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Toni Schönfelder
A lifetime of innovation

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Toni Schönfelder
A lifetime of innovation

USA: GAO AUDIT REPORT FINDS AID TO RUSSIA FAILED Western powers gave tens of billions of dollars in aid to Russia with no comprehensive strategy, and, at least partly as a result, the programs failed to bring about the desired capitalist transition there, the New York Times reports a US Congressional study has concluded. The study, by the nonpartisan General Accounting Office, raises questions about what has arguably been the highest foreign policy priority of the United States: making sure Russia did not become hostile after the collapse of Communism in 1991. Many Clinton administration officials supported a huge amount of international aid and a ´´big bang´´ approach to change in which Russia was encouraged to sell state companies rapidly and overhaul banks as a way of making the nation both capitalist and democratic¾and of ensuring that Communists could never regain control of the economy. A cumulative $66 billion in aid from the United States, Europe and the leading international lending agencies did prevent Communists from returning to power and kept the nation from descending into anarchy. But the aid programs failed to build robust capitalist institutions or produce sustained economic growth in Russia, which produces roughly one-third less now than it did a decade ago, the report says. The accounting office review said donors did not coordinate programs sufficiently and tended to distribute money hurriedly. The report notes that the Group of 7 wealthy nations tried to coordinate Western aid strategy in the early 1990´s, but adds that the collective effort soon dissolved. That left the World Bank, the IMF and individual nations to pursue aid programs largely independently, with varying aims and mixed results. Dow Jones adds that although Congress has been a vocal critic of international financial institutions, the report in a way validates the approach to Russian reform taken by the IMF and World Bank since Russia´s financial meltdown in the summer of 1998. The Bank, with its focus on poverty reduction and project-oriented structural reform, has provided the bulk of assistance since 1998. Economists at both the World Bank and the Fund have stressed the need for Russia to establish rule of law and a court system, as well as a functioning banking system and an end to barter payments. The news comes as the Financial Times reports that Russia´s general prosecutor yesterday stepped up the pressure on two of the country´s best-known and politically influential business "oligarchs" by summoning media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky and businessman Boris Berezovsky-a close associate of former President Boris Yeltsin-about alleged criminal business dealings. World Bank Development News, November 2, 2000

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