The meeting was held in the Grand Kremlin Palace’s St George Hall. Participants in the meeting included members of the Government, regional leaders, the higher courts’ presidents, the leadership of the Presidential Executive Office, the speakers of both houses of Parliament, public figures and business leaders.
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President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon, colleagues, friends,
In two weeks I will complete my term as President of the Russian Federation. I summed up the preliminary results of our joint efforts in the Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly in December, where I also outlined my vision of our national priorities for the near future. Today I would like to explore them in a little more detail. I will emphasise straight away that the preparation of specific plans for the future Government’s work is a task for the new authorities. These plans must be submitted to the State Duma as part of the procedure for appointing a new Prime Minister. However, I believe that as the incumbent President, I must express my position on the ideology of Russia’s development.
Several years ago I voiced one simple and seemingly obvious idea: freedom is better than no freedom. These words were later repeated by many different people, sometimes with hope, sometimes with reproach, as a demand or a reminder of a promise. After all, there is nothing more natural than the desire for freedom.
Many people perceived these words as my political creed, and that is absolutely correct. I followed this ideal as closely as I could. I will repeat what I said in May 2008, as I assumed the office of President of the Russian Federation: I believe that my most important task is to promote civil and economic freedoms. More freedom for everyone: this has always been and will remain my goal.
I'm surprised to hear idle speculations on the subject of whether the Russian people need freedom at all, or whether they are ready for freedom. Some say that perhaps we have a special national character and we value order, stability and predictability above freedom. Certainly, national identity always affects all public institutions, and that is also true of our country. But it is absolutely unjust and simply humiliating to consider Russia a nation incapable of being free, a nation that does not deserve freedom. On the contrary, the thought of slavery, the subordination of one’s will to that of another is unbearable for our nation. The unshakable spirit of national freedom and courage to protect our own independence is at the root of the most heroic pages of our history and our greatest achievements, all the glorious military victories, Russian intelligence and the Russian character, which united dozens of different peoples into a single nation.
Thus, everybody needs freedom – that is a given. At the same time, any juxtaposition of freedom and order, freedom and prosperity, or freedom and justice is absolutely wrong. I think that we can judge the degree of freedom in society by the opportunities each individual has to do what he or she wants within the bounds of the law and with respect for the freedom of others.
I would like to quote the words addressed to future Emperor Alexander II by his tutor, Vasily Zhukovsky, and which I consider to be absolutely right. He said: “You must love freedom… Freedom and order are the same thing.”
”We started to promote the work of scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs seeking to develop and implement new technology. Today we have a programme to support young scientists and postgraduate students, and to attract leading international experts to Russian universities. All of these programmes should be continued and should remain among the top priorities of the state.“
It is clear that chaos, violence and poverty make people unfree, demean them and threaten their very lives. Man strives for prosperity because, apart from a high standard of living, it gives him freedom. It gives him the opportunity to choose where to live and work, to stay healthy, to feel secure and to help others. People strive for justice so that they can defend their freedom and remain independent from unforeseen circumstances and arbitrary decisions of those who are stronger. Conversely, poverty, underdevelopment, corruption and low life expectancy are the main enemies of our freedom.
Therefore, I consider it a great achievement that we have protected the Russian people from the first wave of the crisis and prevented widespread poverty. We are continuing to create the conditions for improving the lives of tens of millions of families during this difficult period of the global recession. Our economy has been growing at a good pace, and this is the main resource that will help us achieve our social objectives.
I would like to remind you that this year we have the lowest inflation rate in modern Russian history: 4% in the past 12 months. Just think about it: this is a very good figure. Last year inflation exceeded 6%, and our goal is a steady decline in inflation from one year to the next. The unemployment rate in the first quarter of this year is about 6.5%, which is what it was four years ago, before the start of the global economic crisis. We have also fully restored the pre-crisis level of production of goods and services, while the average growth rate of the Russian economy has stabilised at around 4%. This is a very decent rate among major economies.
The official poverty rate in the last two years has been the lowest in the history of modern Russia. But let’s be frank – that’s what we have gathered here for – first, the number of families living below the poverty line is still too high. Second, there are regions where poverty levels are much higher than the national average. And third, the people who fall into this category of low-income families are generally those who deserve it the least: families with children. Often their poverty is exacerbated with the birth of each subsequent child. According to experts, the risk of poverty in an intact family with two children is about 50%, whereas in a family with three or more children it is about 70%. Of course, this situation is absolutely unacceptable and we must reverse it. The solution to all three problems must become one of top priorities for the future Government.
