I think there are things of which I and the people who have worked with me can feel deservedly proud. They include restoring Russia's territorial integrity, strengthening the state, progress towards establishing a multiparty system, strengthening the parliamentary system, restoring the Armed Forces' potential and, of course, developing the economy. As you know, our economy has been growing by 6.9 percent a year on average over this time, and our GDP has increased by 7.7 percent over the first four months of this year alone.
When I began my work in the year 2000, 30 percent of our population was living below the poverty line. There has been a two-fold drop in the number of people living below the poverty line since then and the figure today is around 15 percent. By 2009-2010, we will bring this figure down to 10 percent, and this will bring us in line with the European average.
We had enormous debts, simply catastrophic for our economy, but we have paid them off in full now. Not only have we paid our debts, but we now have the best foreign debt to GDP ratio in Europe. Our gold and currency reserve figures are well known: in 2000, they stood at just $12 billion and we had a debt of more than 100 percent of GDP, but now we have the third-biggest gold and currency reserves in the world and they have increased by $90 billion over the first four months of this year alone.
During the 1990s and even in 2000-2001, we had massive capital flight from Russia with $15 billion, $20 billion or $25 billion leaving the country every year. Last year we reversed this situation for the first time and had capital inflow of $41 billion. We have already had capital inflow of $40 billion over the first four months of this year. Russia's stock market capitalisation showed immense growth last year and increased by more than 50 percent. This is one of the best results in the world, perhaps even the best. Our economy was near the bottom of the list of world economies in terms of size but today it has climbed to ninth place and in some areas has even overtaken some of the other G8 countries' economies. This means that today we are able to tackle social problems. Real incomes are growing by around 12 percent a year. Real income growth over the first four months of this year came to just over 18 percent, while wages rose by 11-12 percent.
Looking at the problems we have yet to resolve, one of the biggest is the huge income gap between the people at the top and the bottom of the scale. Combating poverty is obviously one of our top priorities in the immediate term and we still have to do a lot to improve our pension system too because the correlation between pensions and the average wage is still lower here than in Europe. The gap between incomes at the top and bottom end of the scale is still high here – a 15.6-15.7-fold difference. This is less than in the United States today (they have a figure of 15.9) but more than in the UK or Italy (where they have 13.6-13.7). But this remains a big gap for us and fighting poverty is one of our biggest priorities.
Death and Dying