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Russian Industry Goes On The Block

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Trying to outrun opposition from hard-liners, the Russian government is racing ahead with its program to privatize state-owned industry. Auctions of shares in some 200 factories in the Volgograd region of southern Russia will begin on Feb. 8. Similar auctions of hundreds of enterprises will soon be announced in nine other regions across Russia. The U. S. Agency for International Development has come up with about $13 million to cover the costs of the sales, which will be conducted with advice from the World Bank's International Finance Corp. and from Price Waterhouse.

"The aim of this first wave is to make privatization irreversible as quickly as possible," says Anthony Doran, manager of IFC's European department. The government's goal is to privatize 6,300 state enterprises by yearend. Even if it runs into delays, the campaign could touch off an industrial restructuring, as new owners demand changes in unprofitable enterprises. And it could speed the creation of a secondary market in securities for the first time since the revolution of 1918.EDITED BY HARRIS COLLINGWOOD

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