World Bank Chief Skeptical of Soviet Reform

GIVEN instability in the Soviet Union's economic leadership and the recent violence in the Baltic states, the World Bank's consideration of technical assistance to Moscow is on hold, World Bank president Barber Conable told reporters at a Monitor breakfast on Wednesday. Without a consensus among World Bank members on support for Soviet assistance, the bank cannot legally deliver, he says.

``Some of the poor countries have serious doubts about the extent of aid we ought to give the Soviet Union at this point. The Lithuanian and Baltic moves ... raised doubts about the commitment of the Soviet Union to reform. Indeed, there's always been some modest doubt about the Soviet Union's commitment to reform, although there's been talk about moving toward a market economy.

``People like [Boris] Yeltsin seem to be more interested in the issue of centralization and decentralization than in economic reforms.... Clearly Yeltsin and some of the other Soviet leaders are more concerned about who controls the process than about what the process is.

``A week ago I simply canceled a President's Council meeting over at the World Bank ... designed to consider next steps following the Soviet Study,'' which was completed last month by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the new European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Mr. Conable says it recommends a modified Big Bang type of reform toward a market economy.

``This past weekend, the G7 [the richest industrialized countries] put out a communiqu'e in which they did not mention possible follow-on steps for the Soviet Union, and from that we assume they believe we should let things settle down, see what's happening there and decide whether it is appropriate to move with further efforts to support Soviet reform. Reform seems to be in some doubt.''

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