STATE-SECTOR WORKERS STILL NOT BEING PAID ON TIME
Izvestia, August 1, 2002, p. 1
State Statistics Committee chief Vladimir Sokolin announced yesterday that living standards have returned to pre-crisis levels. A day earlier, deputy prime ministers Alexei Kudrin and Valentina Matvienko were reprimanded by the president over continuing wage backlogs for state-sector workers. President Putin had received assurances that wage debts would be reduced by summer; instead, they have risen – to a total of almost 3 billion rubles. Despite financial support from the federal government, 32 regions are having problems. The regional governments have been late in issuing vacation payments to teachers; they complain about changes in tax legislation, and demand more money from Moscow. The Finance Ministry blames unforeseen expenses involved in repairing the damage caused by flooding in southern Russia; it is promising to eliminate wage backlogs by September 1.
A Finance Ministry source told us: “The federal government is meeting all its obligations on schedule. State-sector workers under federal jurisdiction haven’t encountered wage payment delays for the past eighteen months.”
Regional and local governments are responsible for the current wage backlogs, now up to 2.9 billion rubles. Our source says: “We understand that the regions are unable to deal with this on their own, so we are continuing to assist them. The disruption has been caused by the flooding in southern Russia. Repairing the consequences has already required substantial spending, and will require more; it might even be necessary to revise this year’s budget again.”
GUERRILLAS FALLING FROM THE SKY?
Rossiiskaya Gazeta, August 1, 2002, pp. 1-2
The Foreign Ministry made a statement yesterday about events on the border between Russia and Georgia. Senior Deputy Foreign Minister Valery Loshchinin said the Georgian government would be held accountable for the consequences of armed incursions into Russian territory.
According to the Russian military, up to 200 guerrillas are set to break through from Georgia into Chechnya. There has been a slight lull in southern Chechnya. After losing around 30 out of 60 fighters, the remnants of the guerrilla formations are lying low. The previous day, federal aircraft carried out air strikes on guerrilla positions in the Kegiro gorge, using high-impact bombs.
Now the main action is on the diplomatic front. Georgian state officials refuse to acknowledge that Chechen guerrillas entered the territory of Chechnya from Georgia.
Georgian State Security Minister Valery Khaburdzania: “There are a number of guerrilla groups moving around the areas of Chechnya close to the border; it cannot be ruled out that the group surrounded by Russian federal forces in the Kegiro gorge is one of those groups.”
Avtandil Ioseliani, head of the Georgian State Intelligence Department, also ruled out the possibility that a large group of Chechen guerrillas could have crossed from the Pankisi gorge into Chechnya.
Moscow takes a diametrically opposed view of the situation. All responsibility for the recent armed incursions by guerrilla groups into Russian territory is being placed on the Georgian government. In Moscow yesterday, Senior Deputy Foreign Minister Valery Loshchinin said: “Over the past few days there have been armed incursions from the territory of Georgia into Russia, by guerrilla groups which include not only terrorists, but foreign mercenaries.” The Foreign Ministry’s statement will be “distributed as an official document for the United Nations”.
FOREIGN AFFAIRS: BEHIND SEVEN SEALS
Versty, August 1, 2002, p. 1
It is no secret to anyone that over the past decade our country has ceased to play a leading role in global affairs. Russia is often not taken into account; sometimes its opinion is ignored; in general, it is treated as a second-rate nation. Many reasons may be cited for this, but one of them – a significant one – is the indecisive and inconsistent approach taken by the Russian Foreign Ministry. A poll done by the Public Opinion Foundation has shown that only 30% of respondents think the Foreign Ministry is doing a good job.
Some surprising conclusions are suggested by the results of this poll. Only 13% of respondents consider that Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov is incompetent (against 52% who believe he is up to the job). At the same time, the performance of the diplomatic corps as a whole is assessed as only “satisfactory” by a third of respondents; a fifth of respondents describe it as “poor” or “very poor”.
However, 80% of respondents say the effectiveness of the diplomatic service directly depends on how well the foreign minister manages it.
Does this mean the foreign minister is doing a good job, but his subordinates are incompetent? No. When asked to describe today’s Russian diplomats, most respondents saw them as intelligent, well-educated, and competent.
Why the difference of opinion? It could be because the workings of our foreign policy “kitchen” still remains a mystery hidden from the public behind seven seals of secrecy. And the chef who makes up the menu isn’t doing anything to make it more public. In other words, just eat whatever is served.