Vladimir Putin is doling out his own austerity package, cutting the government workforce in the Interior Ministry by about 110,000 officials. The move comes as Russia’s economy continues to tumble from a combination of dropping oil prices and Western sanctions.
CNN Money reports that the Russian president signed a decree last week saying the Ministry of Interior is limited to only one million employees, meaning it will have to lay off about 110,000 officials. The “Russian austerity” comes during a painful economic recession.
The IMF claims the country’s economy shrunk by 2.2 percent in the first quarter of 2015; their estimate for the full year is a 3.8 percent GDP decline. The pain will continue into 2016, when they’re expecting a drop of over one percent.
To compensate, the Kremlin is trying to cut (nearly) all government spending by 10 percent, in what commentators are calling “Russian austerity.”
The recession is mostly due to two factors: dropping oil prices and Western sanctions, prompted by Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine. Although Russia is feeling the pain from the sanctions, Putin is not.
According to the Guardian, the Russian president’s approval rating is now at 89 percent. More polling suggests the population is digging in its heels and staunchly supporting the Kremlin’s controversial foreign policies.
Roughly 70 percent of Russians say the country should stick to its position in Ukraine, with 87 percent supporting the annexation of Crimea. Another 66 percent believe that the Western sanctions are about weakening and humiliating Russia, and only five percent think they’re about the Ukrainian crisis.
Putin’s pre-Ukraine approval ratings were a bit above 60 percent, but with the population seeing sanctions as an attack on the country itself, it might not be so surprising that he’s up nearly 30 points. Defense is the one government sector that will not face cuts.
Still, the government’s new austerity package and firing of 110,000 officials will likely only help the Russian economy deteriorate. Greece’s experience with severe cuts accelerated a decline that wiped out about a quarter of the economy and raised unemployment to 25 percent. In June, unemployment in Russia was 5.4 percent, up from 4.8 a year ago.
Despite the firings, the government is still hiring for some positions. Disgraced Italian politician and billionaire Silvio Berlusconi recently said his good friend Vladimir Putin wants to give him Russian citizenship and a job as economy minister.
According to the Daily Mail, the Kremlin was quick to clarify that the offer was “figurative,” and just designed to show support for the former Italian Prime Minister.
After Putin fires the 110,000 officials, he may just need Berlusconi as a friend in the much lonelier government offices.
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