News round-up

9 - 16 June 1997

Attempt to assassinate Berisha

An assassination attempt on Sali Berisha, the Albanian President, during a campaign rally has raised grave doubts that national elections on June 29 can go ahead without widespread bloodshed. The attempt to kill him came as he was addressing supporters in western Albania. Even before the latest incident, Western officials and human rights workers had said that the chance of fair elections was slim.

EU, NATO talks with Central European Presidents

The Presidents of eight Central European states met in the Slovenian resort of Piran for talks focused on the prospects for joining NATO and the EU. The presidents of Germany, Italy and Austria, all members of the European Union, were joined by heads of state from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, all former communist states.Swift entry into the 15-nation EU and the NATO military alliance topped the agenda, with the Slovenian host, President Milan Kucan, cautioning Western leaders that they should not exclude nations that met the conditions for membership.


$1 billion disappears from Russia a month

More than $1 billion is being transferred out of Russia every month, sapping the country of investment funds, Russian officials have revealed. The Central Bank said up to £9.4 billion a year was being sent abroad illegally, but if semi-legal capital export schemes are taken into account the figure is much higher. A further £25 billion is thought to be kept in dollars under mattresses, as Russians do not trust the rouble. The IMF has said that if Russian's savings could be attracted into circulation it would create sustained economic growth.

Yeltsin comments on the 1998 budget

Russian President Boris Yeltsin delivered an annual message on the 1998 budget policy on 5 June. Considerable emphasis will be on paying off budget arrears for previous years, allocations for military reform and the maintenance of the judiciary, and greater state support for the health services, culture and art. According to presidential aide Alexander Livshits, these four sectors may expect a growth of spending next year. He stressed that the rest of the sectors will be financed at the 1997 level.

Yeltsin has also signed a decree on Ensuring the Transit of Cargoes via the Caostal Areas of the Finnish Gulf. This confirms support for the construction and development of sea-port complexes in Prinorsk (included in the united Baltic pipeline system), Batareinaya and Luga bays, as well as in St Petersburg's sea-port, including the relevant development of infrastructures.

World Bank increases aid

The World Bank has approved a programme of further co-operation with the Russian government which will, during the next two or three years, double the financing of Russian projects and bring up its total volume to US$10-12bn.


Polish budget deficit off target...

According to data from the Main Statistical Office (GUS), the budget deficit during the first four months of 1997 was 5.569bn zlotys (about US$1.769bn). This is 45.6 per cent of the sum forecast of the whole year. Sources attribute part of the problem to black market production, estimated at around 18 per cent of Poland's GDP. The finance ministry added that most tax evasion was done under the canopy of legal business, particularly small and medium enterprises employing staff illegally.

...As is trade deficit

The first quarter of 1997 swa Poland's foreign trade deficit increase to US$3.067bn, according to the National Bank of Poland. The 1996 figure for the same period was US$1.442bn.

Poland stops death penalty

Poland's lower house of parliament has adopted a major reform to the penal code and scrapped the death penalty.

End of Czech crown fluctuation band

Following heavy selling of the koruna by investors in May, the Czech National Bank has decided to abolish the band for the fluctuation of the koruna. Until 26 May the exchange rate had oscillated within a 7.5 per cent margin, up or down, of a dollar/mark currency basket. A pegging of the koruna to the DM is imminent. The Slovak crown appears to have been largely unaffected.

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