WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin has ruled out taking a job in Russia’s next government, citing irreconcilable policy differences with President Dmitry Medvedev, who is likely to become premier in a job swap with Vladimir Putin.
Kudrin is the longest serving finance minister in the Group of Eight and has won the respect of investors for his hawkish fiscal stance and decision to save windfall oil revenues in a rainy-day fund.
“I do not see myself in a new government,” Kudrin, 50, told reporters in Washington on Saturday, in comments he requested be released on Sunday morning.
“The point is not that nobody has offered me the job; I think that the disagreements I have will not allow me to join this government.”
Asked whether he would accept a role, Kudrin said: “I would definitely decline.”
He said it was premature to comment on his future plans.
He spoke after the leaders of Russia’s dual power structure, Putin and Medvedev, announced on Saturday they would switch roles after parliamentary and presidential elections.
Under the job swap, Medvedev will lead the list of the ruling United Russia party in December’s election to the lower house of parliament, making way for Putin to return to the presidency next March and Medvedev to become prime minister.
Kudrin, in Washington for the autumn meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, said he disagreed with Medvedev on economic policy, especially on the president’s insistence that Russia increase arms spending.
He said the higher outlays created risks to the public finances, which are reliant on high, and rising oil prices. Russia is the world’s largest oil producer.
“Before the crisis, our budget balanced at $90 per barrel, this year at $109 and next year at $112,” Kudrin told reporters. “This dependency will persist and that is risky for our economy.
Kudrin had appeared to harbor ambitions to become Russia’s next prime minister, telling Reuters this month he would be willing to serve any role in a government committed to reforms.
He said at the time that Russia must embark on a radical overhaul of its state pensions system and the government would have to raise taxes if it failed to rein in its spending habits.
A return by Putin to the presidency, which he held from 2000 until 2008, could yet signal that he would become more active on reforms, Kudrin said in Washington.
“Putin feels (the country’s) problems very seriously and reacts to them,” said Kudrin. “I hope that he will feel it necessary to conduct structural reforms to boost the potential for economic growth.”
Reporting by Lidia Kelly, Editing by Douglas Busvine and Matthew Jones