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15 Feb, 2008 02:12

Putin Q&A: domestic issues

Vladimir Putin has given his last media conference as Russia’s President. During the almost 5-hour-long event he answered questions from Russian and foreign journalists.

Q: The Presidential election is coming up. Why did you decide to support Medvedev’s candidacy?

A: I am convinced that he will be a good President, a worthy President and an effective leader. Besides, there is also such thing as personal chemistry – I trust him. The speech he has prepared and will be delivered in Krasnoyarsk is in essence a continuation of the strategy laid out by me at the State Council meeting. His message will supplement, define and develop these suggestions for the country's development but not for the next ten years, just the next four years.

Q: The refusal of ODIHR and PA OSCE observers to come to the presidential election in Russia is this really, as Sergey Lavrov said, some sort of ultimatum against Russia, an attempt to pressure us or something that is not worth our attention?

A: I don’t think that anyone today is tempted to give any kinds of ultimatums to Russia, and especially an organisation with an abbreviation, ODIHR, which is so cumbersome to the Russian ear. We think the OSCE in general has been in need of reform for a long time. We are fulfilling completely the obligations that Russia undertook within the framework of European structures, including the OSCE.

Q: How are you going to use your political influence after the election, are you prepared to play second fiddle to President Medvedev, considering the fact that you said you would not change the balance between President and Prime Minister.

A: There are enough responsibilities. Dmitry Medvedev and I will figure it out, if the voters let us, how to practically organise our personal relationship. I am telling you there won’t be any problems.

Q: Vladimir Vladimirovich, it is obvious that in the time of your presidency Russia became stronger in many respects, and it is obvious that the personal factor was key in that. Do you agree?

A: There are two main things in the importance of the personal factor in achieving results. It’s the ability to define ambitious goals and not to whine or snivel on every occasion. High state officials do not have the right to do this.

Q: Who will pay for the Olympics? The government and the tax payers, investors or will some other funds be used? Is this an investment project that will pay off at some point or is this going to be another hole for the federal budget?

A: We want our tourist areas to reach not just reach international levels, but be above international standards. We have the resources. There is a state program focusing on developing the south of Russia as a whole. Why? Because as far as jobs, the industrial level and so forth, many parts of southern Russia are regions in depression.

Our fight for Sochi to host the winter Olympics was not just related to the desire to have the Olympics and present Russia as a country that is capable of hosting it. But first and foremost our goal is to develop the infrastructure of the country’s south. The estimate was 12 billion dollars, most likely it will be more. Two thirds of this amount, I stress, two thirds of this money must be allocated to the development of infrastructure. Everything else must be done on the basis of either private investment or partnership between private owners and the state.

Q: Over your eight years in power which problem was the biggest pain in the neck? Which one seemed impossible to solve?

A: Corruption. Corruption always accompanies all developing markets and all developing countries. Unfortunately everybody has that problem. It was especially difficult in the beginning of the 90s, in the mid 90s, when all the structures were destroyed. State structures merged with the administration and government. Time is needed, there is no pill that a country can take and be healed, there needs to be a system of measures.

Q: How long should state corporations live and in what spheres of economy will they emerge?

A: State corporations emerge when and where large, long-terms investments are needed, which private business can not handle. First of all, we are talking about such fundamental areas of the economy like ship building, plane construction, and defence.

Although in all these areas we plan to develop market aspects, including the nuclear industry. On the whole we will try to do it so that after serious state investment, after raising the technological level and the raising capitalization of these companies, we can make these companies IPO's and make them part of the market economy.