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Putin defends soft economic policies


20:49, April 25, 2013

MOSCOW, April 25 (Xinhua) -- Tough economic measures could harm the implementation of social welfare programs, President Vladimir Putin said Thursday.

"Tough measures in the economy without taking into account social consequences are not always justified, especially in our country with our citizens having very modest incomes," Putin said during his first question-and-answer session with the public since returning to the Kremlin last May.

Putin devoted much of the time to an exchange with former Financial Minister Alexei Kudrin over ways to improve the Russian economy.

Kudrin, who resigned from the government in 2011 when Putin was Prime Minister, lamented the government had been following an indecisive policy, which did not free Russia from its oil dependence.

Kudrin has been a vocal critic of the generous social spending Putin advocates.

Putin said the Russian economy had been slowing in recent months due to global financial problems and excessively tough internal fiscal-monetary policy.

Still, he reminded the audience a budget rule over oil-export revenues had been justified because it served to target inflation, which was in the interests of all Russians.

Meanwhile, Putin said economic tasks set after his re-election last year were being implemented successfully.

"I am rather satisfied with how the work goes on," Putin said, mentioning a rise of salaries and pensions as major achievements during his first year of presidency.

"I share the idea that labor productivity should grow faster than wages. We must switch our economy to the innovative path of development. It is our priority. But it is difficult to do when fuel prices are high," Putin said.

Answering another question from the audience, Putin denied proposals to reshuffle the government. "This would bring about more harm than benefits," Putin said, adding the cabinet should be given more time to fulfill its missions.

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