Yesterday’s annual state-of-the-nation speech by the Russian president was long on exhortation and short on specifics. Yeltsin endorsed market reforms but qualified his enthusiasm for the reform team with a categorical demand that the government find ways of boosting economic growth or face dismissal. "If the government is unable to meet [our] strategic goals, we’ll have a new government," Yeltsin declared. Yeltsin said he was giving the government three months (until mid-May) to prepare a program for economizing with federal resources. (Itar-Tass, February 17)
Yeltsin acknowledged that, as a growing chorus of insiders has pointed out, the much-revised 1998 federal budget has been rendered unworkable as a result of government/parliament horse-trading, and will have to be amended yet again. The lower house of the Russian parliament had been due to give the budget its fourth and final reading this week, but Yeltsin said yesterday that further amendments will have to be made. (Itar-Tass, February 17)
In a rare instance of unanimity, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, First Deputy Premier Anatoly Chubais and Yeltsin’s economics aide Aleksandr Livshits all told journalists that the proposed amendments were relatively minor, that they had already been drafted, and that they would be submitted to the Duma in time for this morning’s debate. Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznev, however, said that the Duma would probably postpone today’s debate. He said February 20 is now a more likely date for the Duma to resume its consideration of the budget. (RTR, February 17)
Foreign Policy Issues in Yeltsin’s Speech to Parliament.