Last Update: 09 April, 2003


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2001 has been a good year for Russia. Good fortune has smiled on President Vladimir Putin's Russia, partly thanks to the political elite's own doing, partly due to simple dumb luck.

In financial terms, Putin ends his second year in power with a surplus of political capital; his popularity continues to increase, threatening to turn into a cult of personality if the highly sought after "pin-up" calendar is anything to go by. 

2001 ended with a number of reform packages debated and signed. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov showed the world (and Putin) that Russia would pay its debts. The State Duma passed a balanced budget for this year and backed just about every legislative initiative supported by the Cabinet.

Although growth outpaced most of the world for the second year running, at current levels, to use the Kremlin's favourite comparison, it will take Russia some 20 years to equal the per-capita income of Portugal, the poorest nation in the European Union. 

Spurred by that grim reminder, the government launched an unprecedented
series of structural reforms - beginning the year with a 13 percent flat tax on incomes and ending the year by passing new Labour and Land Codes and approving long-awaited plans to restructure the pension and banking systems.

Along the way it dampened inflation, raised the minimum wage, recorded a budget surplus, swelled its foreign currency reserves, moved closer to joining the World Trade Organization, emerged as a viable alternative to the
OPEC oil cartel and endeared itself politically to the West. 

But for all of it accomplishments in 2001, it remains to be seen whether the government will be able to convert the dizzying reform effort into tangible improvements for the average Russian in the years ahead.

 As the World Bank's top expert on Russia, Christof Ruehl, put it: "This year was the year of reforms. Next year will be the year of implementation." The government says economic growth this year will be 5.6 percent, which, although a third lower than last year's, remains robust.



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