Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 32

Delivering his annual state-of-the-nation address to the Russian parliament this morning, President Boris Yeltsin said economic growth remains the focal point of current government policy. Much of the hard work has already been done, he said, as shown by the fact that Russia’s economy grew last year for the first time since market reforms began. But Yeltsin acknowledged that Russia’s economic recovery is still fragile, and called for "new strategies" to ensure that growth continues. He urged the adoption of Russia’s new tax code, spoke of the need for reform of the civil service and said it was essential to create a favorable climate for investment. (BBC, February 17)

As anticipated, Yeltsin’s speech was short on specifics. He had indicated that this would be the case when he spoke to a TV interviewer yesterday. Yeltsin said then that the speech would be longer on analysis than on concrete prescriptions. Out of consideration for Yeltsin’s physical health, today’s speech was only thirty minutes long. Details of how the government intends to go about the task of stimulating economic growth were, Yeltsin said yesterday, in the long version of the speech that he was sending to parliament. "One should not draw conclusions from the spoken version," Yeltsin said. (NTV, February 16)

Previewing today’s speech, Nezavisimaya gazeta correctly predicted that the fate of economic reforms was likely to remain unclear. The newspaper noted that whereas last year’s state-of-the-nation speech was drafted by Anatoly Chubais in association with many of the reform economists who had been close to Yegor Gaidar’s government, this year’s was prepared under the supervision of presidential aide Valentin Yumashev, who is not an economist but a journalist.(See Monitor, January 26) "The last address, prepared by Chubais, heralded a second wave of reforms. The current address, prepared by Yumashev, is expected to lean more towards compromise and reconciliation in Russian society," the paper predicted. (Nezavisimaya gazeta, February 14)

…Touches on Foreign Policy.