Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 162

Acting Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin addressed the upper house of the Russian parliament this morning and outlined his government’s economic rescue program. As reported by CNN, Chernomyrdin called for an “economic dictatorship” to end the present crisis while preserving market reforms. Starting in January, he said, “the government will introduce an economic dictatorship–enterprises will be placed in conditions under which they will not be able to fail to meet their obligations.” Meanwhile, the ruble will be allowed to float freely and find its own level against other world currencies. The government will press ahead with market reforms as soon as the situation is stabilized. In the meantime, it will prioritize paying wage and pension arrears, closing down bankrupt and inefficient businesses, getting rid of dishonest managers and officials, and lowering taxes. “This may,” Chernomyrdin concluded, “be our last chance to build a normal economy in Russia. Yes, our actions will be unpopular. Everyone will denounce us. But don’t tie the government’s hands. Give us time to step back from the precipice.” (CNN, September 4)

Chernomyrdin has been aggressively courting Russia’s regional leaders, hoping that their support for his program will win over the communist-dominated Duma. The economic proposals he outlined this morning were drafted by a task force led by acting Deputy Premier Boris Fedorov. Though details are still sparse, the proposals appear to bear Fedorov’s tough-minded but reformist stamp. Yesterday, there were reports that Chernomyrdin’s embryonic cabinet was split between those who favor Fedorov’s more radical approach and those who support the approach of acting Industry Minister Yuri Maslyukov, a communist who favors greater state control of the economy. Yesterday, Maslyukov resigned from the acting government, complaining he had not been given the powers he had been promised. His departure may be a sign that Fedorov has been able to stamp his authority on Chernomyrdin’s program.