Will the nearly worthless ruble become a convertible currency? That's what Prime Minister Valentin S. Pavlov is saying. Starting Jan. 1, the ruble will trade for hard currency within the Soviet Union, Pavlov promises, in an expanded system of auctions run by the Soviet State Bank. The aim is to make hard currency "easily available" to Soviet enterprises to pay for imports. At weekly auctions already being held by the State Bank on a smaller scale, the ruble last sold for 2.4~.
Expanded ruble convertibility could boost foreign trade and spur competition for state monopolies by giving customers the option to buy foreign goods. Paradoxically, Western-Soviet joint ventures that have been selling goods and services to foreigners and Soviet citizens for dollars are likely to be hurt. On Jan. 1, the government aims to ban such hard-currency transactions inside the Soviet Union. Warns State Bank Chairman Viktor V. Geraschenko: "Joint ventures should sell their products for rubles."