KUCHMA CALLS FOR MONEY EMISSION... Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, addressing the parliament on 19 November, presented an economic stabilization program for 1999, Ukrainian and Western media reported. Kuchma called on lawmakers to authorize printing more money for the cashstrapped economy. "We need to inject more payment tools into the economy where money has stopped serving its primary goal," he commented. Kuchma criticized the National Bank for maintaining the "artificial stability" of the hryvnya. He said the bank profited through transactions with bonds instead of providing loans to enterprises. Kuchma urged the Supreme Council to adopt a special bill on the National Bank and its supervisory council in order to gain more control over bank policies. JM

...OPTS FOR FREE-FLOATING HRYVNYA... Kuchma said the hryvnya should no longer be kept within the governmentset trading band but should be allowed to float freely. He said that while the Ukrainian hryvnya was "artificially supported" over the past two years, Ukraine's trade partners devalued their currencies, which hurt Ukrainian exporters. "Today it is necessary to discontinue the excessive regulation of foreign currency purchases by Ukrainian export enterprises, liberalize the currency market, and discontinue its mechanical regulation," he argued. JM

...APPEALS TO PARLIAMENT NOT TO OUST GOVERNMENT. Kuchma also said he still backs the government and the National Bank leadership. "I ask the parliament not to create unnecessary tension around the issue of the government's possible dismissal. Such a step would be not only untimely and senseless, but also dangerous for the state," he commented, adding that a crisis in the National Bank would be even more dangerous than in the government. Kuchma urged the parliament to adopt a 1999 budget with a deficit of 0.6 percent of GDP and to consider a draft bill on the privatization of Ukrtelecom, Ukraine's telecommunications giant. JM

LUKASHENKA SAYS 'NO CATASTROPHE' OVER FOOD PROVISION... Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 19 November attended a meeting of the "nationwide headquarters," an emergency task force set up last week to deal with the shortages of food and consumer goods (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November 1998), Belarusian Television reported. Lukashenka commented, "I have the impression that there is no catastrophe in Belarus, no collapse or crisis in provisions for the population." He argued that prices of foodstuffs in Belarus are "distorted," being 200-300 percent lower than in Russia or Ukraine, and that food is being smuggled to those countries. And he admitted that the administrative measures to control prices have proved inefficient and the government has been forced to increase prices "to save the production [sector]." JM

CENTRAL EUROPEAN INITIATIVE MEETS IN ZAGREB. Representatives of the governments of 16 European countries, including 12 prime ministers, opened a threeday gathering of the Central European Initiative (CEI) in Zagreb on 19 November. Business leaders are also attending the meeting. Croatian Economic Minister Nenad Porges said the previous day that the gathering will demonstrate "that central and southern European countries make up a specific, separate European region that is capable of competing with other European countries in attracting foreign investments." Prime Minister Zlatko Matesa called the meeting "the most significant foreign-policy event held in Croatia since it gained independence" in 1991. Austria and Italy are the only members of the CEI that also belong to the EU. The other 14 are former communist countries: Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Albania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Ukraine, and Belarus. PM