Caution Tempers Expectations on Aid to Russia Funding May Help Restore Economy, but Some Resist IMF's Conditions, Say Analysts. GLOBAL FINANCE
Amy Kaslow, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor
RUSSIA and 12 other ex-Soviet republics earned some capitalist credentials here April 27, as their applications were approved to the world's premier market-oriented institutions - the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.
United States Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady called the new memberships, which provide the former republics access to billions of dollars in aid, "a far-reaching turning point in the history" of global financial organizations.
But Mr. Brady, other international finance officials, and private analysts offer a guarded view of just how quickly a pledged $24 billion in IMF, World Bank, and bilateral assistance will be parceled out to help transform the shattered communist systems into market economies.
Some analysts caution that while an influx of capital will spur reform, the conditions attached to the aid give those who oppose change a clear target.
"One of the sentiments on the rise is the IMF as Satan," says one US Soviet-policy analyst who is active in a number of technical-assistance projects in Russia and who also maintains close contacts with the Bush administration. "Politicians believe that the IMF is forcing Russia into more unemployment and a lower and lower standard of living."
Russian Deputy Prime Minister and economic reform architect Yegor Gaidar, whose tough policies were endorsed on April 27 by the world's leading industrialized countries, has promised to move ahead with his efforts.
The IMF could approve a $4 billion standby loan for Russia as early as July, when Mr. Gaidar says he wants to start the process of pegging the ruble to a leading currency, possibly the dollar. But there are signs, duly noted by IMF managing director Michel Camdessus, that the reforms are softening. One example is the Russian government's recent plan to meet the demands of the Congress of People's Deputies for higher civil-service salaries. More government spending only balloons the deficit and devalues the ruble further.
World Bank Senior Vice President Wilfried Thalwitz says he is confident about Russia's moves to a market economy. He estimates that the bank will lend $2.5 billion during the next year to the former Soviet republics for sorely needed imports. Foreign-exchange reserves are perilously low at $60 million, says Gaidar.
"Now we are in a very difficult period in our economic history," Gaidar told reporters here this week. Last week the Russian State Statistic Committee published a report stating that roughly a third of all Russians are impoverished. Moreover, industrial production has fallen 13 percent, joblessness is on the rise, and food shortages are more commonplace. …