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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

World Bank Warns of High Unemployment

Russia's economy will see a robust recovery in 2010, but unemployment will remain high, the World Bank said Wednesday.

Unemployment is expected to stay at about 9 percent in the first quarter of 2010, "with some improvement throughout the year, mostly a result of higher seasonal employment," the bank said in a report.

The government should have done more to stimulate jobs growth through employment programs during the economic crisis, particularly those aimed at stimulating the startup of small and medium-sized businesses, said Zhelko Bogetich, World Bank economist and country coordinator for Russia.

"There was some support of small and medium-sized enterprises in the government's anti-crisis package, but probably not as much as would have been warranted, given the … hit that this sector has taken during the crisis," Bogetich said, speaking in English, at a news conference. "So I think there's a case here for a more active policy."

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Tuesday rolled out a new 13 billion ruble ($441 million) plan to support small business. The measures, if approved by lawmakers, will more than double the spending that the federal budget earmarked to help the sector this year, Putin said.

The government also plans to increase a program that provides financial assistance to entrepreneurs starting their own businesses, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov said earlier this month. The program, initiated by the government last year, currently provides 60,000 rubles ($2,000) in subsidies to jobless people who want to start their own business and can present a successful plan.

Bogetich said the funding "could play a catalytic role" for small and medium-sized enterprises, but steps to tackle problems like corruption and to educate the labor force would also support the sector.

"Money is part of that, not everything," he said.

Bogetich also said the growth of small and medium-sized firms was key for the diversification of Russia's economy away from its heavy dependency on the oil and gas sector. "I think Russia definitely needs more small and medium-sized enterprises," he said.

The World Bank said it expected that employment in Russia would show a slower recovery than the national economy as a whole.

The unemployment rate was 8.6 percent in February, down from 9.2 percent in January, the State Statistics Service said Monday.

According to the World Bank's forecast, the economy will likely grow by 5 percent to 5.5 percent this year before registering a more moderate increase of 3.5 percent in 2011.

The figures are much higher than those announced by the Economic Development Ministry recently. Deputy Economic Development Minister Andrei Klepach said the economy might grow by 4 percent to 4.5 percent this year, higher than the official forecast of 3 percent to 3.5 percent.