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Russia Leader Urges Budget Talks

February 6, 1999

MOSCOW (AP) _ The leader of Russia’s powerful Communist Party called Saturday for parliament to start drafting a budget for 2000 _ just a day after it passed its budget for this year.

Even if lawmakers were to heed Gennady Zyuganov’s suggestion, reported by the ITAR-Tass news agency, their work would likely face substantial changes after Russia holds parliamentary elections in December.

In recent years, the opposition-led Russian parliament has not passed the budget until several months into the new year.

This year marked a departure from the protracted fighting of the past. Russia’s lower house of parliament passed the 1999 budget Friday after remarkably little squabbling with the government.

This year’s budget is considered essential to Russia’s efforts to tackle its economic crisis, its worst since the 1991 Soviet collapse.

Zyuganov also called for tighter control over government property.

``The state should be a powerful, strong and effective owner,″ he said during a meeting on economic cooperation in the northern Caucasus Mountains region, ITAR-Tass said.

Reflecting Russia’s desperate economic plight, the 1999 budget calls for government spending of just $25 billion and revenues of only $21 billion for the entire year. The U.S. government spends more than that in a week.

Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, meanwhile, insisted Saturday that increasing private investment is crucial to overhauling inefficient Soviet-era businesses and boosting employment.

``Russia’s overcoming the crisis largely depends on stepping up the investment process,″ he told the Interfax news agency.

``A lot of people were afraid we would move to a nationalization course, but we did not,″ Primakov said.

He also suggested the government would investigate shadowy privatization deals.

``We will look into how certain enterprises were privatized, but only in court,″ he said. The report did not elaborate.

Many Russians have complained that the post-Soviet privatization process gave major state companies away to well-connected businessmen at suspiciously low prices.

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