At the same time, the country's currency has regained none of its value. Enterprises prefer to sell their goods through complex barter deals and avoid the ruble entirely if possible. Nechayev and other government economists say that until the ruble becomes convertible, deeper reforms are not possible.
Still other economists and politicians fault the hesitant, piecemeal way the reforms were undertaken. Although outlined by Yeltsin to the Russian Parliament at the end of October, they were delayed in the political maneuvering that brought the Soviet Union's disintegration and the formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States last month.
"The lowest point of the crisis has not been reached yet," remarked Abel Aganbegyan, a leading liberal economist. "I hope that it will happen this summer or autumn, but I fear that every month of delay in making real changes puts off settlement of the crisis until 1993."
Alexander N. Shokhin, Russia's deputy prime minister for social policy, acknowledged in an interview: "Many of the criticisms are true, but we had an imperative need to act. Every delay made the situation more complicated and reduced our prospects for success. We had already lost a lot of time, and we could not wait until we had a perfect program."
Shokhin said there will be a "very sharp recession" in industry as the withdrawal of government subsidies is followed by consumer refusal to buy overpriced goods and then by cutbacks in production. "On paper, it is a simple move from one stage to the next," he said, "but in life each step is painful and dangerous."
Shokhin and Nechayev said that producers, trying to maximize their profits after the lifting of price controls, have in many cases charged more than the market would pay and are now cutting back their output as goods go unsold. Slowly, they will begin to rebuild, orienting their output to market demands.
"We do not yet have real prices, but price expectations--what producers would like to be paid," Nechayev said.