Putin addresses economic fears in keynote speech

November 20th, 2008 - 7:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Moscow, Nov 20 (DPA) Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Thursday that the nation would rely on its massive reserve funds to emerge from the financial crisis, halt inflation and a fall in the rouble.Putin’s address at the congress of his party United Russia was full of economic patriotism, aimed at calming fears of future shocks from the worst financial turbulence the country has seen in over a decade.

“The crisis which began as financial has turned before our eyes into an economic crisis,” Putin said in the nationally televised speech. “We do everything in our power to protect the savings of our citizens… so there won’t be a repeat of the economic shocks of 1991 and 1998.”

While Russian stocks have been stripped of over 70 percent of their value since peaks in May, the consequences of the financial crisis have been slow to affect the real economy, and the number of people who have their money in stocks is limited.

Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev have so far succeeded in presenting the crisis as an exported ill from the West, for which Russia is better prepared than others.

But analysts have speculated that an impending economic downturn could undermine the ruling duo’s sky-high popularity and lead to cracks in their power monopoly.

Standing on a decal of the Russian flag and a white bear, United Russia’s logo, Putin addressed party delegates, who hold 315 of 450 seats in parliament, sitting on all sides of the circular hall.

He said many weaknesses of the Russian economy had not yet been overcome: It is still not diversified from dependence on natural resources and its financial markets are still underdeveloped.

But Russia, he said, was free of many “risk factors” that are overwhelming other world economies.

“Our accumulated reserves have given us more room for manoeuvre, they allow us to preserve macroeconomic stability and so will help us stop a surge in inflation and a sharp fluctuation in the rouble rate,” Putin said.

“Leaning on our saved-up potential, we have a responsibility to emerge from the crisis stronger and more competitive,” he added.

The congress was held against the backdrop of a Kremlin bill to extend the presidential term to six years. The bill is now making its way through parliament on the support of United Russia deputies.

Putin’s speech was being closely watched by analysts for hints about the power balance with his successor Medvedev after the Kremlin draft law revived speculations about his plans to return to the Kremlin for another 12 years.

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