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    MOSCOW, March 19, 2004 (RIA Novosti) - At a session of the College of the Finance Ministry and the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, President Vladimir Putin said that the transformations of the economy must not be made at the expense of the citizens, but rather, for their benefit. "People must feel the positive effects not in the long term but during the course of economic transformations," Mr. Putin said.

    Mr. Putin has told the Government to decrease the number of people living below the poverty line by 10-12% within three years, not the four years that Minister of Economic Development and Trade German Gref had proposed.

    Mr. Putin also called the audience's attention to the system of privileges for those who need social support. According to him, the privileges must be targeted and just. He told the audience to consider a mechanism to transform outstanding budget mandates into money payments.

    Mr. Putin also said that in the future, the size of pensions should be above the minimum subsistence level. "It is also very important to encourage additional pension savings and to interest skilled specialists to continue to work after they reach pension age," the president said. "People must have the opportunity to earn pensions that are higher than the minimum subsistence level."

    Mr. Putin called upon the Government to raise mortgage, educational and consumer credits for the population. He noted that an adequate legal basis, which is not burdensome for the participants in the financial markets, needs to be rapidly created.

    He also reminded the audience of the necessity of ensuring the defense of depositors' rights. According to him, a basic law on insuring deposits has already been adopted, and now it is necessary to create a functioning system of such insurance.

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