Balancing Act

budget250.jpgThree days after beleaguered Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin asked for more time to revise a 2009 budget hampered by falling oil prices and other fallout from the financial crisis, Forbes weighs in on the exceedingly difficult chore, which it calls “the Kremin’s toughest juggling act in a decade.”

“Should there be too many lucky cash recipients, the government will be left hoping the oil price does not come down further, pushing the deficit out of control and resulting in a further devaluation of the ruble and a spike in inflation.

“‘The budget will give us an idea of who managed to win the race,’ said Audit Chamber member and former parliamentarian Vladimir Semago, who saw Russia cut budget spending many times in the 1990s.

“‘And besides the wide road and front staircase (for money) to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, we will see a narrow path, a small door and a short flight of stairs with no handrail yet to President Dmitry Medvedev.'”

Meanwhile, The Economist describes Russia’s slow, agonizing awakening to the breadth of its financial crisis, which nevertheless “…has not stopped Russia from doling out billions of dollars’ worth of loans to former Soviet republics such as Kyrgyzstan and Belarus to extend its geopolitical interests.”

And amid the din, Medvedev offered this assurance at a meeting with military leaders in eastern Siberia:

“The most important thing is that the credibility of the army is kept at the highest level. This [budget] must fund a new image for the armed forces.”