Putin in 2012 - by Stephen Lendman
Putin is odds on favorite to be elected Russia's president again in 2012.
Currently he's United Russia's Prime Minister, serving with President Dmitry Medvedev.
From May 7, 2000 - May 7, 2008, he was Russia's second President, succeeding Boris Yeltsin, a man known for destructive "shock therapy" that created shocking levels of poverty and social inequality.
After he resigned on the last day of 1999, Putin became acting president, knowing 1990s policies were no longer acceptable. As a candidate, he promised corrective measures, saying:
"I am convinced that the defining feature of the new century will not be a battle of ideologies, but a sharp competition over the quality of life, national wealth and progress."
His agenda included:
- rule of law principles under which corporate and private interests no longer would get special privileges the way oligarchs did under Yeltsin. Perhaps not as much, but social inequality is still extreme.
- reawakening "national dignity," wanting Russia to be "a self-confident (potentially) great power; and
- economic recovery, including elimination extreme poverty and economic crime; calling Russia "a rich country of poor people," he said "there (cannot) be a superpower where weakness and poverty reign."
Russia has a long way to go, but Putin's eight years were noteworthy. Living standards doubled. GDP rose 70%. Nearly all Russia's foreign debt was repaid. About $402 billion in foreign currency reserves were accumulated.
In 2008 dollars, GDP grew from $200 billion in 1999 to $1.26 trillion in 2007. Russia rose from the world's 20th largest economy to seventh ranked. Trade increased from 17% of GDP in 1990 to 48% in 2004.
Being the world's second largest oil producer and largest for natural gas contributed greatly, especially because of skyrocketing energy prices since 2000.
Compared to Yeltsin, his economic record was impressive. Russia was transformed from a basket case to a magnet for foreign investment. Nonetheless, much unfinished business remains, including raising the standard of living for left out millions in society and dealing Russia's deep-seated corruption.
In October 2008, Medvedev said:
"Corruption in our nation has not simply become wide-scale. It has become a common, everyday phenomenon which characterizes the very life of our society. We are not simply talking about commonplace bribery. We are talking about a severe illness which is corroding the economy and corrupting all society."