Yeltsin announces ambitious 12-point plan for 1998

MOSCOW (AP) — President Boris Yeltsin announced a sweeping plan Monday for economic, military and land reform this year, warning his Cabinet ministers that their jobs would be in jeopardy if they fail to fulfill it.
Yeltsin said 1998 would bring “deeper reforms in the social sphere as well as the consolidation of the country’s position in the world economy.”
His key aims include:
ù Paying back wages. The federal government claimed its payments to state workers were up-to-date by the end of 1997, but many regional governments have not been meeting their payrolls on time, a problem that must end, Yeltsin said.
ù Restructuring the confusing Russian tax system. Many businesses and individuals evade taxes under a tax code that features high rates but little enforcement.
ù Reforming the military. Yeltsin is pledging to provide housing for retired military officers as part of a larger plan to scale back the size of the armed forces.
ù Expand private property ownership. The president says Russia needs a functioning private land market, but communists and other hard-liners are opposed, saying that farm land in particular should stay under government control.
The president’s latest plan, titled “12 Main Concerns of the Government,” bears many similarities to last year’s “Seven Top Tasks,” which had only limited success.
First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemstove said that Yeltsin is determined to achieve an economic breakthrough in 1998.
After six years of sharp declines, the Russian economy stabilized last year and registered growth of 0.4 percent. Most economists say growth of 2 to 4 percent this year is a realistic aim.
And after years of spiraling inflation, prices are now under control. Inflation was 11 percent last year and the government expects a rate of 5 to 7 percent this year.
Yeltsin’s program calls for a reduction in energy and transport rates charged by monopolies in those sectors, and a pledge to repay debts to the defense sector.