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Excerpts of Yeltsin's state of nation address

February 17, 1998
Web posted at: 9:21 a.m. EST (1421 GMT)

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Here are excerpts of Russian President Boris Yeltsin's annual state of the nation address delivered in the Kremlin on Tuesday.

On the economy: "We need a new strategy, a strategy for growth. The political basis for this has already been created."

"We must all learn the lesson -- sluggish reforms result in damage, time lost has its price."

"Economic growth may aggravate the problem of unemployment. You see, the old and inefficient enterprises have no future. This means that we will have to retrain personnel, help people find new jobs."

The impact of the Asian financial crisis on Russia: "It will take us several months finally to overcome the consequences of the financial crisis."

On a possible change in the government: "If the government is not able to solve these strategic tasks, then we will have another government."

On the 1998 budget now under discussion in parliament: "Even though the budget debate is in progress, even if it requires amendments, the budget should be made realistic."

"In 1999, we absolutely must have a zero primary budget deficit."

On changing the tax system: "The tax code has to be passed this year -- it cannot be put off any more."

On Russian natural monopolies: "The state is not going to fight natural monopolies, but it will strengthen its control over their activities."

Unpaid debts: "The Russian market is still cluttered with barter. It is in the stranglehold of mutual debt defaults, enterprises live on debt and have no intention of paying back their debts... This is a fallacious practice. It cannot be continued. It is useless and dangerous to try to cheat the economy."

On investment: "The economy needs investments like air. Without them production is gasping for oxygen. In the fall we came within reach of creating the financial prerequisites for an influx of investment. But it didn't happen because of the world financial crisis. And partly because of our own miscalculations."

On the crisis in Iraq: "It is necessary to use all diplomatic possibilities. The use of force is the last and the most dangerous way."

"There is no person in this hall who is more concerned with Iraq than me."

On the breakaway region of Chechnya: "The federal authorities are prepared to give every possible support to the economy and social sphere of the Chechen Republic. We are continuing to pursue the course of achieving a political settlement of the Chechen problem. This knot can be untied only by concerted effort. But it should be clear to all that there are no quick solutions, that we need time and patience."

On the country's future: "At the turn of the century Russia has been presented with a truly historic chance of being not only free but also prosperous, of straightening its shoulders and becoming one of the leaders of the new world."

Reuters contributed to this report.


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