President Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, dear colleagues,
Today, at what has now become a traditional meeting for us, we will of course discuss the past year’s work and will look at issues concerning the Federation Council’s future work plans.
I would like to begin by saying that the upper house has worked productively over the last year and I think its work has had results. This has contributed to both houses of the Federal Assembly, along with the Cabinet, being able to make considerable progress in putting in place the legal framework for social policy and harmonising tax, budget and administrative relations. This has made it possible overall to strengthen the legal foundations of our state-building work, including by putting in place the legal foundation for the merger of Russian regions, where justified.
The Federation Council’s participation in special parliamentary committees also deserves a positive evaluation. I think that we need to continue developing this kind of parliamentary work. The question of putting in place the legal framework for the mechanism of parliamentary investigations is already being examined. I hope that giving this process a legal basis will make it possible to tighten public control over the activities of the state bodies of power and local self-government.
I would like to draw your attention in particular to all the work connected with carrying out the priority national projects. The initial measures for their implementation were presented at the meeting on September 5, which you attended. Two of your colleagues – Sergei Mikhailovich Mironov and Svetlana Yuryevna Orlova – have been named members of the Council for the Implementation of Priority National Projects.
At its first meeting on November 29, the council gave instructions to complete work on putting in place a system to monitor and control the implementation of these projects. I expect the Federation Council to take a serious and active part in this work. The work programmes of your committees and the plans of your analytical and expert services should also be focused on this work.
Keeping in mind the projects’ objectives, the most important thing is to examine very attentively the laws coming before the Federation Council. Once legislation has been approved, equal attention should be paid to ensuring that it is implemented effectively. This concerns above all the law “On the Federal Budget of the Russian Federation for 2006”.
Taking into account planned and projected financing for social needs and agriculture, general federal budget expenditure on education and agriculture will increase by more than a third in 2006. There will be a 60-percent increase on healthcare spending and a four-fold increase in spending on the housing sector. This represents considerable resources and it is crucial that this money reaches the designated recipients and that it gets spent as effectively as possible in order to ensure the beginning of systemic modernisation of these sectors.
Only by working together can we achieve these objectives, only by ensuring the participation of all the ministries and agencies, the regional and local authorities, and by getting the general public involved.
The Federation Council can and should play its own important part in this respect by representing the interests of the Russian regions.
I think this is important for several reasons.
First, the success of our national projects will depend to a great extent on what happens in the regions.
Second, the changes to the way regional governors are elected and the electoral system reforms that have taken place give the regional parliaments and the political parties a greater role in implementing state policy.
This very month you will be examining the federal law that gives the political parties that win in regional elections the right to propose to the President of Russia a candidate for the office of regional governor.
The ongoing improvements being made to the power system in the regions will undoubtedly give the Federation Council greater potential and possibilities for political influence. This also means added responsibilities for your work as senators.
As legislators and representatives of the Russian regions, you are responsible for the practical implementation and the legal quality of the legislation in force.
In this respect, I would ask you to concentrate on further work on the draft Water and Forest Codes and on the law “On Mineral Resources”.
The ownership, use and disposal of natural resources should work for the benefit of the entire Russian people and serve the interests of all our country’s citizens. It should also serve the interests of the people who live on the territory where this or that company is developing our natural resource wealth.
You are aware of the specific proposals for delegating powers that have already been drawn up. I ask you to take an active part in examining the relevant draft law on this matter. Unfortunately, the Cabinet has still not put its final proposals together and is drawing out the matter of taking a decision on this issue.
But I think at the same time that the Federation Council could be bolder in putting forward its own draft laws, first working them through in detail and providing the necessary preliminary financial calculations, of course. In this way, the Federation Council would play a full part in this process along with the other bodies that have the power to initiate legislation.
To repeat my main point, the Federation Council can and should work as part of the system to develop the country’s economy and social sphere and to create the conditions that will enable us to realise the immense potential of our vast country’s regions.
I would like to end on this note for now and give the floor to Sergei Mikhailovich Mironov.