Russian former finance minister Alexei Kudrin said on Tuesday he was ready to support some of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s measures to reform the social sphere if the premier named the sources for his ambitious spending plan.
In a new article published in the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily on Monday, Putin who is running for president in the March 2012 elections, pledged to double the average salaries of lecturers, teachers, doctors and cultural workers by 2018 in an apparent bid to boost his popularity ahead of the presidential elections.
Putin, whose declining popularity could see him forced into a runoff, also promised financial support measures to increase Russia’s population from the current 143 million to 154 million by 2050 and also spoke against the unpopular measure of raising the pension age in Russia.
Kudrin, who had served as finance minister in 2000-2011 and under whom the Russian government had paid most of its substantial foreign debt and created oil wealth funds to soften the blow of the global slump, said, however, that Putin’s new social policy measures could only be implemented at the expense of other spending items.
“I would support some of Putin’s measures if the sources of financing were named. The government cannot build up expenditures any more,” Kudrin wrote on his Twitter account.
“I support Putin’s proposal to raise the salaries of lecturers and scientists to 200 percent of average regional salaries by 2018 on condition that other expenditures are cut,” he said.
Kudrin also said that the government had exhausted its potential of raising pensions through tax hikes while the number of retirees would only increase in Russia.
Experts say Putin’s new social policy measures may require at least 1.5 percent of Russia’s GDP or more than 600 billion rubles ($20 billion).