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Alexander Kuzmin, 33, is an oil engineer and businessman who studied business administration in Canada. He’s also the mayor of Megion, in the Khanty-Mansiisk region of Siberia, where he’s 1.5 years into his term and determined to improve efficiency in part by eliminating the language of negativity. 

The list of banned phrases includes:

§         I don’t know

§         I can’t

§         What can we do?

§         It’s not my job

§         It’s impossible

§         I’m having lunch

§         There is no money

§         I was away/sick/on vacation

“It’s a suggestion to the staff that they should think before saying something,” Oksana Shestakova said by telephone. “To say ‘I don’t know’ is the same as admitting your helplessness.

To reinforce the ban, a framed list of the banned expressions has been hanging on the wall next to Kuzmin’s office for the past two weeks, Shestakova said.

A statement on the town’s website quotes Mayor Kuzmin as saying that “Town authorities are there to make town residents’ life comfortable and prosperous. Town officials must work out mechanisms to solve and remove problems, not to avoid them.”

Officials who disobey the ban while in the mayor’s office “will near the moment of their departure,” the statement said.

Providing the mayor with wrong or incomplete information, or being late in reporting important information will be considered an attempt to undermine his work, it said.

Anna Borovikova, the mayor’s chief of staff, said the novel approach has improved discipline.“Before, it was so easy to say ‘I don’t know.’ Now before reporting to the mayor we prepare several proposals on how one or another problem can be solved,” Borovikova said.

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