A great deal has been done in recent years to prevent poverty among older people. Today, in all regions of the country, they receive an income that is above the subsistence minimum, and the average income of pensioners is over 40% of the average wage in most parts of the country. Let us admit openly that just a few years ago we could only have dreamed about this. Yet by today’s standards, it still isn’t enough; people always look to the future and very few look back at the past.
Franklin D. Roosevelt said once that “the test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” In the coming months we must determine our policies on some crucial issues, such as how our pension system should develop; what role will state pensions play in the future, whether it will be a form of welfare benefits or insurance against loss of income; what financial instruments should be available to all working-age individuals to help them with long-term savings; how to encourage employers to develop voluntary pension insurance schemes for their employees; and finally, how to create the conditions for active longevity? All these are difficult questions, and we must work together to provide answers to them following a broad public and professional debate.
We have found the resources recently to begin to significantly increase the incomes of those professionals on whom our lives and our future depend the most: doctors and teachers. If they are poor, then society is also doomed to poverty. It is difficult to demand professionalism and efficiency from the people whose opportunities are limited by humiliating poverty. Overall, the average incomes of doctors and teachers have reached the average for the economy. That is a good result but we must go further, and I have no doubt that this will be done.
We are faced with another, more serious challenge: how to simultaneously tackle poverty and create opportunities to improve the quality of life for the people who already have average-level incomes? We have no right to forget about them either. Those who are already investing their money in the education of their children, in improving their own skills, spending it to obtain better health services, to address their housing issues and build their own businesses, such investment in the quality of life should become cheaper and more accessible. I am talking about expanding opportunities for continuing education, radically increasing the effectiveness of voluntary health and pension insurance, making mortgage cheaper and developing mass-market rental housing, so that at least a third of our citizens have the opportunity to acquire housing using their own savings and taking out mortgage loans, as well as benefiting from state support.
”Unfortunately, the current difference in the quality of life between different Russian regions is enormous. This is not normal. The living conditions and opportunities for citizens of a single country must not differ so much.“
Finally, we are talking about the availability of resources to start one’s own business, the elimination of excessive costs associated with business activities, and we all know that the situation in this area is far from perfect.
These challenges will be addressed by the modernisation of Russia’s economy, its technological upgrade and taking education and science, industry and agriculture to the most advanced level. This is the only chance to improve productivity, and hence the incomes of individuals, companies and the state, to give us all the opportunity to freely develop and fully realise our potential.
Figures show that our efforts to modernise Russia’s economy are bearing their first fruit. Investment in fixed assets has almost recovered from the economic crisis and has been growing in recent months at the rate of over 10% annually. Our core sectors are posting the highest production growth rates (not less than 7% per year), including agriculture – which I will speak about separately – which revealed its potential during the drought in 2009 and in the subsequent period.
Innovation-based and intelligent economy is built by smart, creative and critical-minded people. It is built by free people and it makes people free. That is why we started to promote the work of scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs seeking to develop and implement new technology. Today we have a programme to support young scientists and postgraduate students, and to attract leading international experts to Russian universities. We have created a mechanism for co-financing the creation of laboratories by businesses and universities – the objective we have been working hard to reach over the past years.
Finally, the Skolkovo Innovation Centre project has been making rapid progress. Over 400 Russian companies are registered as its residents. Even if only 10% of them succeed – succeed in innovation – this will give Russia a chance to become one of the global technology leaders again. All of these programmes should be continued and should remain among the top priorities of the state and the Government.
We certainly don’t have a shortage of ideas or intellectual potential, and many of our innovation projects are very successful. In order to achieve an economic breakthrough, our priority should be to create a favourable business climate and competitive environment. Yes, we are working on it, but so far we have had little success. At the basis we must have transparent, clear and fair rules that will replace the micromanagement methods of public administration.
Modern economic policy should create the conditions for economic freedom and development of entrepreneurial initiative. The new Government should proceed from that. Any proposal, any draft regulation must be regarded from this angle.
