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Putin pledges $52 bil. to boost births

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: In Russia, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told his nation's parliament yesterday the country is emerging powerfully from the global financial crisis. But a population decline there, he says, is holding the country back economically.

So Putin announced a $50 billion initiative aimed at helping the Russian people live longer and increase their numbers. Reporter Peter van Dyk has more.


PETER VAN DYK: Russians are big drinkers and smokers, and they die young, at least compared to people in other wealthy countries. They also have fewer children.

James Nixey is at the Chatham House think tank in London.

JAMES NIXEY: The demographic situation is so difficult. It's like turning around an oil tanker -- it just cannot be done immediately and it possibly can't even be done at all.

The government already pays Russians to have more children, but now Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says it will do more.

One Russian officially once offered rewards to couples who gave birth on Russia Day. Nine months before the holiday, he declared "family contact day," encouraging husbands and wives to be friendly.

NIXEY: I think that it's a situation that goes beyond throwing money at it and having national sex days and all that kind of rubbish.

The government knows that, and it is trying to get Russians to take better care of themselves. The last person who tried that banned alcohol sales, but it didn't go very well. His name was Mikhail Gorbachev.

In Moscow, I'm Peter van Dyk, for Marketplace.

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