Kiriyenko: Russia needs 'precise plan of action'
Prime minister nominee faces second Duma vote Friday
April 15, 1998
Web posted at: 7:49 p.m. EDT (2349 GMT)
MOSCOW (CNN) -- The man tapped by Russian President Boris Yeltsin to be the country's next prime minister says he views the job as a "colossal responsibility" -- but one he is ready and able to tackle.
"My task is ... to create an economic program for the Russian government so that we can move directly toward our goal -- a humane, democratic society in Russia with a market economy," Sergei Kiriyenko said in an interview with CNN's Moscow bureau chief, Jill Dougherty.
"We needed a precise plan of action. The government deals more with economics than with politics. That's as it should be. That's what my job is all about," he said. "The really important thing is for the government to create a base for economic and social stability."
Second Duma confirmation vote Friday
Kiriyenko, 35, was a little-known technocrat when Yeltsin sacked Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on March 23 and promoted Kiriyenko from fuel and energy minister to the top post. Last week, the lower house of the Russian parliament, the Duma, rejected the nomination. Yeltsin promptly resubmitted it.
Should the Duma reject Kiriyenko three times, Yeltsin could dissolve parliament and call new elections. But there are now indications that Kiriyenko may fare better on the second ballot, scheduled for Friday, and finally win approval.
In his remarks to CNN, Kiriyenko declined to speculate on whether he would be able to win the Duma vote.
"Let's leave that to the Duma and its sovereign right to make decisions," Kiriyenko said. But after making a speech last week in which his outline of plans for improving the Russian economy was well received, he said he believes he now has a "constructive relationship" with the Duma, where Communists opposed to Yeltsin are the single largest party.
'Divide between people, government'
One issue that Kiriyenko plans to address if confirmed as prime minister is improving public confidence in the Russian economy. Kiriyenko says there exists "a divide between the people and the government that's causing more and more problems."
"They have different perceptions of what's going on. The government talked about some real indicators of economic growth in the last quarter of last year. It was small but real. But the people never felt it because it's just beginning and it's still weak," he said.
"It doesn't have any effect on the improvement of people's lives. So it's really a social problem -- like pension delays and back wages. But the sooner we can create a functioning government, the sooner we can get going on these problems."
'Enormous change' in Russian consciousness
Kiriyenko, despite a slight, somewhat bookish demeanor, boxes as a hobby. He is married to a doctor and has two children. Prior to coming into the government in May 1997, he ran a bank and then an oil company in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia's third largest city.
Though he's now committed to free markets and economic reform, Kiriyenko was once a member of a Communist youth organization. He says he still has a party membership card, tucked away in a drawer someplace.
"All of Russia grew up in a communist society. So I grew up along with the rest of the country. That's the way we are," he said. "But at the same time, there have been enormous changes in the people's consciousness, especially recently. I can feel that myself. My own children are a completely different generation from me.
"Even when I laid out our plan to parliament -- that our aim is a humane, democratic society with a market economy -- even the extreme left in the parliament accepted that idea with understanding. Just think about it! A couple of years ago, that would have been impossible. That's even more proof of how fast and how seriously the consciousness of the people is changing."
Will bring in people with 'new impulse for reform'
Kiriyenko said he and Yeltsin are on the same wavelength when it comes to their ideas of how to improve Russia, which was "the main reason why I agreed to join the government." And while he said he expects to make some personnel changes, bringing in people with "a new impulse for reform," he doesn't plan wholesale dismissals.
Kiriyenko, right, meets with Yeltsin
As for his vision of Russia's future, Kiriyenko said, "I would like to see a Russia with a prospering economy, that can compete in world markets, in high technology.
"I would love to see a Russia where culture, education and science would be the top priorities. I think we will see such a Russia. It won't be easy. I understand that. I know miracles can't happen overnight.
"But as long as we understand what needs to be done, and as long as people's consciousness has changed in a very serious way, then I am absolutely convinced that we'll be able to walk down that road."
Related sites:Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.
© 1998 Cable News Network, Inc.
A Time Warner Company
All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which
this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.