This will certainly require a change in the attitude of the state and society towards business. Let us admit frankly that it still remains mixed. I would like to name five principles that I believe the state should be guided by in making economic decisions.
First. Business activity and talent for business should be considered a vital social value and nothing else.
Second. State intervention in the economy should be reduced to the absolute minimum necessary and be totally transparent.
Third. The position of law enforcement officers must be impartial with regard to organisations with any form of ownership. They should all be protected equally. The practice of using administrative and security resources to gain an upper hand in business competition should remain in the past forever.
Fourth. Regulation should be competitive at the international level.
”The modernisation requires tight partnership between Russia and nations that are leaders in technology. I do not see anything shameful in learning from both the economic and political expertise of our partners.“
Finally, fifth. All parties involved must participate in setting up the rules of the game.
In this context, I would like to emphasise that no reasonable person would deny the need for state regulation in the areas where the market cannot guarantee the security and protection of life and health. But the biggest challenge for businesses and investors is the unpredictable interference of some officials in economic activity and the illegal actions of law enforcement officers, who, as we know, all too often forget that their duty is to protect the rights of citizens, including entrepreneurs.
Based on our understanding of these issues, it is necessary to work in three main directions.
First, it is essential to continue reducing state intervention in the economy. A list of state-controlled companies will be published in a few months, to be followed by a public debate on whether the largest of them should remain under the Government’s control. With regard to all assets for which such feasibility is not proven, the Government should adopt and implement a roadmap of their privatisation in the medium term.
At the same time, state companies will have to stop the takeover of private businesses and to sell off their non-core assets. The feasibility of state investment in the production of any type of goods or services should be publicly justified and discussed. Wherever such investment can be carried out by the private sector, appropriate conditions must be set up. As usual, this will be more effective and simply cheaper.
The same principle should be applied to the functions of state agencies in regulating economic activity. In many cases, I believe it would be appropriate to transfer these functions to the regional or municipal authorities. We have already started this process and it must be taken further, in line with the President’s decisions and the Government’s proposals, and with the consent of the regional authorities of the Russian Federation.
At the same time the process of expanding the regions’ and local authorities’ resource base must be launched. In particular, it would be right to transfer to these levels of government the revenues from the proposed increase in excise taxes on alcohol and tobacco products, while all the subsidies and subventions from the federal budget to the regions should be used without excessive regulation from the federal authorities. Over the past few years we have expanded the resources available to the regions and municipalities to dispose of independently by about a trillion rubles (this figure has been discussed).
I am confident that these and other measures will give an impetus to the development of many regions, which is vitally important. Vasily Klyuchevsky once wrote a brief statement that remains relevant today: “In Russia, the centre is in the provinces.”
Unfortunately, the current difference in the quality of life between different Russian regions is enormous. If the quality of life in the leading regions is comparable to most developed countries, the regions-outsiders are not too different from underdeveloped countries. This is not normal. The living conditions and opportunities for citizens of a single country cannot and must not differ so much. The leading regions should be encouraged, while the rest need help catching up.
The second direction is to increase the predictability and transparency of government regulation, control and oversight. This is especially true of macroeconomic regulation. Frankly, today we have no need to raise taxes. Other methods and resources can be used to implement all our programmes, and primarily they are related to increasing the efficiency of budgetary expenditure.
”The creation of the Customs Union between Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus is a significant achievement. We have significantly broadened our joint market, increasing its attractiveness for trade and investments. We are to move further forward consistently and as rapidly as all participants are ready, by involving other countries in the Customs Union.“
In addition, to ensure the predictability of economic policies and improve fiscal discipline it is necessary to put in place a clear fiscal rule that specifies the maximum amount of state deficit and debt, as well as the procedure for the formation and use of the Reserve Fund and the National Welfare Fund. Such a rule will come into force early next year.
I support the idea of launching the roadmaps this year that are being drawn up as part of the national business initiative. Such joint initiatives of the state and business associations should cover customs administration, construction market regulations, connection to the infrastructure and a number of other very important areas, including the issue of minimising the number of mandatory reports. What is the point in creating these tons of paper, if they are just gathering dust on the shelves in tax inspections, as we all know? It’s a waste of time and money, and time and money can be used in a much better way.
