, Boris Yeltsin’s first prime minister and the man often credited with directing Russia’s first steps in transition from a controlled to a market economy. But if Kirienko’s general outlook is entrepreneurial and pro-competitive, the specific policies he would carry out as the head of Russia’s government remain a mystery.

In his first and so far only major appearance as prime minister-designate, Kirienko addressed the upper house of parliament on April 1. He bewailed the country’s unsolved problems and attacked his predecessors without revealing how he would do things differently. "For the past six months." he said, "the government has been talking about economic growth trends, but there is practically no one in Russia who really feels it…."

That may be because growth is scarcely perceptible. Official statistics report gross domestic product rose 0.7% in the first two months of 1998 while investment fell by 7%. One fourth of the population, 32 million people, live in poverty. Business confidence as measured by the Russian Economic Barometer survey is low and falling. The government chronic cash shortage is the fountainhead of a river of debt that spreads throughout the economy, leaving workers and suppliers unpaid and many farms and businesses dependent on barter.

Indeed Kirienko faces an immediate cash crunch. The delay in passing a budget (signed into law only at the end of March, three months into the fiscal year), the firing of the