High inflation is one of several challenges facing Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika policy of economic restructuring, says a Soviet professor visiting Salt Lake City.
"Prices are terribly high," said Ivan O. Farizov, head of the International Economic Relations Department of the College of Afro-Asian Studies at Moscow State University. He said he doesn't have data on the actual inflation rate, but it's a serious problem.Food and consumer goods are in short supply, so too many rubles are chasing too few goods, he explained.
The most difficult problem is getting the system to produce enough food, so that imports can be reduced and inflation can be controlled, he said. To address the food problem, Gorbachev is trying to undo Stalin's farm collectivization of the 1930s, "because collectivization has harmed us very much."
One part of decollectivization will be to assign land parcels to individual tenants, who will control the land and be able to pass it on to their heirs. If there are no heirs, village councils will reassign the land, Farizov said.
"Even yesterday we considered tenancy an element of capitalist agriculture," he said. "As a professor if I dared to say to my students, `Tomorrow the principle of tenancy will be introduced into our agriculture,' tomorrow I would be retired."
But the Soviet form of individual land tenancy will still be socialist, because the tenant will get his land from the state, not from a private owner, he added.
Farizov is one of 18 Soviet goodwill delegates visiting Salt Lake City this week as part of a national tour that has included stops in Honolulu and Los Angeles. This leg of their visit is hosted by the Utah Committee for American-Soviet Relations, a local peace group.
While in Salt Lake City, the group is doing some shopping, visiting homes and attending a dinner and reception Thursday with the Soviet INF Treaty inspectors at Wasatch Presbyterian Church.
The group includes a pair of editors from the Soviet Union's two major newspapers, Pravda and Izvestia. They said Gorbachev's political policy of glasnost, or openness, has affected their daily work.
"Before, we could not write about some questions - political, economic - the truth. Now we can write about all questions," said Vladimir N. Snegirev, editor in chief of Pravda's Department of External Information.
He said the only remaining censorship is for military secrets and state secrets.
Asked if he is free to write about Soviet citizens who oppose perestroika, Snegirev said yes. But, as good journalistic practice, he must also tell "why these people are enemies of perestroika," he added.
Georgy Melikiants, head of Izvestia's Culture Department, explained that perestroika's opponents typically are older people who were closely connected with Stalin or people who enjoyed the privileges of past corruption and have lost positions under the new system.
"I think that normal people can't be opposed to perestroika. They could not be opposed to perestroika, because perestroika is the only way to change our life, to make it better," he said. He estimated that the policy has the support of 90 percent or more of the population.