The outline of the economic system the new government
is trying to build in Russia is emerging even more clearly.
Its an economy regulated by the state, but free
of corruption. In the State Duma recently, Prime Minister
Yevgeny Primakov described a real market as one free
from corruption and crime. Presumably he had his
heroic struggle against tycoon Boris Berezovsky in mind.
But Berezovsky is not the only economic virus plaguing
Russia. Why, for example, is Primakov not taking a stand
against the government decree transferring the high-liquidity
Indian debt without a tender to the financing of the agricultural
sector and therefore to the disposal of Gennady
Kulik, deputy prime minister in charge of agriculture?
Heres another odd story: After Fist Deputy Prime
Minister Yury Maslyukovs intervention, the $500
million contract for the supply of the Tor-M1 anti-aircraft
systems to Greece fell not to Rosvooruzheniye, which spent
about $3 million on the presentation of the systems, but
to the Antey concern. Shouldnt Primakov be called
upon to counter the evil rumors emanating from the democratic
camp, which claim that Maslyukov;s profit from this deal
was in the region of Rosvooruzheniyes outlay mentioned
And, finally, why does the prime minister not raise a
protest against a budget that includes, in the opinion
of competent economists, around 30 articles that give
scope for theft, not least the unprecedented article No.
106 on the possibility of apportioning federal budget
funds to commercial organizations?
Primakov;s definition of a real marker: presents
other problems too. In America, as we know, theres
also crime organized, petty and juvenile. But a
marker, so the rumor goes, also exists and the reason
for this is simple. In America, the mafia plays risky
games and controls prostitutes, but the list of services
it provides does not include searching for unscrupulous
debtors or protection from the tax police. Individual,
irresponsible tax dodgers do exist in America, bun people
do not have to resort on tax evasion to survive. In America,
people trade in cocaine, not government posts. The level
of the regulation of the economy provides the reason for
this considerable difference in crime levels.
State regulation and corruption
are two sides of the same coin. Corruption festers in
a regulated economy as inevitably as maggots in meat left
out in the sun.
To keep meat maggots-free its enough to stick it
in the fridge. Thats what they do in America. In
Russia they appoint a platoon of soldiers to look after
the meat with orders to open fire with their Kalashnikovs
at any flies that come near it. Theyre expensive,
these soldiers, and there are plenty of flies. Some flies
strike up high-level acquaintances and even get appointed
as deputies of the lord of the meat. Or as head of the
guards. Complicated issues arise: Which flies can be killed
and which still yield a definite tactical gain? Sometimes
a fly that has already deposited its eggs is caught amid
great celebrations, and the action pass off as a stage
in the heroic struggle against meat-hygiene problems.
But the real issue at stake is something different. A
regulated economy is not an economy in which something
is regulated. Its an economy in which everything
is sold. Regulating the economy with one hand
and struggling with corruption with the other
is like curing burns with boiling water.