Finally, we must change law-enforcement practices with regard to businesses. It is essential that all the rules laid down by law are followed in the process of improving criminal legislation. In particular, it is necessary to reduce the time of outstanding convictions on a number of economic offences, continue to mitigate detention terms for the duration of the investigation, and expand the practice of replacing prison sentences by alternative punishments. I also support the idea of introducing the institution of a special prosecutor or ombudsman who will protect the rights of businessmen.
The third direction is the implementation of plans to create millions of new, highly productive jobs. Many of these plans have already been formulated, while others are just being discussed. I believe that we should fully realise everything that was declared in the previous years. This applies to the development strategy of the space industry, shipbuilding, creating a modern automotive industry, the pharmaceuticals industry, fully realizing the potential of agriculture, as well as the use of our competitive advantages in information technology, logistics and natural resources processing.
I emphasise that the implementation of these plans can only be based on the creation of truly competitive markets. The state must set an example for the introduction of modern competitive principles by launching as quickly as possible a new federal contract system that should also cover the procurement by state-controlled companies. The most important indicator here is the proportion of small and medium-sized companies in the contracts. The future Government should set preferential terms for them.
Some fear that the implementation of our plans will be impeded by the excessive openness of the Russian economy. But we should not be afraid; instead, we should just work better and more efficiently.
I believe that modernisation requires tight partnership between Russia and nations that are leaders in technology. That is exactly why we adjusted our foreign policy strategy in this regard. It is precisely why we joined the WTO; after all, we need access to the financial, technological and intellectual resources of our partners. We will get it, certainly if we are ready to share our own capabilities. I do not see anything shameful in learning from both the economic and political expertise of our partners who at the same time naturally are our competitors. They have much experience that we lack. We should learn to live freely, but to combine freedom with responsibility.
I think the creation of the Customs Union between Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus is a significant achievement. It is the first supranational association in which Russia is participating. We have significantly broadened our joint market, increasing its attractiveness for trade and investments. Incidentally, this is already resulting in good growth figures. Our real weight in the global division of labour has grown.
We are to move further forward consistently and as rapidly as all participants are ready, by involving other countries in the Customs Union when and if they are ready, of course, and broadening this association. I hope that the new Eurasian Union will, in time, become one of the influential players on the world market.
At the same time, we are ready to integrate more closely with the European Union, the Asia-Pacific region, BRICS nations and other regional associations, but doing this requires openness and trust from our partners. Our country cannot take unilateral steps toward. The movement must be bilateral.
”The modernisation of our economy, as well as openness and responsibility on the part of the authorities, will help with another very important task: the fight against systemic corruption, which more than anything else threatens the liberty and well-being of our people and the progress of our nation.“
This certainly does not mean that Russia is prepared to give up its sovereignty, its protection, or possession of a reliable system for assuring national security. We have begun modernising this system, which had been ineffective.
Armed Forces reform and the implementation of a large-scale state armament program are a clear priority for the upcoming years. We have made necessary decisions on transitioning to a professional army. In five years, the number of draftees will be minimal, while the number of contract soldiers will reach an optimal level of just over 400 thousand. The prestige of military service must correspond to its role in assuring our country’s security. No doubt, this also pertains to monetary compensation, housing conditions, and pensions, all of which we are trying to improve.
Besides, we should as efficiently as possible invest about 20 trillion rubles [$70 billion] in renewing the technical equipment of our Armed Forces. To do this, we need professional appraisals at every stage of implementing the government contract. We must also intensify competition on the corresponding market, however specific this market may be, and build a modern system of research and development on the basis of our best traditional schools and the modern practices of other countries.
The modernisation of our economy, as well as openness and responsibility on the part of the authorities, will help with another very important task: the fight against systemic corruption, which more than anything else threatens the liberty and well-being of our people and the progress of our nation. I have always understood that resolving this massive problem will require time, effort, and an enormous willpower. We will not achieve it through calls to action or media campaigns. After all, we are confronted with very influential and often literally well-armed adversaries. Long ago in ancient China, Lao Tzu said that there is no greater misfortune than underestimating an enemy. But we have declared a war on corruption, we know our enemy, and we will not retreat.
We have legislative instruments for our war on corruption and the prevention of corrupt practices, based on international conventions. We have created them over the last four years, for the first time in the thousand-year history of our nation. Corruption is being prosecuted now and the number of convicted offenders is in the thousands and tens of thousands. We will also be implementing additional measures to fight both so-called big corruption, as well as day-to-day corruption.
