Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 7

Several Russian top politicians and presidential hopefuls reacted yesterday to the Primakov government’s draft 1999 budget, which the State Duma approved in the first reading last month. The draft now faces another two readings before it is either passed or rejected in a fourth and final vote. Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov predicted that the draft, which members of the communist-led opposition have criticized sharply over the last few days, would have a “very, very complicated” fate because of the ongoing economic crisis. Saying that last August’s financial meltdown had “cast a black cloud over 1999,” Luzhkov said that he believes the budget is unrealistic. He added, however, that the crisis has also had a positive effect: It has forced the government to study the “real sector” of Russia’s economy, and to draft policies designed to end Russia’s dependence on foreign aid (Russian agencies, January 11). For his part, Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed said that he was not satisfied with the first version of the budget, which some observers hailed as being appropriately austere and responsible. Lebed predicted that even if the budget is eventually passed, it will not be adhered to and the economic situation will worsen. Lebed said that while he was positively disposed toward Primakov and some members of the cabinet, the government had erred by drafting the budget without consulting regional leaders. “The attempt to rule everyone from Moscow… led to the break-up of the USSR,” Lebed said. The same thing, he said, meaning rule from the center, is unfortunately happening again now. Lebed predicted Russia’s economic situation will worsen in March-April, and that “the moment of truth for the government of Yevgeny Primakov will come in the spring.”

Former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said yesterday that the draft budget should be passed “as soon as possible,” and denounced any speculation that the Primakov government might be removed (Russian agencies, January 11).