#4 - JRL 7235
June 23, 2003
WITHOUT ANY SENSITIVE QUESTIONS
Putin says doubling the GDP in the next decade is still on the agenda
Author: Ivan Gordeev
[from WPS Monitoring Agency, www.wps.ru/e_index.html]
PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN'S NEWS CONFERENCE ON FRIDAY WAS INTENDED TO CONVEY ONE MAIN CONCLUSION: THAT THE SITUATION IN RUSSIA REALLY IS STABLE. ALL ATTEMPTS BY JOURNALISTS TO ASK THE PRESIDENT QUESTIONS ON ANY SENSITIVE ISSUES WERE IN VAIN.
President Vladimir Putin's news conference on Friday was intended to convey one main conclusion: that the situation in Russia really is stable. All attempts by journalists to ask the president questions on any sensitive issues were in vain.
The most pointed question concerned human resources: the president was asked why people who fail to perform well in one area are transferred to another. The journalist who asked this question was obviously referring to Vladimir Yakovlev, former governor of St. Petersburg, now a deputy prime minister. And this was the only point in the news conference when the president paused before answering.
According to Putin, he is only aware of one such example: "At first the person worked in one area, and then he was transferred to another field where he had no further problems." Everyone understood that he was referring to Yevgeny Nazdratenko.
When asked more general questions, the president answered in more detail. Although nothing new was asked, Putin's answers confirmed once again that the political and economic policy he has outlined will be continued.
The president does not intend to launch any sweeping changes, such as amending the Constitution. He said that introducing amendments to the Constitution "is an element of destabilization in itself." The issue of stability was the focus of the entire news conference. Putin commented on any possible innovations from that perspective.
Russia should remain a presidential republic. The government should be formed in the same way as it is formed now. Of course, it should be based on the parliamentary majority, but "there is nothing very innovative about that", as the president noted. Then he closed the topic of a parliamentary majority government: "The prime minister should be approved by the Duma. But it is impossible to do that if the candidate for prime minister is not supported by the majority."
Neither does Putin intend to change the length of the president's term in office. Doing so would require amendments to the Constitution, "which is much worse than keeping a four-year term."
The president is also doubtful about plans to expand regions: "According to the Constitution, we have 89 regions." At the same time, some regions are discussing the possibility of a merger right now. The president is prepared to support some of these projects, but the government has no intention of pursuing a large number of regional mergers: everything should be clear.
In the president's view, stability is the most necessary aspect in politics. And the economy needs to grow. Putin confirmed once again that doubling the GDP over the next decade, which he stressed in this year's address to parliament, remains one of his main economic goals. However, the president made it clear that setting such goals is a somewhat provocational move, used as a preventive measure against stagnation. Putin concluded: "It is necessary to set ourselves substantial, far-reaching objectives: then we may actually move forward a little."
(Translated by Kirill Frolov)