Work on these measures, including at the legislative level, is currently progressing at full speed and they should become a part of the National Anti-Corruption Plan. This concerns implementing a system for monitoring officials’ expenditures, additional sanctions for committing corruption-related crimes, the formation of special agencies to investigate them, and mechanisms of public monitoring and assessment of civil servants’ activities. We can only defeat corruption if we join forces with civil society, creating an atmosphere of absolute social intolerance toward any form of corruption within our culture. I emphasise again – any form of corruption. And I suspect you will agree that we have been building this kind of atmosphere in our country over the last several years.
”Understanding that corruption, underdevelopment and poverty cannot be fought only through actions from the top, we have been improving our political system and strengthening our democracy. This year, we are implementing political reforms, unprecedented in their scale in the last 20 years.“
Much in fighting corruption depends on the judicial system and the law enforcement agencies. They should have only one point of reference: the law, before which everyone is equal, regardless of their service rank or other individual factors. In recent years, significant measures have been taken to strengthen the independence of the judicial system, and last year, the first step was made in reforming the police force. Their functioning must become transparent and accountable to society while interference in their activities by authorities must be unacceptable. I am certain that together we are capable of achieving these goals as well.
Understanding that corruption, underdevelopment and poverty cannot be fought only through actions from the top, we have been improving our political system and strengthening our democracy. I instigated the push toward assuring equal access by all political parties to the media, providing technical re-equipment for polling stations in order to minimise infractions, lowering the electoral threshold for State Duma elections and many other measures. This year, we are implementing political reforms, unprecedented in their scale in the last 20 years.
Let me remind you that in 2004 various laws were passed to encourage the consolidation of political parties. At the same time, direct gubernatorial elections were cancelled. At that point, these were absolutely justified measures. An unstable political system that we inherited from the anarchy and oligarchy of the 1990s required reorganisation and rehabilitation. These goals were reached, often by means of addressing every particular situation. Separatism was suppressed. Major parties were able to create factions in all regional parliaments, which had never happened before. These parties became more responsible and the system became more stable.
But, as always seems to happen in line with universal laws, stabilisation is followed by stagnation. Therefore, the question arose about further steps. Should everything be left intact thereby relying on “case by case approach” and making it a permanently functioning norm in domestic political life, or should there be return to more effective development, including through citizens’ direct participation in politics? I think the answer is obvious.
Direct gubernatorial elections, free party registration, and new procedures for parliamentary elections are also evidence of a higher level of political culture in society. Democracy is no longer a dirty word. Its prestige has been restored, and its prospects in our nation are guaranteed. I am certain that political diversity and citizens’ direct involvement in political processes at this stage in our history will not lead to the return of chaos; on the contrary, they will make our state stronger and more effective.
I count on the so-called Open Government system, which is currently being created, to play a special role in this process. The working group has prepared detailed and, in many cases, simply break-through proposals on improving the system of public administration and personnel policy, on developing competition and entrepreneurship, and on countering corruption.
Further efforts of designing this system can consist of four main elements. First are mechanisms of constant and direct information exchange between government agencies, other official organisations, and civil society. The transparency of authorities and their actions is the primary condition for mutual trust within society and the efficacy of state policy.
Second, professional expert communities, everyone who wants to participate in the formation of social and economic policy, must have that opportunity. A special commission could function as a coordinating agency, and the Government of Russia’s Expert Council could serve as the main expert panel.
”The Open Government is a system open for all interested parties, and not just particular respected individuals. Many nations’ experience shows that broader citizen involvement in state affairs results in more successful development of their political and economic spheres.“
One of the goals of these agencies will be to develop key indicators on the efficacy of the Government and its various executive bodies performance, as well as monitoring the process of achieving milestones in cooperation with civil society.
I would further like to emphasise that the Open Government is a system open for all interested parties, and not just particular respected individuals. Many nations’ experience shows that broader citizen involvement in state affairs results in more successful development of their political and economic spheres. That is precisely why I believe it is expedient to improve the institution of public and expert councils under executive bodies, while granting them additional responsibilities.
