Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 197

The Primakov government has not yet officially produced an “anticrisis” program, though the premier said it would be the subject of discussion during a ministerial meeting planned for today (October 26). In a television interview Saturday night (October 24), Primakov said that salaries to state workers and pensions are currently being paid on time. In that interview he also promised the timely payment of salaries and other benefits to the military. Back pay owed to state workers would be paid off by year’s end, while part of the arrears owed the armed forces would be paid off this coming January (Russian agencies, October 24). First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Maslyukov appeared to be working from a slightly different script. During an official visit to the polar town of Norilsk, home to one of the world’s largest nickel factories, Maslyukov said the government had a two-step plan vis-a-vis state salaries and pensions. First, the government will, by year’s end, ensure that current salaries to state workers and pensions are being paid on time. Second, Maslyukov said, the government will begin to pay off arrears starting next January. Maslyukov said the government would publish its anticrisis program by the end of October (Russian agencies, October 25).

“Itogi,” NTV television’s influential weekly news analysis program, said the phantom anticrisis program is part of Primakov’s strategy to be “deliberately vague” about his government’s course. This way, according to “Itogi,” the prime minister is “constantly located somewhere in the [political] center and receives support from the whole political spectrum, with the exception of radicals.” This strategy helps Primakov maintain the government’s reputation as the “center of power”–in contrast, presumably, with the once-mighty, now-weakened presidential administration–and “localizes” the country’s political crisis. In the view of “Itogi,” Primakov government’s main slogan is: “Don’t rock the boat.” “Kommersant daily,” which has been waging something of a war against the Primakov government’s alleged antipathy to the press and its economically leftward tilt, published Saturday (October 24) what it said were the main points of the government’s anticrisis program. They included regulating the prices of Russia’s natural monopolies (gas, electricity and so on), mandating that the Central Bank hand all of its profits over to the federal budget and using the assets of “nationalized banks” to create a State Investment Bank for Reconstruction and Development.