The future Prime Minister, a senior official and illustrious unknown, was appointed by Vladimir Putin after the surprise announcement of the government’s resignation on Wednesday.
A senior official unknown to the general public, he is now propelled onto the political scene. Appointed Prime Minister on Wednesday by Vladimir Putin, Mikhail Michoustin has headed the tax service for ten years, at the head of which he has built a reputation for efficiency. This 53-year-old Muscovite, an engineer by training, replaces Dmitry Medvedev who had just announced the resignation of his government in the wake of Vladimir Putin’s announcements on major constitutional reforms.
Its mission, as outlined by the Russian president, is “social justice”, “increasing real incomes” of citizens, creating a better investment climate and fostering “children and families” to respond to the demographic crisis, summed the future Prime Minister before the deputies who must confirm it to the post of Prime Minister in the afternoon. Confirmation acquired, as the Duma (lower house of Parliament) is dominated by political forces favorable to Vladimir Putin.
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A sign of the relative anonymity in which Mikhaïl Michoustine had been confined: his Wikipedia page, before his appointment, existed until now only in Russian. At the head of the Russian taxman, this bald man with a thick face has, however, some success stories to claim, according to public media.
The man behind the tax redesign
“He created the best tax collection system in the world,” said the public broadcaster. Rossiya-24 within minutes of the announcement of his appointment. Whether this statement is exaggerated or not, the fact remains that Mikhaïl Michoustine organized the overhaul and digitization of the taxman, a huge bureaucracy long ineffective in making it a dreaded agency.
A graduate in the late 1980s from a technological university in the Russian capital, he entered the Russian administration in 1998 as vice-president of the tax service, in addition to a post of vice-minister in charge of the same file. .
Will follow a career of high official in several government agencies: from 2004 in the federal service of the cadastres, then three years later in that in charge of the management of the special economic zones created to attract foreign investments.
Cantor of the digitization of the economy
After a period at the head of an investment fund, UFG Asset Management, in 2010 he returned to the Russian tax service with the mission of modernizing it in depth. A successful mission, he assured in November 2019 in a daily interview Kommersant, claiming a “VAT gap”[[difference between expected VAT receipts and those actually received]less than 0.6%, when it is around 10% in Europe. “They take us as an example, people come to study us,” he added.
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To do this, Mikhaïl Michoustine has championed the digitization of the Russian economy. At the end of 2018, the tax service had thus announced, “to improve efficiency”, the creation of a centralized database gathering all the existing data on Russian citizens and accessible to all administrations.
He said Thursday he wanted to “regain the confidence” of the business community. “It is necessary to stimulate the growth of investments, to regain the lost trust between the authorities and the companies” in order to restore the coat of arms of the Russian economy, he declared before the deputies.
“Too early” to see a successor
Appreciated by Vladimir Putin, the senior official appeared several times at his side, notably playing ice hockey – he is a member of the supervisory board of the CSKA Moscow hockey club – during the gala match at which the Russian president takes part in Sochi (south) every year.
Still, it is “too early” to see a possible successor to Vladimir Putin, notes for AFP political scientist Ekaterina Schulmann, who believes Mikhail Michoustin “is an ideologically neutral figure”. According to several analysts, it is however a close friend of the former finance minister Alexei Kudrin, one of the most respected in Russia of the club of “liberals”, in opposition to the clan of “siloviki” from the security services.
Married and father of three, the tax chief was the 54th highest paid senior official in Russia in 2015, according to the magazine Forbes, with revenues of 183.31 million rubles (2.7 million euros at the current rate).