Third, the Open Government should become another source of constant feedback. As you know, I have always given this matter enormous significance. That is precisely why, as President, I broadened the institution of [presidential] envoys and representatives for particular issues and developed communication with civil society via the Internet, receiving information on how efficiently legislation and measures of state policy were being implemented in practice. I continue to think that this is extremely important for everyone who has any kind of authority. Everyone.
But the Open Government system must also provide opportunities for active citizens and expert communities to participate in preparing government resolutions themselves, ultimately breaking down officials’ absolute monopoly on the development of criteria and assessment of the efficacy of their own performance.
It is certainly imperative to thoroughly analyse information from the media, whose role in this process cannot be overstated. That is precisely why I set an additional resource: Public Television. I hope that beginning next year, it will become an effective instrument for public discussion and increasing the authorities’ transparency.
Fourth, the Open Government is a transparent and effective system for providing government and municipal services that is easy for people to use. First and foremost, this concerns the widespread implementation of contact-free electronic technologies and minimisation of paperwork, as well as the chance to assess the actions of those who provide these services and, of course, the rapid resolution of problems that occur.
When we fulfil our commitment to make the Internet available throughout the entire territory of our country, we will be able to fully transition to the full-fledged electronic identification of citizens and more effective mechanisms of electronic democracy.
One of the main conditions for the efficiency of new authorities is to fundamentally improve training and significantly update the composition of professionals at all levels of government and municipal authority, as well as in areas pertaining to providing public services. First and foremost, I am talking about reforming and developing the system of civil service. Indeed, we never ended this process, but now it has clearly reached a new phase.
A uniform system of tests and competitive examinations should gradually be implemented for civil servants. The value of all benefits and privileges for civil servants must ultimately be substituted with monetary compensations and, together with their main salaries, correspond to the normal market level of their labour motivation. It is imperative to fully use rotation mechanisms, as well as public assessments of the efficacy of officials serving at the government and municipal level.
”I recently approved Concept of a National System for Identifying and Developing Young Talents. The main purpose is to ensure that every child receives full and on-going attention from society and the authorities and has the opportunities to develop their talents and potential.“
Ultimately, we must change the motivation of many people who work in governance bodies today, inspire new arrivals in civil service while considering the future composition of state bodies as none of us will work forever.
We have one big thing we can be proud of, something I cannot but mention now. Last year, for the first time in many years, Russia’s population did not decline. Our country has more children now. Births increased 20 percent last year compared to 2006. Russia now has one million more children under the age of five. This is a big achievement. No matter what bleak scenarios some predict ahead, the birth statistics speak better than anything else about the general situation in the country, people’s living standards, and their confidence in the future. Indeed, these statistics are evidence of people’s confidence in the future.
The increase in births shows that, although we still have much to do, we are creating the conditions and environment in which people no longer fear the responsibility of starting a family, know that they will have the means and strength to bring up and educate their children, and are confident that their children will find a decent place in society and that the authorities and society will come to their aid in the event of big difficulties in life.
Of course, we have made only the first steps and so far probably still have more problems than successes. But I say my sincere thanks to everyone who took part in carrying out the national project in this area. The results achieved have tremendous importance for our country. We must not grow complacent now, not rest on our laurels, all the more so as we still must prepare for the big demographic challenge ahead that has its roots in the 1990s. We must do everything possible to ensure that our children grow up healthy, educated, intelligent, and energetic, grow up as free people who love their country.
I recently approved Concept of a National System for Identifying and Developing Young Talents. The authorities at all levels will use this document as the basis for drafting and implementing specific programmes, the main purpose of which is to ensure that every child receives full and on-going attention from society and the authorities and has the opportunities they need to develop their talents and potential.
Of course, no matter what the field concerned, it is impossible to develop creativity without developing culture too. There can be no underestimating culture’s influence on our people’s social life and outlook. Absence of culture is a perfect breeding ground for increasing aggression, nihilism, and a sense of injustice, as our country has experienced enough times in the past. It is indeed correct to say that educating people’s minds alone, without educating their morals too, breeds dangers for society.
We have positive examples of development in the cultural environment in the regions, and I particularly stress the fact that this is happening in the regions. This is extremely important because, as these examples show, these kinds of projects help to improve the quality of life, raise regions’ investment attractiveness, and increase opportunities for developing human potential.
