to deal with the issues.
Chernomyrdin gave a dull but competent presentation on the state of the economy, with the spotlight on the good news. Half of Russia’s 89 regions, he said, grew in 1997, compared to only 10 in 1996. Gross domestic product in January was up 1.3% over the level of a year ago. Further progress will require smaller government deficits, which means spending cuts and better tax collection. Cutting $7.5 billion out of the deficit in 1998 will ensure growth of 5% per year by 2000.
Perhaps the wooden Chernomyrdin was more tiresome than usual. At the first break, Yeltsin left the room and did not return. As always, the president’s erratic behavior led to rumors: he’s sick; he’s angry; he’s changed his mind and won’t fire anyone. One rumor said that Chernomyrdin and Yeltsin argued about personnel. That fits their styles. The prime minister told the press last week: "I oppose endless bureaucratic reshuffling and hectic reorganization." But for President Yeltsin, reshuffling and reorganization, along with denigration and blame, are the basic tools of management. In any event, at week’s end the cabinet was still in place, the president’s threats neither withdrawn nor realized.