Prime Minister Putin met with “government pool” journalists to wish them a Happy New Year
29 december 2008
Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, colleagues. I say "colleagues" because those present work professionally with the Government constantly, everywhere, and non-stop. The manner in which you cover the activities of the Government and the authorities in general goes a long way to determine how what we are doing is perceived by people in Russia, and indeed to a large extent the positioning of our country in the world.
We attach great importance to our cooperation, which is why the members of the pool are constantly with the Government leaders wherever they may be. I would like to thank you for the joint work that was done throughout 2008.
You follow developments in the world and you know the forecasts for 2009 in the countries that are our main partners in Europe, Asia, and North America. You unfailingly watch the prices of Russian shares in stock exchanges, the main trading floors in Europe and North America, and you know what the forecasts are. I am not going to tell you anything new, because we make our plans proceeding from these forecasts and of course, our own.
They are nearly always the same as the assessments made by world experts, so you can understand that 2009 will be a complicated year. I want to stress that we have every chance to get through this turbulent period with minimum losses.
Indeed, the tasks we formulated and set ourselves earlier are becoming particularly relevant today. This vindicates the choice we made several years ago. At the Government meeting today, I spoke of the need to diversify the economy and make its development innovative. Everything that is happening confirms that we are working in the right direction and if anything needs to be done today, it is to speed up our movement in that direction.
Today we must look at unproductive and ineffective spending and the actions we made in the comfortable conditions when petrodollars were plentiful and flowing in. Today, we must be more effective and economical. If we speak about such areas of our activity as energy-saving, it is clear that we are talking about high technologies. Clearly, our work in this area in the short term will make the Russian economy and the country as a whole more competitive.
We have a development plan along these lines. By and large you are familiar with the plan and I am not going to repeat it, I simply want to say that we are going to implement all this. In connection with this, I would like to express one wish and ask you for a favour: cover the developments in an objective way, do not foment fears, let alone hysteria. We have no grounds for it.
True, the situation is difficult, but by no means hopeless, and we know what needs to be done and how to rescue ourselves from this situation. One may of course make different assessments of the ongoing events, and we should of course present them objectively. We should make sure that people know the various options and the choices the Government is making so that they could assess them. That goes without saying. However, there is no need to scare each other and build up tensions.
Those who follow the economy, those who do it professionally, have a fine grasp of our recent actions. We know the interest rates are high, but we also know what the balance of the inflow and outflow of capital is. We know that there are not many instruments to prevent legal outflow of capital - these are raising the refinancing rate and changing the rate of the national currency.
I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the existence of the gold and currency reserves, the Government's reserve funds, enables us to address these problems - and I would like to stress it - with due regard for the interests of the population. Unlike in the former crises, we are not acting on impulse, we are not making abrupt decisions like other countries have to do in order to cope with the negative phenomena. We consciously use the sovereign wealth fund, the Government's reserve fund, so that people may decide without undue haste what to do with their savings, so that they do not wake up tomorrow to discover that all their savings have been devalued. We act thus so that people understand the development trend and can independently decide what to do. We will always show this sort of responsible attitude to the country's citizens.
Of course, we are well aware that we still depend heavily on the price of energy and we will react accordingly, but I repeat, we will above all be mindful of the interests of our citizens.
You know that we have made all the necessary decisions in regards to the social sphere and are implementing all of them. This applies to raising pensions, wages, and benefits, and meeting our commitment regarding maternity capital.
In spite of everything, in spite of any problems - as I have already said today - we have increased the public sector wage fund by 30%. We have not just increased the wage fund, but are reforming the remuneration system, which is the most important thing. We intend to move forward in other spheres of social policy, and will work to strengthen the pension system. We will develop education, health, and pay due attention to housing construction.
We shall see what can be done additionally for some sectors of the economy, for the real sector. I am not speaking now about the hundreds of enterprises that we have put on a separate list. I am speaking about the real economy as a whole. The important thing is that we understand what is happening and know what to do.
I very much count on your support which, I repeat, can consist of only one thing: objective coverage of events and the actions of the Russian Government.
Once again I would like to thank you very much for our joint work and wish you a Happy New Year.