We must bring culture as close as possible to people, above all to our children, make it attractive and – no less important – affordable for the majority of people, put into place a modern system of support for culture and the arts based on a broad partnership between the authorities and everyone who is willing to invest their money, soul, and energy in this work.
Another critical task is that of training a new generation of professionals for our healthcare and education systems. We have already invested a lot of money in this work and will continue to do so. In the medium term we need to train hundreds of thousands of specialists in these fields. This is not an easy task by any means, but we have a duty to confront and resolve this problem. This is why our country’s universities are now training and re-training specialists in accordance with the new standards. We should get our country’s top specialists involved in this work, including those who were trained abroad, and also bring in highly qualified foreign specialists.
”Critical task is that of training a new generation of professionals for our healthcare and education systems. In the medium term we need to train hundreds of thousands of specialists in these fields.“
Furthermore, we should send a large number of doctors and teachers to study abroad, on condition, of course, that they subsequently return to work in Russia.
Finally, we are to put particular emphasis on training managers for the healthcare and education systems. It is very difficult to achieve any progress in these sectors without managers – school principals and head doctors. We must put in place additional financial and career incentives for people who successfully complete the training under these programmes.
We must achieve a fundamental change in the social sector personnel situation over the next few years. Resolving this task will help us to break down the inequalities in access to quality education. Incidentally, it was very rightly observed that, “Education is a better guard of freedom than a deployed army”. We must develop a system of on-going education that will help people of every age and even in the most difficult circumstances in life. I think it is very important to make use of the non-commercial sector’s enormous potential in the education sector, too.
We must pay particular attention to protecting our children’s health. We need not only institutional changes to the healthcare system, including technological upgrading and introduction of modern management methods, but also mass-scale promotion of a healthy lifestyle and the creation of the conditions that will make this possible.
It is good, of course, that 2.5 times more people benefited from high-technology medical treatment last year compared to 2006, when we launched the national project. This is a direct result of our efforts. But the experts say that preventive measures have an effect many times greater than even the best treatment methods.
Of course, competition mechanisms should work in the healthcare system too, among investment companies, and among hospitals and clinics. Only then will our people have real freedom to choose the doctor they wish to see and the place where they want to get treatment. Russia’s social development is our undisputed priority, and we must and will direct our efforts in all areas towards achieving this goal.
Friends, as I come to my conclusion today, I want to outline the main criteria that I think should serve for evaluating the effectiveness of our state agencies.
First and most important: over the next six years, life expectancy in Russia should increase by four years at least. We have every chance of reaching a life expectancy of 75 years by 2018. If people are living longer, this is proof of our achievements in all different sectors.
”Russia must create at least 25 million effective new jobs, above all in the non-raw materials sectors, which will replace low-productive jobs and create the impetus for development throughout our country’s regions.“
Second, the number of families with an income below the survival minimum should show a stable decrease to less than 10 percent of the population within the next five years, and average per capita income of most Russian families should be in line with our basic criteria of what constitutes the middle class.
Third, Russia should climb from its current highly unattractive 120th place on the international ratings of ease of doing business to at least 40th place, with hopes of making it into the top 20 no later than 2020.
Fourth, Russia must create at least 25 million effective new jobs, above all in the non-raw materials sectors, which will replace low-productive jobs and create the impetus for development throughout our country’s regions.
Unemployment should be brought down to a minimum level of not more than five percent within the next few years. Labour productivity – a difficult but absolutely vital issue for our country – must be raised 1.5–2-fold, thus making the Russian economy more competitive in key global markets.
Fifth, this might seem a small thing, but it is very important. At least five of our universities should be on main global ratings of the world’s top 100 universities. This would be a sign of general improvement in our education system.
Sixth, most Russian families should be able to improve their housing conditions at least once every 15 years.
Seventh, Russia should be among the world’s top ten countries in terms of the level of penetration of electronic technologies in all areas of life. I am sure that we can do this.
Let me say again that if we work effectively, openly, and in coordinated fashion, we will achieve our goals.
The last thing I want to say today is a sincere thanks to everyone who has worked with me together over these years. I have had occasion enough to see your professionalism, decency, and dedication to our common cause. We have achieved much. Our society has changed, become more open and successful. Our country has become a more comfortable and attractive place in which to live. I say thank you to all of you for this.
We have ahead of us many more tasks, much more work to do. We will continue to serve our beloved country, our great Russia.