As Russian lawmakers heaped criticism on his bold initiative to advance his reforms, Russian Federation President Boris N. Yeltsin prepared Wednesday to send emissaries to the United States and nine other countries to sell the world on his version of economic shock therapy.
High-ranking Russian politicians will travel to America, France, Italy, Britain, Germany, Japan, Poland, Finland, Sweden and South Korea to explain Yeltsin’s plan to quickly free prices, privatize enterprises and assume extra powers for himself to help him enact these reforms, the Tass news agency reported.
In draft copies of resolutions, which circulated among lawmakers at a parliamentary session, Yeltsin outlined the increased powers that he wants to promote his reform plan. They call for suspending all elections in the Russian Federation for a year and granting Yeltsin the right to determine the structure of the supreme bodies of executive power in the republic and to form local executive authorities.
He had already asked for the right to issue binding decrees, even if they contradict the laws or constitution of Russia. As a counterbalance, the Russian Federation Parliament would be given the right to reverse the decrees within two weeks of their issuance.
The Parliament is expected to vote on the resolutions today. If passed, they would set the stage for what would probably be--if realized--the most radical economic reforms Russia has seen since the collectivization of agriculture in the 1930s. They would also give Yeltsin far-reaching powers to execute his reforms and almost complete responsibility for them if they fail.
Conservative and liberal economists in the Russian Parliament attacked Yeltsin’s proposals Wednesday, saying the rapid changes would cause prices to skyrocket, worsen Russia’s already acute poverty and eventually lead the federation to ruin.
“Will freeing prices lead to anything but widespread panic?” Russian lawmaker Dmitri A. Vasiliev asked in an address to the Parliament. “If today prices correlate to salaries and pensions . . . tomorrow this will not be true at all.”
Other lawmakers accused Yeltsin of forfeiting democracy for his economic plan by proposing to take power from elected local governments and give it to his appointees. “Local governments are already paralyzed because they don’t know what to do,” said Vladimir Ispravnikov, an economist and member of the Parliament’s tax commission.
Tatyana I. Koryagina, a prominent radical economist and member of Parliament, called Yeltsin’s reforms “unrealizable,” especially proposals to free prices and sell off 10,000 state-owned and medium-sized factories as well as unfinished construction sites within three months.
“The reform will be interrupted by some kind of a cataclysm before it produces any results,” Koryagina said. “The worst is possible--either a development like in Yugoslavia, when arms will be used to keep the country together, or there will be a civil government formed of people with completely different economic views (than Yeltsin).
“Either way, the road from communism to capitalism will be very long and very hard,” she said.
Koryagina said she will abstain during the vote on the Yeltsin initiative, but she said it would probably be better if the Parliament passed it, because then “at least there would be no political instability.” If the Parliament rejects it, she said, Yeltsin’s authority would be undermined and there would be no economic reform.
One of the main problems with Yeltsin’s plan, Koryagina said, is that he chose it “because the West would like it,” not because of its domestic merits. His plan, she said, is not applicable to the current Russian economic system because the old, centralized economy is so deeply rooted after more than seven decades of Communist rule.
By sending many of the Russian republic’s most prominent figures abroad, Yeltsin is indicating that he seeks approval of the world’s economic powers for his plan.
Russian Foreign Minister Andrei V. Kozyrev is scheduled to visit the United States on Saturday to deliver a personal message to President Bush, Tass reported.
Vice President Alexander V. Rutskoi will go to Italy and Britain. Secretary of State Gennady E. Burbulis will visit France and Germany. Adviser Sergei B. Stankevich is headed for Poland. Presidential adviser Galina V. Starovoitava will travel to Finland and Sweden. Vladimir P. Lukin, the head of the Parliament’s committee for international affairs and foreign economic relations, will go to Japan and South Korea.
“This mass deployment of Russian diplomatic forces abroad must have been prompted by the desire not only to explain forthcoming economic reforms to partners but also to secure their support,” Tass commented.
While many Russian lawmakers took jabs at Yeltsin, Vladimir V. Zhirinovsky, who won almost 8% of the vote in the June election for the Russian Federation presidency with promises of cheap vodka, may have launched the strongest criticism of all. “If we take the essence of his programs,” Zhirinovsky, head of the Liberal Democratic Party, told a news conference, “then the majority of Russians must get ready to live in doghouses and survive on free soup.”
Zhirinovsky predicted that Yeltsin is bringing on his own demise with his newest proposals.