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Russia: Chernomyrdin Says 1997 Should Bring Economic Improvement

Moscow, 31 December 1996 (RFE/RL) - Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said today that Russia's economy stabilized this year and promised better economic results next year.

Itar-tass news agency quoted Chernomyrdin as saying that the government's main economic achievement in 1996 was bringing inflation down to 22 percent.

Chernomyrdin noted that this was the lowest annual figure since market reforms began five years ago.

He conceded, however, that the government needs to step up efforts to collect taxes in order to pay off trillions of rubles (billions of dollars) in wage and pension debts.

The government had been hoping for economic growth this year, but the economy contracted for the sixth straight year. The government has forecast modest growth for 1997, but many independent economists remain skeptical.