A ranking Soviet source says Leningrad's former Communist Party chief, recently moved to Moscow, will handle economic issues on the party's inner, 10 -man national Secretariat.
The new secretary, Grigory Romanov, also retains membership on the top policy body, the Politburo. That makes him, along with Soviet leader Yuri Andropov, one of four men with places on both ruling groups.
The others are Konstantin Chernenko, protege of the late Leonid Brezhnev and onetime contender for succession, and agricultural expert Mikhail Gorbachev. Romanov, 60, and Gorbachev, 52, are young by recent Kremlin standards.
Mr. Romanov was once seen as an outside candidate to succeed Brezhnev, but he may have been hampered partly by being based away from Moscow and by reports of a sometimes flamboyant lifestyle.
The Soviet source was commenting on rumors that Romanov, who trained as a shipbuilding engineer and is reputedly a hard-liner on ideological issues, would oversee ideology within the Secretariat. ''No,'' the source said. ''He will deal with economic matters, as I understand it.''
The source said Romanov, whose appointment as a party secretary was announced June 15, ''seems'' to have been dealt the main economic management portfolio. That portfolio had long been held by ailing Politburo veteran Andrei Kirilenko, who formally retired from the leadership days after Brezhnev passed on last year. Other senior officials were not available to confirm that Romanov will handle precisely the former duties of Kirilenko.
Although Romanov seems no mere ''Andropov man,'' in the sense of owing his earlier career to the then-KGB chief, he does seem to have wasted no time in falling in with Andropov'sstress on enhanced ''discipline'' in the economy.
Meeting in Leningrad with US Ambassador Arthur Hartman shortly after Andropov became party chief, Romanov reportedly stressed the discipline theme. US sources decline to give details of the encounter, but a senior diplomat here says he was told by the Americans, ''Romanov went out of his way to stress that he felt people had been getting away with poor performance for too long. . . .
''He mentioned the railways as an example, one of Andropov's own main areas of emphasis so far.
''He spoke to Hartman of the need for people to do what the central (economic) authorities say they should be doing.''