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"We have ensured stability (in Russia)," Vladimir Putin tells the press

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin gives an interview to the magazine VIP- Premier

Question: In the early 2000s you outlined large-scale objectives aimed at helping Russia overcome the deep crisis that began during the Soviet period. Have they been met? If so, what are Russia’s development priorities for this decade?

Vladimir Putin: The scale of the tasks was directly proportionate to the problems Russia was facing at the beginning of the 21st century. We entered the new century after a default that spurred inflation growth and led to bankruptcies and unemployment. At least one-third of population fell below the poverty line. The system of state governance was experiencing serious problems. The authorities were ineffective, and the country looked like a group of principalities, each with its own laws and rules. At that time, a genuine civil war was under way in the North Caucasus, unleashed by terrorists who were supported by forces that sought to weaken Russia.

The situation called for decisive action. I am referring above all to the restoration of constitutional order, social guarantees, and the strengthening of state institutions. We have done all of that. We have literally brought the country together, restored its legal space and created a balanced system of state governance.

Over the past decade, we have ensured macroeconomic stability and the financial independence of the country. We have created an environment conducive to private business and investment. We have launched major initiatives in the social sphere, education, science and healthcare, and large projects in energy, transport infrastructure, mechanical engineering and construction. Russia now occupies a worthy place on the international stage, and we have established constructive relations with our partners, which is yielding considerable dividends.

Most importantly, we have ensured stability, which gives the nation confidence in tomorrow and makes it possible to make long-term plans.

Of course, we still have not resolved a number of major problems, some of them rooted in the past century. The biggest of them is our economy’s reliance on commodities. But we hope to resolve them, in particular within the long-term strategy for Russia’s socioeconomic development through 2020.

You probably know that we have started updating Strategy-2020 with the help of Russian and foreign experts, representatives of public organisations, government agencies and political parties, including United Russia. We need to update it to ensure that our long-term plans are as clearly drawn as possible and to reflect our present circumstances as well as the needs of the state and society.

The strategy outlines the development priorities for the next decade, which you have mentioned. They include the development of a competitive economy based on knowledge and high technology, and the final transition to an innovative and socially-oriented mode of development. We plan to ensure high safety standards for the people and free access to quality social services, to narrow the inequality gap among the regions, and to create new regional growth centres. We will lower administrative barriers while making state governance more effective. We will expand the freedom of enterprise, so that ultimately over 50% of the country’s population will be in the middle class.

Steady progress in these directions will allow us to maintain sustainable economic growth beyond 2020, which will provide a decent quality of life for our people.

Question: As in the past, Russia’s economy is still largely based on commodities. But commodities are the source of Russia’s economic prosperity. Is it possible that the endless talk about Russia’s addiction to oil is an attempt to discredit this source of our wellbeing? Petro-states like Norway are not embarrassed by their oil wealth. What will be the role of the fuel and energy industry in the country’s further development?

Vladimir Putin: It will play a key role. The fuel and energy industry currently accounts for some 50% of budget revenues in Russia. It does not primitively exploit our natural wealth, but is growing at a high rate, which gives a boost to related industries and several other sectors. It is upgrading production potential and introducing new technology and scientific achievements.

The fuel and energy industry is our strategic competitive advantage in global markets. It stands to reason that we should use what benefits us most and brings maximum profits at the given moment, especially since we do not devour this industry’s revenues but use them to fulfil future-oriented tasks, primarily those connected with economic diversification and intensive growth of processing plants.

Our colleagues in other countries are doing the same. The Arab countries, Australia and Norway have never acted on the assumption that the oil sector can satisfy all of the nation’s needs and ensure sustainable development on its own.

Of course, our traditional industries, and especially the fuel and energy industry, will continue to act as economic stabilisers for a long time yet. But in the future they may cede this role to other sectors, such as agriculture, mechanical engineering, pharmaceuticals and aircraft industry. These industries need high technology and innovations and can produce competitive goods with high added value.

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