President Boris Yeltsin met yesterday in the Barvikha sanitarium with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to discuss a range of economic issues and said his first priority on returning to work will be to get the 1998 federal budget passed by parliament. (Itar-Tass, December 18) Chernomyrdin said the government is doing all it can to get the budget passed as soon as possible. He also assured Yeltsin that wage arrears to state employees will be paid off as promised by the beginning of the year, but stressed that the full resolution of the problem is out of the government’s hands, since regional governments are responsible for paying half of the arrears.
Also yesterday, President Yeltsin signed into law the federal law on the government, which promises the Russian parliament a greater role in monitoring the work of the government. Precisely how large parliament’s role will be is still unknown, even to the president. Yeltsin’s spokesman, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, said the president’s decision to sign the document was "unusual," since he signed the bill before parliament had put the final touches to it. However, Yastrzhembsky said, Yeltsin had been assured by parliamentary leaders that they would make certain changes to the law that the president had stipulated, which include retaining the president’s right to appoint the "power" ministers free of parliamentary oversight. Yastrzhembsky said the president had a "gentlemen’s agreement" with the parliamentary leaders and trusted them to make the promised changes. (NTV, December 18)
Government Approves Pension Reform.