MOSCOW, JAN. 25 -- The Soviet capital will ration meat, grain, vodka and wine, officials announced today in a stark acknowledgement that they expect the local economy of nearly worthless money and empty stores to worsen this winter.
President Mikhail Gorbachev's decree taking 50- and 100-ruble notes out of circulation disrupted banks and commerce for a third day, and rumors swept the government of impending increases in state-controlled prices.
The national government said it was allowing retirees two more days, until Sunday, to exchange their large bills. But four republics said Thursday they would allow extra time past Friday's deadline for people to turn in the large-denomination notes.
The dispute appeared likely to exacerbate already sour relations between the Kremlin and the 15 Soviet republics, led by Russia and its President Boris Yeltsin. Russia said Thursday it would allow its citizens until Feb. 1 to change their money.
"The shelves of Moscow stores are just as empty as in other cities of the country," said a dispatch in the Rabochaya Tribuna newspaper, announcing increased rationing in Moscow. "Now, after long discussions, the Moscow City Council decided to introduce coupons for meat, lard, sausage, grain, vodka and wine," said the report, which quoted council chairman Yuri Luzhkov.
Rationing will begin March 1 and the city will decide before the beginning of every month how much of each rationed item it can offer to its 9 million citizens, the report said.
Tobacco and sugar long have been rationed in Moscow. Nearly all food items are rationed in the country's second-largest city, Leningrad, and in many other cities of this nation of 290 million.
In a gloomy interview with the official Tass news agency, Leonid Abalkin, formerly Gorbachev's top economic adviser, said Soviet citizens were not prepared for a market economy.
"People's mentality is based on myths," Abalkin said. "People expect a miracle from the market, or at least an extremely rapid improvement of the situation."
Abalkin also told Tass that Gorbachev backed away from a crash 500-day plan to right the economy this fall because he understood it would mean disintegration of the Soviet Union and a reduction of his power.
Reuter added the following:
Official Soviet government figures showed that the gross national product fell 2 percent in 1990. The report of the State Statistics Committee, summarized by Tass, painted an almost unrelieved picture of decline.
National income, the Kremlin's main measure of economic performance, fell even further than GNP, by 4 percent, and labor productivity fell by 3 percent. The trade deficit shot up to 10 billion rubles -- $18 billion at official rates or $500 million on the black market.
Even population growth, at 1.4 million, was the smallest annual rise since World War II, bringing the total to 290.1 million. The report, "The Economy of the U.S.S.R. in 1990," said this figure had been affected by a falling birth rate, a rising death rate and record emigration of about 400,000 people.