The sources for the information below include, but are not limited to, the following: the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Daily Report (RFE/RL), the Foreign Broadcast Information Service at the Central Intelligence Agency's Central Eurasia Daily Report (FBIS), U.S. Department of Agriculture's AG a.m., Nexis/Lexis through Mead Data Central, Inc., and The Washington Post.
7 March 1994: -The Washington Post lists the current exchange rate at R1691 per dollar. The exchange is fixed by the Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange. (-The Washington Post-, March 7, 1994) 4 March 1994: -The Russian government's proposed budget for 1994 does not reflect the dire predictions of ousted reformers who saw the new government caving in to the interests of entrenched lobbies, such as those in the agricultural sector. Instead, the budget proposals seem designed to stem inflation by placing tight caps on spending. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who many feared would promote spending as the solution to the country's economic problems, said that the new government would not permit hyperinflation to destroy the country. He added that " We'll be making far-from-popular decisions, because popular decisions are simply impossible now." The government expects stiff opposition to the budget in the Duma, especially from special interests groups like the agricultural lobby which has already accused the government of reneging on promises that would have given that sector trillions of rubles. (- The Washington Post-, March 4, 1994) - Ivan Rybkin, speaker of Russia's new parliament, will visit Washington this week-end as the guest of House Speaker Tom Foley. Rybkin will try to soothe the turbulent relationship between Moscow and Washington caused by the recent spy scandal. Rybkin, a former agrarian engineer, is considered an astute and patient politician who knows how to negotiate and build consensus. Rybkin led the Agrarian Party in the recent elections. He has opposed the radical reforms of Yegor Gaidar, seeing them as destructive in much the same way as the policies of the Bolshevik Party. According to Rybkin, both groups tried to impose radical ideas instead of the gradual dismantling of the system. Rybkin hopes to steer Russia toward peace and away from the bitter conflict between parliament and president that erupted last fall. (-The Washington Post-, March 4, 1994) 3 March 1994: -According to reports from the Russian Agriculture Ministry, private landowners are beginning to show some gains against major collective farms. The share of individual smallholdings in total agricultural production increased from 24 percent in 1990 to 36 percent in 1993. Individual procurers provided more than 80 percent of all potatoes and 60 percent of vegetables grown in Russia in 1993. (Nexis\Lexis through Mead Data Central Inc., BBC, March 4, 1994) 2 March 1994: -The agricultural lobby is working to restore the farm subsidy allocation from the 8.5 trillion rubles in the proposed 1994 budget to the initial bid of close to 16 trillion rubles. Since no one knows what the 1994 inflation rate will be, various groups lobbying for support use different price-bases in their pronouncements. The government appears to be using a projected annual rate of around 600 percent. (RFE/RL, March 4, 1994) 22 February 1994: -The leaders of the Economy Ministry have been discussing their main ideas for the current year in the economic community in hopes of enlisting broad support. The ministry envisions targeting the least privileged strata of the population for support. Total spending on social needs is projected at 16 percent of GNP, depending of course, on total revenue. The leaders of the Ministry also see many enterprises that were sustained by the federal budget as going bankrupt. Targeted assistance is promised to major facilities in the coal and metallurgical industries as well as those industries involved in the production of fertilizers. (FBIS, February 22, 1994) 18 February 1994: -The last two years of economic reform have resulted, not only in a sharp decrease in the living standards of Russians, but also a decrease in birthrates and an increase in death rates. Russian society has also been stratified into the very rich and the very poor, resulting in an almost non-existent middle-class. Almost 40 million Russians or 26.7 percent of the population have living standards below the poverty line. For the last two years, the unemployment rate has grown 13.5 times. Because of all these changes, the government anticipates the erosion of the social base needed to secure reforms. Hence, sources close to Prime Minister Chernomyrdin hint at future policies aimed toward prioritizing social policies. -'Selskaya Zhizn' reported that economists and representatives of agrarian movements and organizations met at the Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences to discuss the results of a socioeconomic survey conducted by the Agrarian Institute. The director of the Institute, A.A. Nikonov, reported a need for agrarian reform and recognized the growing number of private farms in Russia. Nikonov noted that the survey indicated peasants engaged in private farming even less than previous surveys had shown. He attributed this to a lack of materials, such as fertilizers, credit, and machinery. The data collected by the Institute divided private farmers into four groups: "professionals", who specialized in agriculture; "elite farmers", whose families did well in agriculture because of their previous connections with the nomenklatura, and "farms of the intelligentsia", whose families' job skills were divided between low paid jobs and agriculture, and the "marginal group," whose family members had few skills in agriculture but who comprised one-fifth of farmers. The former groups were quite successful but the latter group, the "marginals," produced very few goods on their farms The report suggested reorganizing collective and state farms so the peasants could own the land, instead of just work it. (Nexis/Lexis through Mead Data Central Inc., BBC, February 18, 1994) Area of Interest: Slovakia 4 March 1994: -The government of Slovakia has placed a 10 percent import surcharge on consumer goods. The duties will be decreased by 50 percent after six months in accordance with Slovakia's agreement with the International Monetary Fund. This move follows steps taken in February to improve the country's trade balance by implementing new rules which require approval from Slovak authorities for food shipments entering the country. The Czech republic, which holds a customs union with Slovakia, retaliated by devaluating the Czech koruna by 3 percent in the clearing system used in bilateral trade. (RFE/RL, March 4, 1994)