Russia's Prime Minister: Our Economy Needs 5 Years to Fully Switch to Free Market

Today, speaking at the annual conference of investors in Moscow, Prime Minister Kasyanov said, 'In five years, Russia's economy will fully switch to free market'. According to the government's Department of Information, Prime Minister also said that 'Every condition is now being created for Russia's economy's wide-scale transition to free market, which is likely to be achieved in a few years'. In the meantime, Prime Minister also expressed his concern that 'the volume of investments in industry is growing very slowly' and over the past 8 months this growth amounted to just 2.5%.

Mr. Kasyanov said that the government had no intention of decreasing its stake in Gazprom, the country's largest gas company, at least not until that industry has been structurally transformed. Prime Minister also said that very soon the government would make a decision concerning the lifting of limitations as to the purchasing of Gazprom's stock by foreign companies.

Prime Minister also touched upon the raising of tariffs by natural monopolies, saying that such raising was unthinkable unless measures are first taken to cut costs. In any other case, consumers and industries will have to pay for it. He concluded by saying that 'In the fall, the government of Russia will again study the situation in detail so as to make its decision concerning the tariffs well-substantiated'.

Mr. Kasyanov said that the programme of the restructuring the United Energy Systems of Russia would be delayed until there was a consensus between the government, parliament, and the heads of Russia's regions and that 'reforming power production and distribution is such a sensitive matter that the slightest error is fraught with the danger of political and social emotional upheavals.

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