Addressing the cabinet of ministers in the House of the Russian Government on Saturday, President Putin praised the government's prompt reactions to changes in the political and economic situation in the world. Pointing out to the effective joint work of the presidential office, government, Central Bank, ministries and departments, Putin said the task facing them in 2002 was to further increase the effectiveness of this cooperation. According to the president, the joint effort resulted in debureaucratization of the country's economy. "Timely endorsement of the budget is a good example," said Putin, adding that internal and foreign debt payments, too, were all effected in due time. The president thinks the growth of the gross domestic product in 2001 may reach 5.5% thanks not only to the price situation on traditional markets of Russian export, but also to structural reforms and increasing effectiveness of industrial production, the high-technology spheres in the first place. Putin particularly stressed the government's efficiency in handling agricultural producers /which accounted for the building up of their export potential to 5 mln tons/ and praised its promptness in providing agricultural producers with petrol, oil and lubricants and the fact that it provided finance for the agricultural sphere. "People pin high hopes on the coming year, and our task is not to let them down," he said. As the meeting drew to a close, he wished the cabinet of ministers a happy New Year.
Europe which is panic-stricken over the consequences of rising energy and food prices could strike a treacherous blow to Ukraine this winter, writes Simon Tisdall for The Guardian.