Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Russians Get by with Barter and 'Pig' Pay as Leaders Debate Yeltsin and Parliament Try to Pass Economic Reform bills.Common Folk Make Do by Bartering Their Goods

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Russians Get by with Barter and 'Pig' Pay as Leaders Debate Yeltsin and Parliament Try to Pass Economic Reform bills.Common Folk Make Do by Bartering Their Goods

Article excerpt

Paying coal miners their wages in pork for lack of money mightbe innovative economic thinking.

Not paying miners - or doctors, teachers, or soldiers -anything at all for months may lead to economic chaos.

Not all Russian workers can do what the managers of someSiberian coal miners did, using the mines' surface area to breed salaries:pigs. Millions of workers in the country's bloated civil service andtroubled private sector are living without pay - many for more than a year.

Continuing wage arrears - analysts estimate that workers areowed about $10 billion - undermine foreign confidence. It is one of thefactors in Russia's ongoing financial crisis. But the turmoil on Moscow'strading floors over billions of rubles is not understood by ordinarycitizens, who scramble to buy food.

Russians saw the state-controlled institutions and economycollapse in a shock-therapy transition to capitalism under Western guidanceafter the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991. But adjusting businesses tofree-market forces is taking time.

"Russia lacks a developed market system," says economist AnvarAmirov, who estimates that only 2 percent of all payments in Russia,including wages, are settled in cash. "Beyond the Urals, money does notexist at all."

Larry Summers, assistant secretary of the US Treasury, is moreoptimistic about Russia's achievements so far. "Half thebusiness- to-business is carried out by barter," he said during a recentvisit to Moscow. But he added: "I think evidence is that Russia has someway to go."

Until capital flows are common in rural areas, people have torely on family loans, eat what grows in their vegetable garden, or sell orbarter with the products companies pay them in.

Take the case of one elderly woman, who declined to be named.She makes a regular trip from her hometown of Tambov to Moscow, where shesells her working daughter's "salary": small clay pots, teacups, anddecorated vases. …

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