Russian president Boris Yeltsin yesterday outlined a new twelve-point government program and said that he would assign responsibility for each of the twelve tasks to individual ministers. Yeltsin said further that he will require the government to present an account of its progress in a month’s time and repeated his earlier threat that anyone who fails the test may find themselves out of a job. (Itar-Tass, RTR, NTV, January 26)
The program is a mixed bag and, while none of its aims is new, neither can any be achieved within a month. Many are reminiscent of the seven-point program Yeltsin outlined a year ago. One thing that is new: The program calls for close cooperation between individual ministers and presidential aides. Whether this is more than just a mechanism for securing power without responsibility for Yeltsin’s principal economic adviser, Aleksandr Livshits, was not immediately clear. Livshits, who lost his job as finance minister in March last year, did not conceal a smirk when he told a press conference yesterday that "Ministers should not consider their jobs to be permanent." (Itar-Tass, January 26)
The twelve points include:
–reforming welfare to target the most needy;
–lowering tariffs for services supplied by Russia’s "natural monopolies" (gas, electricity and railways);
–ensuring the timely payment of pensions and wages to state employees;
–adopting a new tax code to go into effect on January 1, 1999, with the aim of encouraging investment by reducing the tax burden on enterprises;
–resolving the non-payments cycle;
–training state officials;
–repaying the government’s debts to enterprises in the defense sector (to be achieved partly by redefining the sector so as to reduce the number of enterprises in it from 1,700 to 600);
–providing housing for active servicemen and retired officers; negotiating Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization;
–increasing cooperation with the European Union;
–introducing a new labor code to reflect the new conditions that have taken shape in the workplace since Russia moved to the market;
–and introducing a land market (though, in a concession to the Communist-dominated Duma, Yeltsin said that, "in the initial stage," the sale of farmland will be subject to "certain restrictions").
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