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Russia: A bear of an economic year

From Maxim Tkachenko, CNN
President Dmitry Medvedev said Russians "take a punch and keep coming."
President Dmitry Medvedev said Russians "take a punch and keep coming."
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The country received a hard blow from the global economic crisis and from plummeting world oil and gas prices
  • President thanked his fellow Russians for their ability to "take a punch and keep coming" in the past year
  • Russia's GDP dropped more significantly than in any other G8 country in 2009
RELATED TOPICS
  • Russia
  • Dmitry Medvedev

Moscow, Russia (CNN) -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in a New Year's address thanked his fellow Russians for their ability to "take a punch and keep coming" in the past year, which was Russia's worst in more than a decade.

Considering that, he said, "we will be able to move forward, build a strong and modern state, a stable and smart economy, do everything we can to make the life of each person comfortable and safe."

In his two-minute traditional holiday address, carried by the leading Russian national TV channels moments before the large Kremlin clock chimed midnight and marked the new year, Medvedev said that 2010 offers a "new chance which we shouldn't miss" and that "the success of our actions depends on each of us, on what each one of us does for his family and for his country."

Speaking Wednesday at the last full-fledged session of the Russian government in 2009, Medvedev said that despite a great many difficulties, Russia managed to "reverse the negative trends that manifested themselves very clearly at the end of last year and the beginning of this year."

Sustaining social peace and stability in the country, he said, was the government's main achievement in 2009 -- which Medvedev called "the most difficult one in the past 12 years."

The country received a hard blow from the global economic crisis and from plummeting world oil and gas prices -- with oil and gas being the main sources of Russia's export revenues. Russia's gross domestic product (GDP) dropped more significantly than in any other G8 country in 2009, according to a review of the Russian Federal Statistics Service, coupled by the highest inflation rate among the G8 members -- close to 9 percent.

Video: The two Russias of today

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said at the same government session in Moscow that Russia's GDP will fall approximately 8.5 per cent for the year of 2009 but is expected to grow by around 3 per cent in 2010. And for the first time since 1995 there will be a population increase in Russia, based on the results of 2009, he said, and average life expectancy will reach 69 years.

But risks remain, the prime minister said.

"Firstly, growth is not yet robust in nature, and secondly, it relies largely on the old, commodity-based model of the economy," Putin said.

"This means we need to shift our priorities," Putin said. "The task of building new industrial capacities and an innovative economy need to be addressed first."

Putin said that among other things, the Russian government plans to encourage domestic demand in locally-produced cars as well as housing construction.

But Russia's Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin has given a more pessimistic assessment of the country's economy.

Speaking in parliament earlier this month, Kudrin said that even despite a projected modest growth in 2010, Russia will be able to restore its pre-crisis level of GDP no sooner than the fourth quarter of 2012, and only in 2013 will it exceed it.

 
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