President Mikhail S. Gorbachev on Saturday ordered the creation of a development fund and a 5 percent national sales tax whose revenues would partly go to helping the poor and stabilizing the ruble.
Under powers granted him earlier this year by the national Supreme Soviet legislature, Gorbachev can order emergency decrees to carry out his plan to create a market economy.The latest decrees were not connected to the Soviet parliament vote Thursday that strengthened Gorbachev's power over a reorganized executive branch. That vote has brought accusations the Soviet Union was moving toward a dictatorship.
A Gorbachev aide was quoted Saturday as saying public debate and scrutiny by the media and democratically elected lawmakers will ensure the president does not abuse his strong new powers.
"The president's every move and word are discussed by the people and the press in an ever more open manner, so we have got the main remedy against dictatorship," Georgy Shakhnazarov told Rabochaya Tribuna, or Workers Tribune, newspaper.
The decrees announced Saturday appeared to show a sensitivity on Gorbachev's part to the 15 republics' demands for more autonomy from the federal government.
Under the sales tax decree, 70 percent of the proceeds would go to the republics, with the remainder for the federal government, the state news agency Tass said. No such sales tax has existed in the Soviet Union for years.
"The purpose is to provide financial resources for the implementation of socio-economic programs adopted by the Soviet parliament and the parliaments of the union republics, to support the section of the population in the low-income bracket, and to stabilize the monetary system," Tass reported.
The tax would be imposed on sales of "production and technological commodities, consumer goods, work and paid services," Tass reported. It did not say when it would take effect.
There was no way immediately to determine how much revenue the tax would generate.
It would raise the 3-ruble price of a pack of Soviet cigarettes, for example, by 15 kopeks. A kopek is a hundredth of a ruble. The average Soviet monthly wage is only 257 rubles ($411 at the official exchange rate).