President Vladimir Putin: Good day dear colleagues!
Our meeting and today's session will largely be devoted to results: we must not only evaluate the results of work on the national projects and on the demographic programme, but I also think that we need to talk about the gas supply in Russia, because this is directly related to the well-being of millions of our citizens. And today we also need to determine the key directions of our future long-term endeavours.
In fact, we need to answer a crucial question: how will the national projects be continued? We have just discussed this issue with Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev and with the leadership of the Presidential Executive Office. I would also like to hear the opinions of Council members on this issue. We need to first of all answer the question of how best to use the experience we gained from the national projects to implement a modern social policy, a policy founded on the promotion of human development, the creation of an innovation economy and the formation of a harmonious society.
I would stress that the reassessment of the content and priorities of state work is also a result of the national projects. Let us remember that until quite recently, not everyone fully understood the value of an effective social policy for the economy, society, and the country as a whole. Social policy used to be perceived as social security in the bleakest sense, and in comparison with attractive and interesting topics such as financial assets, exports of natural resources, oil and gas, social policy was unattractive and, therefore, left behind. Nevertheless, as I have already said more than once, social policy is the most important thing for all levels of government and administration.
What exactly are we referring to when we talk about the innovative development of the economy? Why are we talking about increasing the country's defence capabilities and developing a number of sectors of the economy? All of this does not make any sense if individual people do not feel the impact, and the impact is felt precisely through social policy: education, health, housing, and a normal social environment in agriculture. As we know, about 40 million people in the Russian Federation have profound links with agriculture. Russia is a country that lived through fundamental social changes and now has a new market economy, but the remnants of the Soviet social system have lasted for many years.
Many said correct things at meetings and called for action, many sitting in the right places applauded these sentiments, but for years people's lives and the Russian social sector did not change. Even at the beginning of the 21st century the mortality rate was significantly higher than the birth rate, schools and hospitals continued to deteriorate, and truly high-quality health care and education were only available to people with high incomes, and whoever had such means generally preferred to travel abroad for these services.
The influx of new staff into schools and clinics virtually stopped, the prospect of having computers and the Internet in schools remained a distant dream, especially in rural areas.
I repeat that this is not a snapshot of bygone days, but rather a short excursion into our recent past. In 2005 when we announced the national projects, for the first time in Russia's recent history we virtually declared that the individual is our most important asset and our main priority. And we didn't simply say it: we also confirmed this position through political will, and concentrated considerable financial, material and administrative resources to this end. I wish to draw your attention to the fact that we did this wisely, slowly, and by taking into consideration the macroeconomic implications of the decisions we took. Last year inflation in Russian went beyond the expected parameters, but this had no connection to the implementation of the national projects, because expenses in these areas were calculated and, I repeat once again, included in the macroeconomic development indicators. I will not go now into specific figures and measurements – I think we will hear about these in detail from Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev. We will hear reports from those responsible for each area of work.
I will simply say that the vast majority of the tasks set out in the projects have been completed. Moreover, the projects have acted as an important impetus for the development of other sectors: science, high-tech and, yes, for the entire economy. We were able to resolve a number of social and economic problems and to restore confidence in the government in the most fundamental areas. In any case, people saw that at least we started to do something in these areas.
Making social responsibility a part of public life and providing real support for such significant social undertakings was extremely important. I see our most important result in the fact that we have developed a modern project-oriented approach to public administration and budgetary planning. I consider that these mechanisms should continue to be used and developed. Now the main work must be done at the regional and municipal levels with, however, the most effective participation by the federal government.
Dmitry Anatolyevich and I just talked about this: if we dissolve our current structure, our Council for the Implementation of National Projects, and it ceases to exist, we will not be able to effectively influence these topics in the regions. Because — and the leaders of the regions are here with us today — in the regions there are always a lot of different problems: you need to build, upgrade, buy new equipment. We know what accompanies all these investments. And the most important thing, the most important thing and one that has always lacked funding is social policy. Without due attention from the federal government, without financial, administrative and political support, we cannot see these activities through.
Today, it is reasonable to argue that we selected the right goals two years ago, and that they should continue to be our long-term national priorities, in fact, part and parcel of our ideas for Russia's development between now and 2020. The government is now working out the practical details of this concept.
Overall, the focus should be on creating a modern social environment for the individual, one that works to improve his or her health, education, housing, working conditions, competitiveness and personal income. Now I would like to identify the key aspects of this policy.
First of all, we need new mechanisms to include the institutes of civil society, experts and professional communities in the process of creating social programmes, as well as in evaluating their effectiveness. In fact, already today we have to start implementing a public audit of all the decisions and actions of the authorities in the field of social policy.
Secondly, we need to create a viable competitive environment in the social sphere. Until the state is actually competing with itself, we will simply be going in circles or, in any event, there will be no competition.
It is time to increase the number of suppliers of social services: this will provide additional choices for individuals, will force public employees to do better, and give a new impetus to the development of small business and entrepreneurship.
Thirdly. A new social policy must be implemented on the basis of the latest innovative technologies. I draw your attention to the fact that I am not only referring to the re-equipment of educational facilities, medicine, construction, or work in the agricultural complex, but the main thing consists in new techniques and methods of implementing social policy. Today we need to introduce modern management approaches and to employ highly qualified, forward-looking managers.
Of course, all of those involved must be personally active and select professional teams to help them achieve their goals.