The heads of thirteen of Russia’s largest oil companies have attacked what they say is the government’s plans to raise taxes on oil exports. The tax hike is reportedly part of an emergency budget which the government has drafted to plug holes in state financing during the fourth quarter of 1998. Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov is reportedly behind the idea of a new oil exports’ tax.
Officials from several large oil companies–including LUKoil, Sibneft, Sidanko, Surgutneftegaz and Yukos–held a press conference on October 5 to denounce the planned tax hike. The oil barons released a joint statement attacking the “monetarist” policy of Russia’s previous governments–that is, those headed by Viktor Chernomyrdin and Sergei Kirienko–which, they said, had destroyed national industry. The oil chiefs warned that “the degradation of industry” would lead to “socio-economic chaos.” The newspaper Kommersant daily noted that such views dovetail with those of First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Maslyukov, the Communist Party economist who once headed Gosplan, the Soviet planning agency, and who is now the government’s economics czar. The target of their wrath is Zadornov: At their October 5 press conference, Vasily Shakhnovsky, vice president of Yukos, openly said that he and his fellow oil barons are trying to get Zadornov removed. Kommersant daily observed that the oil barons are now looking toward Maslyukov to lobby their interests inside the government (Kommersant daily, October 6).
DEPRESSING STATISTICS CONTINUE TO ROLL IN.