Vladimir Putin: Standard of Life Has Improved in Russia in 2002

This year we found out how many people are living in our country. This announcement was made by Russian President Vladimir Putin, answering his first question in a live TV and radio broadcast today. He said that there are at least 145 million people living in the country.

This has been a year of ups and downs for Russia, the president said. 'There have been many problems, including natural disasters. There have been social problems, crime and terrorism. The tragedy of the hostage-taking in Moscow will be remembered for a long time,' he said. None the less, the country has been developing fast, the legal system has been improved and the economy has grown. 'We exceeded the plans that we made at the start of the year. The economy has grown by 4-4.5%, not 3.5%. Real income has increased by 8.5% instead of 6.5%. Pensions will have increased by 35% by the end of the year. However inflation has risen by 15% which is more than planned (up to 14%) but much less than last year. The number of citizens receiving less than the subsistence wage has decreased by 10%. This has led to Russia's improved credit rating. We have paid many debts and the country has become richer. 'Russians' standard of life has improved a little and that is the most important thing,' Mr Putin said.

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