Moscow's Voodoo Economics

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Either Sergei Kiriyenko is about to rewrite the laws of economics, or he’s going to be chowing down on crow in the near future. Boris Yeltsin’s prime minister today promised to stabilize his country’s teetering economy with a budget plan that cuts government spending, increases revenue and gradually pays salaries to Russia’s legions of unpaid state employees. “You can’t do all three,” says TIME Moscow correspondent Andrew Meier, “especially when you insist you won’t take bridging loans, won’t devalue the ruble and won’t print more money. That’s left Western investors asking just what is Kiriyenko planning to do.”

To make matters worse, Kiriyenko has handed a new weapon to those at the receiving end of his voodoo economics: By paying some wages to striking miners in order to lift their blockade of the country’s transport system, “the government may have issued an invitation to civil disobedience to the hundreds of thousands of Russians lining up for unpaid government wages.” Moscow looks set for a long, hot summer yet, and Kiriyenko may do more sweating than most.