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February 20, 2003
36 Million Russians Cannot Afford Eating Every Day
Overcoming of poverty does not belong to the Russian government top-priorities

At todays sitting of the government, results of social and economical development of Russia within post-crisis years will be discussed. While yesterdays widened collegium of Labour and Social Development Ministry, organised by minister Alexandr Pochinok, seems to have been timed to this sitting. At the collegium however, it turned out that spite bettering of basic figures, there is nothing to be proud of: almost 36 million Russians live under poverty verge.

At least several times a year, Alexandr Pochinok illustrates with figures Stalins old slogan: Living has become better, living has become more joyous. Yesterday, Pochinok in particular noticed that the population real incomes increased by 8.8 percent in 2002, real salary by 16.6 percent, while real pension by 16.4 percent. Though, percent figures cannot deceive Russian citizens. Even Pochinok himself must have admit that, according to a preliminary estimation, about 36 million Russians, or every fourth Russian citizen, lives today under poverty verge. Though, the minister notices, in 2002, about 2 million citizens succeeded in overpass of this verge. And what about the rest? This probably was not reported to the minister.

The labour minister did not tried to evade a slippery question: the difference between incomes of the rich and the poor. According to him, this correlation has remained on the 2001 level: 14 to 1. Though, these are official figures. And what about the reality? Either Pochinok, or his subordinates hardly know it. And they are hardly interested in it.

The minister noticed that the problem of salary and social payments is still pointed. In particular, he said, arrears of wages made 30.6 billion rubles in 2002. Though, Pochinok immediately noticed that was not the federal centre guilt, the question is that the money is not paid on regional level. The regions still spend money for non-proper aims.

Among positive tendencies, Mr Pochinok noticed 3.6-time reduction of strikes in 2002. According to him, this is connected with the government active work for development of social partnership.

The situation in labour market is said to have become better, too. In particular, employment figures in 2002 were the best within last seven years. According to International Labour Organisation, the number of unemployed reduced by 14 percent and made 5.5 million people or 7 percent of economically active population. 3.9 million Russians found job in 2002 (however the ministry does not know how many of these 3.9 million succeeded in holding out on the found work for more than 3 months). Actually, it is not so difficult to find a job. Though it is more difficult to find a job at least to subsist on it. While it is much more difficult to make the employer pay the promised salary. Though, that are unnecessary details for Labour Ministry.

PRAVDA.Ru already wrote about Pochinoks obvious incompetence as labour minister. Though, the question is probably not only about professional unfitness of some ministers, but in the essence of the government policy. The government is not concerned with increasing real welfare of Russian citizens. The populations claims to the government were in the best way expressed by the State Duma deputy and co-chairman of the Liberal Russia, Viktor Pokhmelkin.

In particular, Pokhmelkin said the state had by the moment some reserves to increase pensions to the level of living wage. In fact, Zurabov and Pochinok, if they cannot manage their task, have to send in their resignation. Though, this is not the main problem. According to Pokhmelkin, this government as well as the previous ones, express the bureaucracy interests, but not that ones of the people. It does not formulate its task like overcoming of poverty, this is why the gap between the poor and the rich is growing bigger.

According to Viktor Pokhmelkin, now nobody is shocked with the government ministers richness. While labour minister Pochinok should be ashamed for living in too luxurious conditions in such a poor country, like Russia. Pochinoks wife, as well known, possesses a big casino in Moscow, so Pochinoks prosperous life could be explained. Though, it is at least immoral to show this luxury to millions of poor TV viewers.

Dmitry Slobodyanyuk PRAVDA.Ru Translated by Vera Solovieva

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