MORE DETAILS EMERGE ON RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION PLAN. Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev said that he supports the idea of a single currency for the two states, adding that Kazakhstan and Ukraine might participate in such a currency union. But he noted that there is no reason to be concerned about who will be president of the new union. According to him, there will always be two presidents even if there is only one parliament. First Deputy Prime Minister Vadim Gustov said that the two countries will have a single budget by the year 2000 as well as two national budgets, just like in the EU, ITARTASS reported. Meanwhile, former Premier Viktor Chernomyrdin on 29 December warned against rushing into the union, noting that "as of now, there are more questions than answers," Russian agencies reported. Among others announcing their support for the union on 29 December were Sverdlovsk Governor Eduard Rossel and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev (see also "End Note" below). PG

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES 1999 BUDGET DEFICIT, REVENUES. By a vote of 272 to 114, the Supreme Council on 29 December approved the 1999 budget revenues of 34 billion hryvni ($9.9 billion) and a government-proposed deficit of 1 percent of GDP (1.24 billion hryvni), AP and Ukrainian News reported. On 30 December, the parliament will debate how to divide projected revenues between the central and local governments and discuss spending and revenue targets. Ukraine needs a wellbalanced low-deficit budget in order to obtain further tranches of a suspended $2.2 billion loan from the IMF. Many analysts predict that without foreign aid, Ukraine will not be able to repay its 1999 debt obligations. JM

UKRAINE'S 1998 PRIVATIZATION REVENUES FAR BELOW TARGET. Ukraine raised less than 50 percent of its planned privatization revenues in 1998, AP reported on 29 December. Vadym Vasylev, head of the State Privatization fund, reported that as of 29 December, the state budget received 422 million hryvni ($123 million) of the 1 billion hryvni projected for the entire year. Vasylev said privatization was hindered by Russia's financial crisis, which he argued scared foreign investors away from Ukraine. The government has set its privatization revenue target for 1999 at 800 million hryvni. JM

UKRAINE'S POPULATION CONTINUES TO DECREASE. The State Statistics Committee reported on 29 December that Ukraine's population declined by an estimated 205,000 people in 1998 and now stands at 50.09 million. It was the fifth consecutive year in which a population decline has been registered. In 1993, the total population stood at slightly more than 52 million. JM

LUCINSCHI ON MOLDOVA'S ETHNIC MAKEUP. The majority of the population in Moldova is made up of "Romanian ethnics with Moldovan citizenship," President Petru Lucinschi said in an interview with Romanian state radio on 29 December. They constitute some 65 percent of the country's population. Among the other ethnic minorities, Lucinschi mentioned Ukrainians, Russians, Gagauz and Bulgarians. He said that ethnic minorities have "justified demands" about the preservation of their heritage and that the majority must display "understanding" and "flexibility" and not forget the times when the Russian language was enforced on them. Lucinschi said imposing the official language on minorities by "administrative methods" would be "counterproductive" and result in tensions. MS