President Putin sounds positive
Of late, many have claimed that Putin is feeling tired and looking forward to stepping down – but there was no sign of that. Putin appeared energetic, saying that he enjoys his job; he’s looking to the future and making plans for his life over the next decade.
This is the main conclusion I have drawn from President Putin’s question-and-answer broadcast this week: the Putin era is here to stay.
Of late, many have claimed that Putin is feeling tired and looking forward to stepping down – but there was no sign of that. Putin appeared energetic, saying that he enjoys his job; he’s looking to the future and making plans for his life over the next decade. Once again, he pointed out that a president cannot serve more than two consecutive terms. He took care to include the word “consecutive.” I don’t rule out the idea that Putin isn’t dismissing the possibility of running for president again after a certain interval. Given his accumulated reserves of public confidence, Putin will remain an influential political figure after 2008. That means he will keep trying to influence Russian politics, one way or another, retaining his reserves of voter support.
Putin set out the chief objective for the next few decades: ensuring that the Russian economy is diversified and develops on post-industrial principles, based on modern technologies, overcoming its dependence on raw materials exports. For this purpose, the state will use money from the Investment Fund and the fund for developing special economic zones and technology parks. This is indeed a very important objective, and the proposed means of achieving it include substantial government funding and major infrastructure projects for which spending will be increased several-fold. For example, Putin finally named the long-awaited date by which Russia will have paved roads from Moscow to Vladivostok: 2010. He also mentioned developing a network of airports and establishing a major aviation corporation.
Putin sounded very certain that economic growth rates will remain high for a sufficient period of time, permitting Russia to solve its social problems. He promised to increase state funding for almost all the areas mentioned in the questions he was asked: pensions, bonus payments for a second child, social benefits, salaries for various categories of state-sector health workers. Substantial increases are planned in all areas. At the same time, the questions made it clear that citizens aren’t feeling unambigously positive about the social situation.