MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin said he aims to cut his country’s “unacceptable” poverty rate in half over the next six years, in a state of the nation address on Thursday.
“[We should] at least halve the poverty rate in the next six years,” Putin said, adding that 20 million Russians currently live below the poverty line compared to 42 million in 2000.
The Russian leader used the address to outline policy for a widely anticipated new six-year term in the Kremlin following March 18 presidential elections.
Putin, who has led the country for the last 18 years, focused on domestic issues in the speech, saying that the coming years will be “decisive” for Russia.
“The well-being of Russia and the well-being of our citizens must be the foundation of everything, and it is in this area that we must make a breakthrough,” Putin said.
He called for a technological push to improve Russia’s living standards and economy.
“Lagging behind in technology is the main threat and our main enemy,” Putin said.
“To move forward and dynamically develop, we need to expand liberties in all spheres,” he added during the address to Russia’s political elite, which was carried on state television.
Russia’s central bank is still struggling to boost the economy as it slowly emerges from the longest recession of Putin’s rule that was triggered by low oil prices and sanctions over Ukraine.
Putin called on the Russian interior ministry to investigate “pressure on entrepreneurs” from the authorities and create an atmosphere where businesses could thrive.
“The unjustified persecution (of business people), including by the security services, is absolutely unacceptable,” Putin said, adding that this “undermines people’s faith in the law and in justice.”
The Russian leader said that while the state will support Russian business, its share in the economy “should gradually decline.”
Putin has been in power for Russia for more than 18 years. His victory this month would extend his rule to 2024 and make him the longest serving Russian leader since dictator Joseph Stalin.
Despite campaign promises when he returned to the Kremlin in 2012 after four years as prime minister, his last term was marked by a fall in living standards and Russia’s international isolation. AFP