Medvedev Sees Trouble for Putin's Successor

Whoever succeeds President Vladimir Putin could face a considerable slowing of economic growth and even "economic upheavals," First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said in an interview published Thursday.

Medvedev, who is widely seen as a presidential contender, also predicted the next president would face many problems and not be as popular as Putin.

"Development of the state and economy cannot always be even; there are always ups and downs," Medvedev said in a lengthy interview published in Moskovsky Komsomolets.

"The new leader should be prepared to face not only political problems but also changes in economic life. If the situation worsens as a result of economic upheavals, however, things will get extremely difficult for the leader," he said.

He appeared to be suggesting that oil prices, which are fueling economic growth, would not always remain high. Economists say this growth can only be sustained through considerable investment in industry and infrastructure.

Turning to the implementation of the four national projects, Medvedev said housing was the most difficult area, especially in Moscow. Few affordable residential buildings are being built every year in Moscow, while prices have skyrocketed.

Medvedev also said he had detected corruption among officials responsible for the allocation of land for residential construction.

Overall, Medvedev said he was pleased with the implementation of the projects and had not faced any unexpected problems. Medvedev is overseeing the government's plan to sink billions of rubles into affordable housing, education, health care and agriculture before the end of Putin's tenure in 2008.

Despite a recent flurry of activity on the projects by Medvedev, few people are optimistic that life will improve once they are implemented, according to a poll conducted by the state-controlled VTsIOM pollster that was released last week.

Dmitry Oreshkin, a political analyst with Merkator, said Medvedev's only success so far with the national projects had been to raise his popularity.

Medvedev's popularity started at almost zero last fall, when he was put in charge of the national projects. In July, however, 25 percent of respondents said they would vote for Medvedev for president.