Putin Predicts Russian Economic Rebound, `Powerful' Boost From World Cup

Russia’s economy will rebound to its pre-crisis level by the middle of 2012 and receive a "powerful" boost from hosting the 2018 soccer World Cup, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on a live TV call-in show today.

Putin, who flew to Zurich on Dec. 3 to claim victory in the World Cup bidding, said the event would help upgrade roads, airports and railway stations in Russia’s European economic heartland.

"It’ll be an entirely positive influence on the future of the country," Putin, 58, said during the program, which received more than 2 million questions in the first 150 minutes, with social issues, housing and labor receiving the most attention. Half a million inquiries were sent in before the call-in, broadcast live on state television, radio and the Internet.

Putin, who has maintained his annual tradition of the hours-long nationwide broadcasts since handing over the presidency in 2008 to his protege, Dmitry Medvedev, continues to occupy much of the limelight as the 2012 elections approach.

The premier, who backed Medvedev as his successor because of a constitutional ban on three consecutive presidential terms, hasn’t ruled out returning to the presidency.

‘Very Satisfactory’

Russia’s recovery from last year’s 7.9 percent contraction was hindered by a record heat wave and wildfires, which killed more than 50 people, devastated agricultural output, forced some manufacturers to halt production and hurt consumer demand. Gross domestic product may grow 3.8 percent this year, compared with an average growth rate of almost seven percent from 1999-2008, Putin said.

"On the whole, we are ending this year in a very satisfactory condition," Putin said, highlighting the creation of 1.2 million new jobs in 2010 and a decline in the number of those living under the poverty line. "We’ll get back to the pre- crisis level in the first half of 2012."

Medvedev, 45, in his annual state-of-the-nation address on Nov. 30, devoted almost half the time to family issues in what commentators described as a lackluster speech. A day later, Putin gave an interview to CNN’s Larry King, touching on foreign and domestic policies.

His appearance in Zurich hours after Russia won the right to host the World Cup late on Dec. 3 competed with broadcasts of Medvedev talking to children and doing chin-ups at a school in southern Russia the previous day.

Four More Years

Medvedev, who has made fighting corruption and reducing Russia’s dependency on oil and gas the hallmark of his presidency, would like to run for a second term, his economic aide, Arkady Dvorkovich, told the British Broadcasting Corporation in an interview shown Dec. 10.

“I believe he does” want to gain four more years in the Kremlin, he said. “Otherwise, he would not work seriously on the initiatives he announced.”

Medvedev and Putin will consult with each other on who should run, Dvorkovich told the BBC, according to the broadcaster’s website.

In his first year in office, Medvedev pushed through a constitutional change extending the presidential term to six years from four, fueling speculation Putin was planning to return for another 12 years in 2012.

To contact the reporters on this story: Lyubov Pronina in Moscow at lpronina@bloomberg.net; Henry Meyer in Moscow at hmeyer4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Willy Morris at wmorris@bloomberg.net

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