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Putin 2005 broken promise on pension reform could loosen grip on power

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putin
Vladimir
Putin Putin addresses the nation on pension reforms in a
televised address filmed in Moscow on August
29.

Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin
via Reuters


  • Vladimir Putin announced a decision to raise the
    Russian national retirement age on Wednesday.
  • Back in 2005, Putin made a high-profile promise on
    national TV that the age would never increased while he is
    president, which he has been forced to break.
  • Raising the retirement age means many people in Russia
    will miss out on a pension altogether because their life
    expectancy is lower than in western countries.
  • Putin has been under pressure to make the change
    because of Russia’s aging population and economic
    deficit.
  • The reforms have attracted huge protests, and forced
    Putin’s popularity to a four-year
    low

    .

Vladimir Putin has broken a promise he made 13 years ago, hiking
Russia’s pension age and weakening his previously untouchable
grip on the top of Russian politics.

In a rare TV announcement on Wednesday, Putin announced that he
would raise the retirement age for women from 55 to 60, and for
men from 60 to 65, starting in 2019.

The reform is massive reversal of a promise Putin famously made live on
TV in 2005
.

In phone-in session during his first term, Putin said that the
retirement age would never go up while he is in charge.

You can hear him discuss that (in Russian) here:

The full quote, translated from a transcript of the phone-in
published by Russian state TV
, is:

“I am against increasing the terms of retirement age. And while I
am President, there will be no such decision. In general, I
believe that we do not need to raise the retirement age.

“It is necessary to encourage people who believe that after
reaching the labor age of retirement, they can continue working
for health reasons. It is possible to stimulate and create
economic conditions for the continuation of labor activity, but
not infringe on their pension rights.”

Putin has since been forced to retreat from his promise to face
the country’s economic reality.

The proposal he made is already a slightly watered-down version
of the original plan by the Russian government, which wanted to
raise women’s retirement age to 63. The retirement age was made
lower for women because they are expected to take care of the
house and children, Putin said, according to
the BBC
.

On Wednesday, Putin said the decision to raise the national
retirement age had been delayed for years, and could no longer be
postponed because Russia’s labor market was shrinking, the BBC
reported.

He also warned that not moving on the decision would risk causing
inflation and increasing poverty, and threaten the stability of
security of the nation as a whole.

Russia already faces a weak economy, crippled by
fallen oil prices
and ongoing international sanctions.
It faces a deficit of more than 265 billion roubles ($4.2
billion/£3.1 billion) in 2018 alone, the BBC said.

“Any further delay would be irresponsible,” Putin said, as
cited
by BBC Russia correspondent Steve Rosenberg
.

When challenged on the reversal,
Radio Free Europe reports
that Putin’s spokesman Dmitry
Peskov responded that the 2005 promise was a long time ago and
“the situation has changed since then.”


russia pension reform omsk
A
protest against the Russian government’s proposal to raise the
retirement age in Omsk, Russia, in June 2018.

Al Jazeera English/YouTube

Pension reform is a sore point in Russia

Raising the national retirement age is a sore point in Russia.
The life expectancy for Russian men in 66, while for women it is
77, according to World Health Organization
statistics
.

Unions previously warned that many Russians would not live long
enough to claim a pension under the increased retirement age, the
BBC said.

After the government announced the pension reform proposals on
June 14 — the opening day of the World Cup — opposition groups
across the political spectrum around the country had been
protesting en masse against the proposal.

Putin’s approval also plummeted to a four year low — from 80% to
about 67% — over the issue, Reuters reported.


putin brics summit russia
Putin’s
approval rating plummeted to a four-year low over the pension
reform issue.

Sputnik/Alexei
Nikolsky/Kremlin via REUTERS


Groups including labor unions, the Communist Party, and the
supporters of prominent Putin critic Alexei Navalny all organized
protests.

More than 2 million signed a petition against the reform,
Al Jazeera
reported
, and
The Guardian reported
demonstrations attracting crowds of up
to 3,000 people in early July. Protests also took place in
traditionally pro-Putin strongholds in the country, the
Wall Street Journal said
.

Until Wednesday’s announcement, Putin had been trying to distance
himself from the pension debate — showing the unpopularity of the
policy and its threat to his grip on power.

Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, claimed
in June
: “The matter is being worked out by the government.
The president is not taking part in that process.”

The BBC’s Rosenberg tweeted
on Wednesday
: “Until today, Putin had distanced himself from
the unpopular pension reform… But with this TV address, Putin
becomes the face of the reform.”

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