DATE=1/3/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=RUSSIA'S ECONOMY (L-ONLY) NUMBER=2-257742 BYLINE=BARRY WOOD DATELINE=WASHINGTON INTERNET=YES CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Western economists are cautiously optimistic that Russia's acting president, Vladimir Putin, could bring a renewed commitment to market-based reform in Russia. V-O-A's economics correspondent, Barry Wood, has more. TEXT: Vladimir Putin has said in recent weeks that he wants to attract more foreign direct investment into Russia and make the economy more efficient. He says a long-term growth reform strategy is required to bring Russia into the world economy. Ariel Cohen, a Russia expert at Washington's conservative Heritage Foundation, is optimistic that Russia's economy will improve under Mr. Putin. /// COHEN ACT /// I believe that we may see, after the appropriate steps are taken by the Russian government in terms of strengthening corporate governance, land reform and some form of guarantee for foreign investment, I believe we will see an increase in foreign investment into Russia in 2000. /// END ACT /// Mr. Cohen says he hopes Mr. Putin will move swiftly to privatize land and guarantee private-property rights. Another Washington-based researcher on the Russian economy, Anders Aslund of the Carnegie Endowment, says land reform is likely under Mr. Putin. /// ASLUND ACT /// I think there are two reforms that are likely to happen rather soon. One is a big tax reform, which has long matured, and many people are now in favor of it. And here it is a matter of political will and initiative to get it done. The other that has become possible because the communists lost so many seats in the last election is land reform, private ownership of agricultural land. /// END ACT /// Mr. Aslund says Mr. Putin is relying on known reformers Anatoly Chubais and Yegor Gaidar for economic advice. Mr. Aslund says the prospects for meaningful reform in Russia are now excellent. Experts say the task of reforming Russia's still declining economy is daunting. Forecasters say little or no growth is anticipated for this year. And the more formidable challenges of financial crime, the absence of the rule of law, and a flawed privatization of state assets continue to hobble the Russian economy. (Signed) NEB/BDW/WTW 03-Jan-2000 17:20 PM EDT (03-Jan-2000 2220 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .