Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Russia Challenges Control of Center on Reform, Resources

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Russia Challenges Control of Center on Reform, Resources

Article excerpt

RUSSIA is lifting restrictions on foreign trade and is seizing control of natural resources on its territory, according to decrees issued by President Boris Yeltsin.

The measures are designed to jump-start the republic's stalling economy. At the same time, they could further complicate Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev's efforts to revive a political union among the former Soviet republics.

Mr. Yeltsin outlined the long-promised economic liberalization measures Friday in a speech to the Russian parliament. Under the decrees, businesses in Russia will no longer require special registration to engage in foreign trade.

In addition, the decrees allow for the ruble to be converted into hard currency, such as dollars. All Russian citizens will have the right to obtain dollars and to open hard-currency accounts in authorized Soviet banks. The decrees also will allow foreign companies doing business in Russia to repatriate profits by turning ruble earnings into hard currency.

The decrees are the clearest indication to date of Russia's desire to bypass central institutions and become the leader in carrying out market reforms.

Yeltsin's plan to allow market forces to dictate the rate of exchange for the ruble is perhaps the most direct challenge to centralized authority over the economy.

"The ruble's rate against foreign currencies is formed on the basis of supply and demand," said one decree.

Russia also will take control of the production, storage, and export of all precious metals and diamonds on its territory, according to the decrees. A Russian government resolution also states the republic will limit the export of oil as soon as Dec. 1. The measure aims to ensure adequate heating supplies in the republic during what promises to be a winter full of shortages. Russia produces about 67 percent of the precious metal and diamonds in the Soviet Union and 90 percent of the nation's oil.

The news that Russia was seizing control of precious metals and other resources came shortly before publication of a Soviet parliament deputy's claim no gold reserves remained in the Soviet state bank, Gosbank. …

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