Russia sets out to tackle "2003 problem"
By Andrei Shukshin


MOSCOW, Sept 13 (Reuters) - Russia's Parliamentary leaders and President Vladimir Putin agreed on Wednesday to embark on a three-year crash course to thwart what they said was an anticipated chain of disasters due to hit the country in 2003.

"(These are) issues of extraordinary importance, strategic issues which may degenerate into a serious threat for the existence, I want to stress this, for the existence of Russia," former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov told reporters.

Some experts have singled out 2003 as the year when three problems -- a big debt bill, eroding infrastructure and an ageing population -- could combine to throw Russia into turmoil. Primakov, leader of the centre-left OVR parliamentary faction, was one of several top members of the State Duma lower house of parliament to meet Putin in the Kremlin. In addition to the "2003 problem," the agenda included next year's budget and media freedom and ownership. Both sides agreed urgent measures had to be taken to avert the looming disaster.

Problems of Russia's crumbling industrial base were highlighted last month when a nuclear-powered submarine sank with the loss of all 118 crew on board and a day-long fire gutted Moscow's Ostankino television tower, a national symbol. Putin said at the time the fire was proof of the dangerous condition of the Russian infrastructure. A power shortage last weekend also forced officials to shut down nuclear reactors, including those at a giant, top-secret fuel reprocessing plant whose boss said that only staff discipline prevented a major crisis.

PRO-KREMLIN PARTY BROUGHT UP THE 2003 PROBLEM

Boris Gryzlov, leader of the pro-Kremlin Unity faction which was the first to raise the issue, said Russia would also have to deal in 2003 with a colossal $17 billion foreign debt payout and a massive population shrinkage. Gryzlov said the problems had already been discussed with cabinet ministers and the parliamentarians had agreed with Putin to set up a commission to tackle the issue head-on. "The question was discussed at length and the president approved our initiative and said he would dispatch representatives of his administration to the working group," Gryzlov said after the Kremlin meeting. He said the commission could start work as early as Monday and suggested the government could alleviate the crisis by using budget windfalls, such as extra revenue from higher oil prices, on paying off straight away debts maturing in 2003.

Some observers said the 2003 deadline was rather artificial and might serve political purposes.

Dmitry Pinsker, Kremlin-watcher for the liberal weekly Itogi, said Kremlin spin doctors planned to make a fuss over the initiatives, in part to answer critics who charged them with inaction during the Kursk submarine disaster last month. Economic analysts say Russia's financial and infrastructure problems are real, but picking a date is somewhat arbitrary.

"A lot here is artificial," Oleg Vyugin, a former first deputy finance minister and now executive vice president at Troika Dialog investment bank, told Reuters. Russia is due to pay slightly more than $16 billion in debt payments that year, compared with $11.3 billion due in 2001, he said. But there was still plenty of room for restructuring. "Everyone knows that the infrastructure is deteriorating, but that does not mean that this will all happen in 2003. The television tower burned up this year," he said.

Al Breach, an analyst with Goldman Sachs, said investors would applaud reform talk, however artificial the deadline.

"For these guys to be thinking three years ahead is pretty good," he said.


Related Reading



The 12th Planet





Back to the Americas Menu
Back to News Archive Menu




Notice: TGS HiddenMysteries and/or the donor of this material may or may not agree with all the data or conclusions of this data. It is presented here 'as is' for your benefit and research. Material for these pages are sent from around the world. If by chance there is a copyrighted article posted which the author does not want read, email the webmaster and it will be removed. If proper credit for authorship is not noted please email the webmaster for corrections to be posted.


FAIR USE NOTICE. This site may at times contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc.. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

United States Code: Title 17, Section 107 http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/unframed/17/107.html Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include - (1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work; (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.