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Western Press Review: Reform Needed To End Nomenklatura Corruption

Prague, 31 January 1997 (RFE/RL) - Western newspaper commentary today focuses again on the need for economic reforms to combat nomenklatura corruption in eastern countries.

FINANCIAL TIMES: Yavlinsky Attack Russia's Nomenklatura

Grigory Yavlinsky, the leader of Russia's Yabloko Party, uses the columns of the Financial Times of London to attack Russia's nomenklatura. He says that Russia's "new ruling elite is neither democratic nor communist, neither conservative nor liberal, neither red nor green. It is merely greedy and rapacious."

Yavlinsky complains that the nomenklatura "cannot tackle important social and economic questions, only those that affect its own short-term power and its property." And rather than dealing with grave security threats, such as safety of nuclear weapons in Russia, Yavlinsky says nomenklatura bosses merely exacerbate the situation.

Yavlinsky writes that the notion of a "transition process" started by a "reformist government trying to move Russia from socialism to capitalism" is only partially true. He says: "Old Soviet monster monopolies were left untouched, private property rights were not implemented, competition was rejected. The nomenklatura seized control of the government and Russia's resources jointly with the underground economy and the criminal world."

Yavlinsky concludes that the Russian people and western leaders must understand that the situation has become dangerous. He says complacency about "Russia and its supposed transistion to a market economy" should be abandoned. He writes: "We all need to worry about the common menaces we face and the criminal state that is emerging from the ruins of the Soviet Empire."

DIE PRESSE: Russian Stagnation Poses Threat To Reforms

Vienna's "Die Presse" comments in a recent editorial that economic stagnation in Russia poses a grave threat to reforms. The newspaper says: "The question is how long can Russia afford to risk such a situation.... Those who know the conditions in Moscow have recently felt things reminiscent of the period of stagnation under the years of rule of Leonid Brezhnev -- the top ruler in the Kremlin constantly ailing but the aparatus continuing somehow to run the country even when the whole system faces ruin. Then came Gorbachev. Then the collapse." The newspaper concludes: "Is this scenario of decline repeating itself? It all depends on Yeltsin and those who most closely influence him."

FINANCIAL TIMES: Bulgarian Nomenklatura Blocks Aid

Financial Times Correspondents Lionel Barber and Anthony Robinson report today on the refusal of the European Union and the United States to grant any more financial aid to Bulgaria until Sofia cleans up its nomenklatura monopolies. Bulgaria has already received hundreds of millions of dollars in aid from the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). But 90 percent of the official economy remains in state hands -- and most of the country's now-bankrupt state firms are controled by managers with close links to the embattled Socialist Party -- the former Communists.

Barber and Robinson report that foreign markets see Bulgaria as "racing against time." They write: "Traders fear time wasted forming a probably short-lived Socialist government could make it impossible to introduce the IMF-supported currency board which is needed to attract foreign financial aid and boost" central bank hard currency reserves before a critical 135 million dollar foreign debt (Brady bond) payment deadline in July.

WALL STREET JOURNAL: Ukraine Admits Corruption

In today's Wall Street Journal, Matthew Brzezinski praises what he calls an "unprecedented" admission by the Ukrainian government that it needs to clean up corruption in order to boost foreign investment. Brzezinski says "recognizing the existence of a problem is the first step toward finding a solution." He notes that both the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the World Bank are running short of patience with Kyiv. The EBRD last month postponed all new lending projects to Ukraine after one of its high-profile ventures fell victim to government confiscation. Brzezinski says that the foreign investors are now waiting for a "big showcase investment that could set a standard for the improved climate the government has promised."

LONDON INDEPENDENT: Scams Take Albania To Brink

Andrew Gumbel writes in the London Independent today that Albania is on the brink of economic and social collapse because of money launderers and financial scams. Gumbel says that the recent collapse of several major "pyramid" schemes in Tirana has left the Albanian people "staring into an abyss." He says: "Not only have they lost their savings, but the most significant part of their income, too. If they stop spending, shops and small businesses will start failing and the whole system will come crashing down." Gumbel predicts that if other Albanian pyramids collapse, "as informed opinion believes they must, the popular reaction may be nothing short of terrifying."

FINANCIAL TIMES: Praise For Luzhkov

Amid the negative press commentary about corruption in Russia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Albania and Ukraine, John Thornhill of the Financial Times manages to find words of praise for Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. In a review of Moscow's property market, Thornhill notes that there is a lot of building going on in the capital despite Russia's "recession."

Thornhill says: "The city's skyline is changing by the day as a series of grand monuments, a giant cathedral and scores of smart new office blocks shoot up. The once-dowdy city, dominated by grey Soviet apartment blocks, is rapidly assuming a more colourful and distinctive character." Thornhill says: "The man responsible for this renewal is Mr Yuri Luzhkov, who combines a driving desire to modernise his city with a hands-on management style. Under his influence, Moscow has acquired the feel of a boom town, whatever the depression elsewhere in the country."