President Vladimir Putin: Dear colleagues,
Today we are to take a thorough and detailed look at all the issues connected to providing for our pensioners.
This is not just an extremely important part of social policy. It is an issue that concerns the quality of life of millions of our citizens – our fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers. These are people who over their lives have given this country their labour and talent, their souls and their health. And when needed, they also came to the defence of our country.
They are certainly entitled to expect respect and decent treatment from society and from the state.
Russia today counts almost 30 million pensioners. It is already known and has been well calculated that elderly people will grow as a share of the total population. This means that we must think seriously about how to guarantee them a decent life today and in the future in their old age.
This is a key task for any state that claims to provide for the welfare of its citizens.
You know that we have never made empty promises and have always fulfilled what we said we would do. I ask you therefore to approach today’s discussion in an equally serious manner in order to come up with the appropriate instructions for the government, and then ensure that these instructions are carried out. We should work in the same way that we have done up until now, that is to say, we should ensure that economic growth has a direct positive impact on peoples’ lives and brings about an increase in their quality of life.
Using the resources at our disposal we have already made a lot of progress on a number of problems and resolved others. To name a few, we have ended the shameful situation where pensioners waited months to receive their pensions. This has now ended. Not only has this practice ended, but we have paid practically all our debts in this area, which is extremely important. Now we must use this foundation to move further.
Average pensions in absolute terms have more than tripled over the last four years. Of course, absolute terms do not mean much given that inflation is still quite high and prices are rising. I heard a lot about this today when I met with veterans. But nonetheless, pensions have had a real increase of 82 percent over the last four years. This is the real increase that takes into account inflation, and this is a decent figure.
The amount of money the federal budget allocates to financing the law “On veterans” has increased 10-fold since 1999.
Important, though still insufficient, measures have been taken to improve medical care and provision of medicines. The number of social establishments for the elderly has risen considerably. They should, of course, be of better quality. The Pension Fund has carried out a number of projects, but this concerns above all the regions that have been hit by natural disasters.
The situation on the pharmaceuticals market has been improved somewhat. Consumer goods prices rose by 12 percent, but prices for medicines have increased by 7 percent, that is to say, they are almost twice as low.
I would also point out the support programme for pensioners is being actively implemented at federal, regional and municipal level. I imagine that you will have your own experience to share in this area, because the regions are very active here.
As I said, prices for consumer goods rose by 12 percent, while the cost of medicines rose by only 7 percent, but for pensioners this still represents a lot of money as their incomes are low. We cannot yet say that we have lived up to all the population’s expectations.
Pensions are still too low and the quality and variety of social services is still wanting. There is a lot of geographical inequality in terms of developing the social infrastructure, which is particularly lacking in the countryside.
These and other questions were all raised today, questions such as the quality of medical care, the possibility of getting necessary medicines at affordable prices and help with paying housing and utilities bills. Finally, there are also moral and psychological problems. The elderly people did not talk about them today, but they do exist. These are problems such as loneliness and social adaptation to old age. We should not allow the attitude to persist that looks at everything along the lines of ‘what are you old fogeys on about now.’
One thing is clear – we must make our social policy regarding the elderly more effective and increase its impact.
In this respect, we must above all thoroughly analyse and adjust our social legislation. We need to make clear the responsibilities of each level of power and also be clear about the financial resources this will need.
We can no longer accept a situation when the law declares peoples’ social rights but does not make clear the responsibility of specific state and municipal agencies to ensure these rights. I very much hope that the law on division of powers that has been approved will be fully implemented. The government and the State Duma, together with the active involvement of the regional heads, must come up with an optimum approach for resolving this task and ensuring that the responsibilities to be taken over at regional level really are carried out.
It is not enough to just mechanically pump more money into the social sector today. What is needed is a tangible increase in the quality of services provided. This requires forming a real market for social services and being more active in introducing innovative forms of social assistance.
Of course, we also need to modernise the way the social system is financed. Social establishments should receive money not simply because they are part of a budget-funded agency, but for providing specific assistance of the proper content and quality to specific people.
We must also develop the network and the material and technology base of social services. Particular attention should be paid to developing the social services infrastructure in rural areas.
We also must come up with new legal and organisational means of providing social housing for pensioners, including pensioners living alone, and we must develop a system of targeted subsidies to help needy pensioners pay their housing and utilities bills.
In conclusion, I once again want to say that this meeting must become the departure point for large-scale, systemic work to develop social support for pensioners.
As we are in St. Petersburg and our meeting coincides with the 60th anniversary of the lifting of the Leningrad blockade, we should also turn our thoughts to the problems of the people who lived through this blockade. This is a separate issue, but I think that in moral terms it concerns the state in general. I heard a lot from veterans, first at one meeting today and then at a second, right after the commemorative concert. I heard about many things that had escaped the state’s attention. There were people who lived through the blockade as children and people who had been injured or left disabled as a result of the enemy’s shelling the city. These people get no attention from the state and this is absolutely unfair.
There is also the situation in which some people who were awarded the medal “For the defence of Leningrad” receive support from the state, while others, who were awarded the same medal, receive no support. I think this is very unfair. People are right when they say that not so many of those who lived through the blockade are still around today, and it is quite difficult to divide them into different categories. Therefore, following my meeting with the governor of St. Petersburg today, we should also draw up the appropriate instructions for the government in this respect. We need to work on all these issues together, in stages perhaps, but we need to be clear and precise about what we are doing and explain to people what exactly we have planned and what timetable we have set for our work.