Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

'Tsar' Putin loses sense of humor because of economic crisis

Vladimir Putin, the Prime Minister and the leader of United Russia Party, clarified his views on the socio-economic situation in the country during his televised communication with the people of Russia. Many of his answers did not seem to be inspiring to common people and representatives of the business community. Some of his other answers surprised experts with the numbers that Putin outlined – they hardly correspond to the real state of affairs in Russia.

It became Putin’s seventh televised communication with the nation. Putin began with a speech about macroeconomic issues. He particularly acknowledged that the inflation rate in Russia would make up 13 percent as of the year-end. “It is connected with the global financial crisis, as well as with the fact that the Central Bank and the Finance Ministry were forced to unload a large volume of cash assets in the economy,” Putin said. It is worthy of note that the government originally promised to keep the inflation rate within the level of 8 percent.

“We planned the economic growth on the level of about 7.5 percent, and we are going to have the seven-percent growth, or 6.8 and 6.9 percent,” Putin said. The forecast for the Russian economy for the next years is not so promising. The national GDP will be limited to only 3.5 percent growth instead of the scheduled 6.7 percent. Independent experts say that Russia’s economic development in 2009 may not have any growth at all.

Putin gave detailed answers to the questions about the state of affairs on the labor market. He categorized the struggle against unemployment as a priority of the federal and regional authorities. As for the housing market, Putin said that the prices on apartments in the country would begin to decrease due to the crisis.

Putin said that the price of one square meter of an apartment in St. Petersburg made up 42-44 thousand rubles (about $1.570). However, such prices are valid for the apartments, which the municipal government builds under social programs and repurchases them at actual cost. All of such apartments have already been distributed between those on the waiting lists.

The prices on all other apartments are a lot higher. The average price of one square meter of an apartment in St. Petersburg reaches 80,000 rubles ($2.850) and about 150-160 thousand rubles in Moscow ($5.714).

Putin was even more outspoken in his remarks about gasoline prices on the home market. He urged the Russians to understand the oil companies’ difficult situation and said that they suffer about $68 of losses from every ton of exported crude. “They of course try to preserve at least some of their income at the expense of home consumers. It ’ s true . This is a state policy to a certain extent . Our budget receives income from those people who can afford a car,” the prime minister said.

A pensioner from Omsk (Siberia) called and asked Putin to delay the January raise of housing and communal tariffs. Farmers from Kazan said that the government needs to take measures to restrict the import of vegetables. A young family man made a call from the republic of Bashkiria and said that he had been fired from his job because of the global crisis. “How are supposed to live now?” the man asked Putin. A girl from the republic of Yakutia, Dasha Varfolomeyeva, said during her phone call that she and her sister were living only on their grandmother’s pension, but they would like to celebrate the New Year like all other children. “I want to ask a dress from you, like the one that Cinderella had,” the little girl told Putin.

Vladimir Putin was patient in all of his answers. He even put Dasha on the right track. “I heard you, Dasha, and I think that it would be right to think of something that not only you, but also your grandmother needs for the New Year,” Putin said in a fatherly tone. “I invite you, your grandmother and your sister to come to Moscow for the New Year party in the Kremlin. We’ll see about presents then,” he continued.

A man made a call from the city of Penza and asked Putin point blank: “Is it true that you wanted to hang Saakashvili by something?” “Why by something?” Putin responded.

Answering other more personal questions from people, Putin said that he was going to see the New Year in at home, that he was partly a romantic, and said that Russia would have snow only when God sends some (a snowless winter has began in Russia’s center with temperatures up to nine degrees above zero Centigrade). Putin also said that there would be no sudden fluctuations of the ruble rate and denied rumors of the new money that had been supposedly printed in Russia.