Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday offered a raft of financial sweeteners to Russians after opinion polls showed that trust in him has fallen to a 13-year low and almost half the population believes the country is on the wrong track.
In his annual speech to the Russian political elite, Putin set out how he plans to raise living standards, and boost healthcare and education, promising he would find extra money to back the pledges.
Among his promises: More money for pensioners, mortgage and tax relief for families, and financial incentives for women to have more children.
He also laid out deadlines to close huge and sometimes apparently spontaneous landfill sites that have become a political sore for the Kremlin and anger many Russians who have seen them spring up near their homes, polluting the air.
“You can’t deceive people. They keenly feel hypocrisy, disrespect and any injustice. Bureaucratic red tape is of little interest to them,” Putin told lawmakers and regional leaders. “For people what’s important is what has actually been done and how it improves their lives and their families’ lives.”
Putin also spoke of a new arms race with the US, something that could potentially reduce funds available for social spending if it continues to escalate.
However, for now, Putin said that Russia is well able to afford to spend heavily on lifting people’s quality of life.
He said that the nation’s foreign-currency reserves covered the entirety of its external debt obligations for the first time and forecast that the economy would be growing by more than 3 percent by 2021.
Oil revenues mean that Russia is not short of money. Its budget surplus this year is projected to be 1.932 trillion roubles (US$29.4 billion), or 1.8 percent of GDP. Russia’s foreign-exchange reserves stand at US$478 billion, the fifth-largest in the world.
However, if Putin had to scale back social spending plans to fund a wider arms race, that could further dent his ratings.
Putin is not under immediate pressure and enjoys an approval rating of about 60 percent, but his rating used to be nearly 90 percent and an opinion poll last month showed that public trust in him had fallen to its lowest level in 13 years.
Another survey this month showed that the number of Russians viewing the country as moving in the wrong direction was at its highest since 2006.
Pollsters attribute the souring mood to people fed up with six consecutive years of falling real incomes and unpopular government moves to raise the retirement age and hike value-added tax.
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
They stand as eyesores to most passers-by and potential public health risks to authorities, decaying buildings wrapped in tangles of exposed wire, studded with protruding leaky plastic pipes, vegetation billowing from cracks and terraces where particulates from polluted air have accumulated over time. With skyscrapers and ultramodern developments on every side, some of these “nail houses” are also sitting on land worth millions of dollars in Shenzhen’s inferno of a property market, where new-unit and second-hand home prices rival London. In battles over land and development, the nail house phenomenon has become widespread throughout China over the past two decades, with owners
An Italian alpine resort on Friday remained on high alert over fears that a vast chunk of a glacier on the slopes of the Mont Blanc massif could plummet in high temperatures. “No one gets through! No cars, bikes or pedestrians,” was the message at a checkpoint where an automatic barrier and two guards blocked the small road snaking up into a lush valley below the Planpincieux glacier, near the town of Courmayeur and the Italian-French border. The blockade has largely been greeted with contempt by the locals, one of whom said: “It’s a joke.” The huge ice block measuring around 500,000 cubic
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong (FCC) yesterday said that reporters in the territory were experiencing “highly unusual” visas problems, and called on the US and China to stop using the media as a political weapon. Journalists have been caught up in US-China tensions, with both sides placing limits or expelling reporters from their territories in the past few months. Now the spat is filtering into Hong Kong, a regional press hub nominally in charge of its own immigration policies. The FCC said in a statement that multiple media firms had reported delays getting visas in recent months. “The delays have affected journalists