the Government, thanks to Mishustin's decisions, turned out to be not only large-scale, but also with clearly traceable practical experience and understanding of both the mechanisms of functioning of federal departments and the specifics of interaction with the regions. Almost immediately, Mishustin showed clear courage and willingness to take decisive steps, introducing restrictions on crossing the Russian-Chinese border during the outbreak of a new coronavirus infection in China and understanding the conditions in which most Russians live. Thus, Mishustin's February statement that the Government would not support a multiple increase in fines for speeding by drivers due to the fact that it did not achieve a similar increase in salaries in the country caused a huge resonance among the population and added sympathy to the prime minister.
Nevertheless, plans for a large-scale change in the administrative structure of the public administration system and reformatting the economy, which, most likely, Mishustin had, had to be postponed. Russia, like the whole world, was swept by the outbreak of COVID-19, and all the resources and forces of the state apparatus were thrown into the fight against the new coronavirus infection.
The coronavirus has not passed without a trace neither for the world economy, nor for the health care system of almost every country in the world, therefore, the work of the Government should be evaluated in comparison with the work of the cabinets of ministers of other states. And here we can state that Russia is coping with the consequences of the epidemic much better than most foreign countries. Despite the fatalities during the pandemic, Russian statistics look much better than statistics in most Western European countries and the United States, and the reorientation of the health care system to coronavirus rails took place quickly and without serious incidents. It was quite possible to strike a balance between the need for strict quarantine measures and the obligation to save the economy. And although the coronavirus dealt a colossal blow to it, and the real income of the population fell significantly, the economy as a whole survived and, moreover, it did not even require raising funds from reserve funds. All this Mishustin's government can definitely take credit for.
It should also be noted how the new Russian Government has structured its work with the regions. Having the sad practice of the regions often keeping silent about pressing problems due to fear of discontent from the federal center, both Mishustin and members of the social block of the Government constantly raised and asked questions about this and taught them to voice real numbers. And where there were problems, the necessary help was immediately sent. Those who demonstrated data manipulation were subject to legitimate criticism.
This approach, which may not be the most visible to the general public, but very clearly expressed, confidently allows us to call this composition of the Government oriented towards the regions and understanding the situation on the ground.
This approach was also traced as a result of visits of members of the Government to the regions. Despite the covid year and the situation when a significant part of the country switched to “remote work”, Mishustin and the ministers often visited the regions, regularly making such trips, demonstrating a desire to delve into regional problems and eliminate their causes. Here, perhaps, it is worth noting Mishustin's long trip to the Far Eastern regions. Despite the fact that the Prime Minister did not visit Khabarovsk, which in 2020 became the country's hottest political spot, in general, the trip to the Far Eastern Federal District became one of the most notable political events at the end of the year. The already mentioned attention to regional problems, the absence of constriction and constraints in front of residents (not to mention the lack of practice of avoiding such contacts), an extremely busy schedule of visits to the regions and openness to the media - all these factors contributed to the fact that a huge public interest.
And the increased informational openness of the Government can also be noted as one of the important positive results of the year of its work. During his report to the State Duma to the deputies, Mishustin publicly demonstrated his readiness to answer all questions about the structure he leads, and it should be noted that there were many acute questions not only from representatives of opposition parties, but even from representatives of United Russia. And this already allows us to mark the Premier as a politician who is not afraid of sharp questions, knows how to answer them and how to behave. To this can be added the fact that the number of contacts of government ministers with journalists has significantly increased, and the Government as a whole has begun to more confidently and clearly explain its steps and actions to the media and the public. As a result, there is nothing surprising in the fact that now we are seeing an increase in citizens' confidence in the work of the Government, especially since the members of the Government are constantly demonstrating their readiness to work and to solve the tasks set by the President.
Summing up, we can say that the Government in its first year quite confidently coped with the uncommon challenges of 2020 that had come down. However, the Government has a large number of unresolved tasks that will require concentration of efforts and competent actions of all its links. And the trust of the population in the entire system of state power as a whole depends directly on this work. One of the main steps of the Government in the next year of its work should be the reform of the public administration system, the outlines of which have already been outlined by Mishustin. This process should not only bring significant changes in the economy, but also be very curious to observe from the expert community and the public.