Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Grandson of Bolshevik Hero Masterminds Market-Style Economic Reforms in Russia

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Grandson of Bolshevik Hero Masterminds Market-Style Economic Reforms in Russia

Article excerpt

EVERY Soviet schoolchild grew up with the inspiring tales of Arkady Gaidar, a hero of the Bolshevik Revolution at the age of 14, later a writer of children's books. His most famous work, "Timur and His Team," chronicles the exploits of a group of boys who perform heroic and selfless deeds for the sake of the revolution. The book was modeled on his own son, Timur, now an admiral in the Soviet Navy.

Today Arkady's grandson, Yegor Gaidar, is also engaged in a "heroic" task - the dismantling of the communist system. The young economist is the author of the radical reform plans of the Russian government of Boris Yeltsin, designed to rapidly shift Russia to a market economy. The smiling, round-faced former economics editor of the Communist Party newspaper Pravda was recently appointed deputy prime minister for economics and finance, in effect Mr. Yeltsin's economic czar.

Early in November Yeltsin unveiled the reform plans, which together constitute a Russian version of the "shock therapy" reform in neighboring Poland.

As in Poland, the Russians will free prices from state control, except for a handful of basic foods and fuels, allow enterprises to trade freely with other countries, let the ruble's value be determined solely by the market and take the first steps to make it freely convertible into other currencies. Price liberalization is now set to start on Jan. 2, in coordination with other former Soviet republics now grouped in the Commonwealth of Independent States.

The most widespread criticism of Mr. Gaidar's approach is the decision to begin by freeing prices, a move even he admits will usher in a huge wave of inflation. But the Russian economist hopes this will bring goods into the now empty stores, as it did in Poland. After doubling or tripling, he hopes prices will stabilize by next fall.

Critics say making this move in advance of privatizing farming and other sectors, will be ineffective. "It is clear no price reform will lead to a big influx of goods because we simply don't have them," argues St. Petersburg mayor and prominent liberal politician Anatoli Sobchak.

The key to controlling inflation is to bring the huge Soviet budget deficit under control. …

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