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Grigory Yavlinsky's interview
Argumyenty i Fakty", No 47 99

Editorial: Public discussion is a double-edged weapon. An idea expressed today becomes the crux of intellectual fights tomorrow. But there is no other way in politics. "AiF" offered Yabloko's leader the opportunity to express his views on acute problems. He defined this genre as "poorly conceived thoughts".

Grigory Yavlinsky: On the Union with Byelorussia, the IMF, taxes and the national idea. Fictitious marriage for the sake of Kremlin's residential rights

Why do you think that Boris Yeltsin sent Alexander Lukashenko to the State Duma? I think he did this to ascertain the deputies' attitude towards any extension of a president's term of office.

President Lukashenko's term of office expired on July 20 1999. He does not want to face any elections. Lukashenko simply extended his term by "shuffling the pack". And Yeltsin decided to try it on the Duma: to see whether Lukashenko's trick will work in Russia too. So, if it succeeds, Yeltsin will be able to come to the Duma in August and declare: "Listen, Duma, you listened to Lukashenko, when his term of office had expired..."

That is why we left the hall when the devil brought Lukashenko to the Duma. Yabloko prepared its own draft agreement on the economic union with Byelorussia. We submitted this draft to Yeltsin and Lukashenko. Recently we submitted it to Putin as well.

So we advocate a union. But the matter concerns the union that was proposed. We are connected to Byelorussians by blood in the Second World War and Chernobyl's disaster. But if a Russian and a Byelorussian are brothers, why should we take a passport from our brother?

We favour the union! But we favour a union, where a fraternal Byelorussian nation is not deprived of its statehood. We favour a union where thousands of people don't go out on the streets to protest against this union. We favour such a union that won't be joined with the help of a policemen's club. We have lots of problems ourselves.

Finally, we favour a union, where the union treaty is signed by the presidents elected by their nations. Today the union treaty will be signed by a person "who resembles the Byelorussian President". Today another one will come and say: "This union treaty does not mean anything, as Lukashenko's term expired long before the treaty's signing". And then what should Russia do?

We should not ask the West to give us money. If I borrow a thousand roubles from you, this is my problem. But if I borrow a million roubles from you, this is already your problem. The ability of Russia's reformers "to work night and day" increased our country's debt to 160 billion dollars. Our country's annual budget totals less than 20 billion. Then what should the IMF do to us?

We have no money... And we have nowhere to take it from. The IMF is a normal Soviet "correspondence department". You may remember that back in Soviet times there were correspondence departments before the entry check-in: messengers would come up and leave their requests at this department.

Today you have rich countries, such as the US, Germany, Japan and Great Britain. Messengers go to these countries and ask for money. To avoid having to give a little money to everybody, the rich countries created their own correspondence department called the IMF. A messenger comes to Clinton and the latter sends him to the IMF. Camdessus sits there. He says, "I won't give you money. Anyway, what about this surplus of yours? And what about laundering money?"Yabloko thinks that we should not ask the IMF to give us more money.

In the draft budget prepared by Yabloko there is no such item as "financial loans". It is enough: we have already borrowed quite a lot. But we can talk to them, although only about debt restructuring, in other words, what part of this debt are we really going to redeem. And if the people in the IMF are really worried about Russian "dirty" money, then I have a proposal here. You in the West may return our Russian money and we will pay our debts from this money. But we cannot pay you from the budget, as there is simply not that much money there. High wages and low taxes.

Everybody knows that most of our enterprises pay its workers two wages: one official and the other in an envelope. The reason is simple - extremely high taxes. The Government complies with the wishes of some Duma deputies, who are so "worried" about the people and increase taxes, drawing on paper-based fictitious revenues.

Enterprises do not pay taxes, as it is impossible to pay such taxes and pay wages in envelopes. If your director begins to dislike you, you are not dismissed: they simply stop paying your wage in an envelope, and you simply leave. Yabloko favours high wages. We propose the following scheme: the higher the official wage, the lower taxes you pay. Then it would be senseless for enterprises to conceal the level of actual wages.

The budget will receive money through the profits tax, which we propose to reduce to 10%. And then people will really start making contributions to the budget. So let the wages be high!

We should pay respect to the people and the Russian idea. Once in the past our President decided to look for a national idea. He summoned academicians and professors, raised his hands and uttered "you see..". They did not understand and failed to find a national idea. Thank God. Otherwise they would begin to try applying this idea.

I also thought about the national idea. And I found it. Three men gather together, pour vodka. The first question after the first glass is: "Do you respect me? If that is the case, drink with me". This is not funny! Respect is the main requirement of a Russian man. Our people do not work for the money, they work for the respect. And they cannot respect the authorities if they call them a herd. Our people are not a herd! Our people don't like it, when the authorities conduct training tests on people, looking for a fake bomb, driving women in child birth and children out of their homes into a cold night.

Our people deserve respect. They are the people that the authorities have to respect, because the state exists for man, rather than man for the state. We shall do all that we can to make sure that the authorities respect the people, and the people respect each other. We shall do everything so that everyone, the whole world, respects our country.

ei Stepashin on Grigory Yavlinsky's proposals