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Today in Russian Business – March 5th, 2009

The government’s attempts to boost economic growth and social programs will see spending increased by 650 billion rubles ($18 billion) this year.  In the meantime, Vladimir Putin is apparently ramping up efforts to make it easier to register for jobless benefits.  The process, he says, should take half an hour, not the month that one woman claimed it did.  With unemployment expected to hit 2.8 million this year, the process is set to face a serious test.  Production at AvtoVAZ, completely halted earlier this week, may resume today.  The Kremlin has not yet unveiled its new subsidies on loans for buying cars, but critics already doubt the scheme will succeed.  The ruble is not going to collapse, says Putin, and neither will there be any further sharp drops in its exchange rate.  Bank of Moscow has reported a 61% drop in profits for last year.  A mysterious ‘rumor’ of a world currency? – – or a Putin PR opportunity?