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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

For Some, Old Ways Were Better

As many foreign business people return home for Christmas, they may be wondering what sort of country they will return to in the new year. As well they might. This week promises to be yet another important episode in Russia's political drama. A new cabinet has to be named, and the big question is whether the Gaidar economic team will stay in place.


Much of the Western liberal press, including this newspaper, has expressed concern about a dampening of reform under Viktor Chernomyrdin, the new prime minister.


But many foreigners in business would not be shocked if some of the "boys in the pink pants" were replaced by bureaucrats more attuned to the old style of life here. In fact some, at least in their professional capacities, might be quite pleased.


Amid the political turmoil it is easy forget that businesses, and especially multinational corporations, are not too concerned by political ideology. What they care about much more is political stability.


Talking to representatives of major corporations, one notices a certain nostalgia for the old days.


Central planning did not help this country, but it made life simpler in many ways for foreign business.


In this respect it does not come as a surprise that many foreigners are shifting their business activities to republics like Kazakhstan, where democracy still has a very different meaning and where they are not confronted every day with new rules and regulations.


During his recent trip to China, President Boris Yeltsin must have wondered about all the foreign investment being poured into that country right now. Without endorsing the Chinese path to economic reform, he called it an interesting model.


"Let's analyze it", the president said. After two weeks of torture by the Congress, the thought of a transition without shock must have been tempting indeed. Public opinion and politicians in the West may rightly be concerned about issues of democracy, but the reality is that business has a very different agenda. Even Bill Clinton has to accept this, and he is already softening his policy towards China.


For Yeltsin and his young team of free-market democrats, this must be a hard fact to accept. They have embraced the Western free-market spirit; as a result they are now faced with economic chaos, social hardships and reluctant foreign investors.


No wonder that Russian reformers feel disoriented. and as for the Western businessmen who have set up shop here, they too may now have to play by a whole new set of rules.