Putin: Russia must promote welfare or face "western problems"
Russia's leaders must improve the standard of living and social safety net for average citizens or face the "developed nation problems" of mass demonstrations and disillusionment with government, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Monday.
"The citizens of Russia should feel in their family budgets, in their pocketbooks, in their personal health and in the education of their children that things are getting better in the country," Putin said at a foreign investment council meeting in Moscow, dpa reported.
"Only then can we in government hope for the support of our citizens and hope to gain their trust," Putin said. "If we do not ... then we will have what we have seen in some developed countries, when hundreds of thousands of people turn out in the streets."
Putin's remarks, reported by the Interfax news agency, focused on the need for Russia's leaders to keep in mind the welfare of average citizens, while at the same time pushing aggressive economic development.
He said Russia's economy was recovering from an economic crisis but remained overly dependent on raw materials exports, adding that the only long-term solution was increased domestic consumption, which depended on raising the country's overall standard of living.
Government leaders in developed nations had failed to do that, and now faced massed protests as a result, he said.
"These (protesters) are not a few marginal flakes, but hundreds of thousands of people demanding things that their governments, in fact, are unable to manage," Putin said.
Putin, who supports strong central government and assertive Russian foreign policy, is widely predicted to be elected president in a scheduled March vote - a position he previously held from 2000-08.
In the last decade, Putin and his political ally President Dmitry Medevedev have overseen a moderate but steady increase in Russian living standards.