The first day of the 8th Perm Forum, dedicated to the “Open Government” system, has come to a close

April 19, 2012

The members of the group of developers of the “Open Government” system, headed by Mikhail Abyzov, presented the results of their work and held a session dedicated to the results of the discussions in the forum’s six working groups.

At the opening of the forum, the moderator of the first day, Sergey Aleksashenko, the Director of Macroeconomic Research at the National Research University Higher School of Economics reminded the participants of the importance of the emergence of an institution that is “prepared to cooperate with a broad spectrum of experts and create channels for feedback, which have been so noticeably lacking”.

The plenary session, entitled “The Open Government System: a New Course” began with a presentation by the deputy chairman of the working group dedicated to developing that system, Counsellor to the President of the Russian Federation, Mikhail Abyzov. The speaker presented the main principles that guide the work of an “Open Government” and its mechanisms for interaction with civil, governmental and commercial associations of citizens.

Six areas of this system’s operations were subjected to detailed discussion by the forum working groups: social policy, human resources development, protecting civil rights, long-term macroeconomic and budgetary policy, regional policy and devolution of powers in the field of state management and the mechanisms of the operation of an “Open Government”. The experts in each working group were invited to identify high-priority actions for the system in their areas, as well as the mechanisms of its operation.

The key points and results of each section were presented by the participants in the working groups at the final plenary session.

Evgeny Gavrilenkov, the Managing Director Troika Dialog, described the results of the “Long-term Macroeconomic and Budget Policy” group. The key issues that emerged in their discussion were stabilizing budgetary expenditures, a stable, fair and effective tax system, the development of the financial system and the formation of macroeconomic conditions favorable for economic growth. The group’s experts agreed that there is a high level of long-term uncertainty in the contemporary Russia economy. Their key proposals were increasing the role of citizen taxpayers in the tax system, decentralizing taxes and powers and stabilizing the pension system.

Yana Yakovleva, the chairperson of the Business Solidarity Non-Profit Partnership, described the results of the “Protecting Civil Rights” group. This section’s experts identified three focal points of social dissatisfaction: the judicial system, the defense and law enforcement agencies, and unfair elections. In Yakovleva’s words “an ‘Open Government’ must serve as an interface that society can use to put pressure on the authorities, a service for the active segments of society”. This group’s specific proposals included radical staff changes in the law enforcement agencies, the development of extrajudicial systems for resolving disputes, involving experts in the public councils of the Government of the Russian Federation on reforming the judicial system and the police.

Ilya Breyman, Deputy Head of the “State and non-profit sector” practice of Ward Howell presented the results of the discussion held by the experts in the “Human Resources Development” group. They suggested introducing an online exam for civil servants, creating a single resume database and holding contests to fill vacant positions in government agencies, formulating a clear system for KPI evaluations, and creating a competitive school of management. In order to select the agency that would monitor and reform human resources management in the other government agencies, a survey of the participants was conducted. Half of those who participated voted for the creation of a project outside the existing structure of the government.

Irina Starodubrovskaya, the Director of the Center for Political Economy and Regional Development at the Gaidar Institute for Economic Policy, described the discussion held in the “Regional Policy and Devolution of Powers in the Field of State Management” group. Starodubrovskaya suggested choosing one of two potential approaches to regional policy: supporting growth centers or encouraging economic equality. The group’s experts identified key areas for the “Open Government” to focus its efforts on: the creation of truly democratic institutions, granting the regions the right to levy their own taxes, providing as much autonomy as possible for municipal governments, reducing budgetary equalization and conducting regional experiments as one of the measures for implementing reforms.

Alexey Sitnikov, the Director of Administration and Development at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, represented the “Social Policy” group, which recommended five priority areas: healthcare, housing, family and childcare problems, reducing the harm inflicted by alcohol and tobacco, social services for the elderly, and the labor market. To resolve these problems, Sitnikov proposed a series of measures: replacing government paternalism with cooperation, public oversight over increasing transparency, understandable indicators of effectiveness and ensuring consumer choice.

Nikolay Novichkov, a professor at the National Research University Higher School of Economics and head of the “Cultural Alliance” project, described the work of the “Mechanisms of Operation of an Open Government” group. According to Novichkov, over the course of discussion of the key proposals of the presentation made by Counsellor to the President of the Russian Federation Mikhail Abyzov, the deputy chairman of the working group for the creation of an “Open Government” system, a group of points made in a presentation on the development of a standard for informational and public relations operations received the highest rating from the groups’ experts. For their part, these experts themselves formulated several proposals to improve the operation of the system: awareness campaigns for the population dedicated to issues of budget policy, an exhaustive analysis of civil initiatives, including independent expert analysis and auditing in the annual operations of government agencies, ensuring diversity in channels of communication.

The moderator of the plenary session, Sergey Aleksashenko, the Director of Macroeconomic Research at the National Research University Higher School of Economics closed the first day by saying “today’s authorities are prepared to share their power” and society can either use this opportunity or criticize the idea. In response to mistrustful and critical comments from the audience, Aleksashenko emphasized that the “Open Government” is a chance exert greater influence on the authorities. If we don’t believe in that chance, we may miss it".

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