Putin vows to grow Russian population

2012-02-13 18:07

Moscow - Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Monday vowed to reverse Russia's demographic decline and boost its population to 154 million, as he ramped up his re-election campaign in the face of protests.

In a new campaign article addressing his core constituency including employees of state companies and blue-collar workers, Putin also promised salary hikes to teachers and doctors and pledged to create a more just state.

Putin reeled off a list of social policies that he said could reverse a demographic decline and boost Russia's current population that has now dwindled to nearly 143 million and which he said risked falling to just 107 million.

"In a global sense we are facing the risk of turning into an 'empty space' whose fate will not be decided by us," Putin said in an article published on his campaign website.

"If we manage to formulate and implement an effective complex people-saving strategy, Russia's population will go up to 154 million," he said.

By contrast, he said, if the authorities do nothing to combat the demographic crisis, the country's population would fall to 107 million by 2050.

Legitimacy crisis

"The historic price of the choice between action and inaction is nearly 50 million human lives over the next 40 years," he said in the piece, his fifth campaign article since January.

After serving two consecutive presidential terms between 2000 and 2008 and a term as prime minister, Putin is seeking a third term in the March 4 presidential election.

He is however facing the worst legitimacy crisis of his 12-year rule, with tens of thousands taking to the streets in protests since December.

Russia's future president will have to tackle an acute demographic crisis exacerbated by unhealthy lifestyles, blatant disregard for safety protocols and traffic accidents which all contribute to high death rates.

Upon his widely expected re-election, Putin will have to push through long-delayed pension, utilities and tax reforms whose costs will be partly shouldered by the country's quickly-aging population.

As part of demographic policies, the government will combat widespread alcohol and drug abuse and entice about 300 000 migrants a year to Russia, Putin said, also proposing monthly cash incentives for women to bear more than two children.

Wide gap

"These measures are not enough," said Anatoly Vishnevsky, director of the Moscow-based Demography Institute at the Higher School of Economics.

"It's impossible to imagine how you could boost the population except through massive immigration," he said, adding his latest proposals contradicted his earlier pledge to toughen up immigration legislation.

Putin said that by 2018 the income of university teachers, professors and doctors will stand at 200% of the national average.

"Realisation of this task will call for significant resources - up to 1.5% of gross domestic product year," he said, also promising $167 monthly stipend hikes to students.

One in eight Russians still lives below the poverty line, the prime minister wrote, adding that the gap between the rich and the poor was too wide.

"Every ruble going into the social sphere should 'create justice'," he said. "The just arrangement of our society and economy is the main condition of our sustainable development over the next years."

Putin has written four articles since January on subjects including Russia's politics, economy and illegal immigration, although he has refused to take part in televised debates with other candidates.

"Thank you, I laughed this morning," a reader who identified himself as Denis wrote on the website of mass circulation Komsomolskaya Pravda which also published Putin's article. "Where have you been for the past 12 years?"

  • inwardk - 2012-02-13 18:32

    This is ridiculous - there are far too many people on earth. The last thing anyone should be encouraged to do is breed.

      Fidel - 2012-02-13 19:38

      Africa is underpopulated. We have 20% of the world's landmass and 13% of its population. The problem is related to consumption levels and resource distribution.

      Walter - 2012-02-13 20:06

      The biggest challenge the world is having is over population. Alternatively put - to many people to feed; to provide for in terms of education, health, food and security. No honest politician can promise a better life for all because the all gets just more everyday. No wonder the world is in crises. People try to protect themselves from the threat of the massive amounts of people through financial means. This enhances the gap between rich and poor.

      Walter - 2012-02-13 20:17

      Fidel - The second part of your comment may hold value, but the percentages are irrelevant due to many factors. Most important being that it does not imply "undepopulated". The others are simply more over populated. Putin needs people to maintain power. Imagine Russia with less people. Remember, the need cannon fodder in the event of war. They have never treasured human live. They still live the culture of only a few matters. From the Tsars through Stalin until today.

      Fidel - 2012-02-13 20:24

      Most of Africa is rural, underdeveloped and lives on subsistance farming, has no major significant demand for oil or fertilisers. Africans have always lived within their means and what nature provides without exploiting it. The western world is over-developed and is over-consuming with a lot of wastage of the world's resources. Now add China and India into the picture. Africa is still a virgin continent and I prefer it this way.

  • deon.schyff - 2012-02-13 18:36

    It will keep him busy???

  • Anthony - 2012-02-13 19:26

    Its soo ironic, Putin is such a smart man, but he just does not get it, its HIM who is the problem in Russia!!!!!!!!

  • Fidel - 2012-02-13 19:39

    Putin is certainly preferable to Goldman Sachs and the IMF running things.

      Irene - 2012-02-13 19:41

      Aaaaah Fidel aka Graziella are you still trolling?

      Anthony - 2012-02-13 19:51

      Fidel, you seem to have taken the easy road; Just be anti western, and you don't have to think!!!!!

      Fidel - 2012-02-13 20:00

      @Anthony What is anti-western about my post. This is an opinion thread and I have stated my preference. Are you anti-East?

      Anthony - 2012-02-13 20:28

      @Irene, Yea, you might be very right, well spotted!!! There can't possibly be to many Graziella's and Fidel's around. In any case , most of them have seen the light, and have come to realize they are on the wrong continent with their extreme radical points of view. Fidel behaves like a missionary, and believes he/she has to "spread the word" Well unfortunately for Fidel, Africa has no appetite for this CRAP !!!!!

      Fidel - 2012-02-13 20:32

      Maybe in the end nobody is wrong and everyone is searching for answers, and our teachers have just let us out into the world with poor communication skills which do not permit divergent thoughts to co-exist in the same space.

      Fred - 2012-02-16 08:03

      No Fidel, you're wrong to support psychotic killers like Gaddafi and cruel technocrats like Assad, and oppose the freer world. You're wrong, meaning you're not seeing the right reality, the new world that is opening up gradually before our very eyes, free of these tyrants.

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