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Russia: Russian Cash Crisis Hits Teachers and Healthworkers Hard


By Karen Ogden



Vladivostok, 13 February 1997 (RFE/RL) - Nadezhda Belyaieva, director of Vladivostok's Children's Polyclinic No. 15, says she is doing whatever it takes to get her employees to work these days. Lately, that has meant writing up free bus-ride vouchers reading "wages delayed" for nurses who are still without pay for December and January. Their wages for November materialized only last week.

A cardiologist at the Primorsky Krai Hospital tells our Vladivostok correspondent that she is still waiting for her December paycheck and often borrows money from her parents to make ends meet.

In the struggling industrial center of Spassk-Dalny, 200 kilometers north of Vladivostok, the situation is critical. Teachers in this town have not been paid in six months. Nationwide, 40,000 teachers are on strike, demanding back-wages. And in four more days (Feb. 17), another strike is planned.

The situation of these healthcare workers and teachers are a measure of just how hard Moscow's continuing cash crisis is hitting workers in Russia's Far East region, with no end in sight.

The chief of the Department of Social Problems at the Primorsky Krai Trade Union Federation, Victor Babukhin, tells our correspondent that in the Far East's Maritime Region, back wages owed to government-paid workers are equivalent to a total of some $ 200 million. But when Maritime Govenor Yevgeny Nazdratenko appealed to Moscow for help last month, he was only promised a loan equivalent to some $ 100 million dollars from the United National Import/Export Bank at 32 percent interest to make the wage payments.

Meanwhile, Russia's Cabinet meets today to discuss measures to ensure the revenue portion of the budget.

The Federation Council approved the 1997 federal budget yesterday, earning praise from Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. Chernomyrdin said the budget's main parameters -- revenues, expenditures and budget deficit -- remain intact despite the draft having passed through four readings in the State Duma, before being approved by the lower house of the Federal Assembly.

Chernomyrdin also said he feels the budget is realistic, contrary to the opinion of many economists, including government officials. He expressed hope that President Boris Yeltsin will soon sign the budget into law.
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