On March 7 of last year, the Central Electoral Committee published the official results of the presidential election. I would like to talk to you about what has happened during the past year, the decisions that have been made, and the problems that we have had to face, but first of all, I would like to once again thank everyone who went to the polls and voted for me to become the President of our nation.
This past year is, of course, more than just months on a calendar. Over the past 12 months, many events have taken place, which have very seriously affected the current state of affairs and life in our nation. These events have forced us to reconsider many of the goals that I spoke about at the beginning of last year, and have generally changed the situation in our country.
What has influenced this process? There were several factors. In talking about economics, the most important factor was, without a doubt, the financial crisis that exists today in every developed country. In this regard, I would like to say again that I considered and continue to consider the stable socio-economic development of our nation to be one of my most important priorities as President.
Of course, this crisis has significantly altered our plans, but I would like to specifically emphasize that despite all of these difficulties, we must continue to move forward.
It would be foolish to pretend that nothing is happening. For example, it is clear that one of the ambitious tasks that I had laid out at the beginning of last year at several major conferences – the creation of a world financial centre in Moscow – is no longer one of our primary goals. But it does not mean that we should abandon this idea entirely. On the contrary, the global currency crisis and the situation regarding the dollar, the situation with major financial markets, and the work of global financial structures, puts the task of creating new global financial architecture on the agenda. This means that ultimately, the rouble continues to have the potential to become one of the world’s reserve currencies.
Or, one of our other tasks is to develop an information society. Here, the situation is different: over several years, we were able to connect Russian schools to the Internet. When we began, it seemed that the task was extremely difficult, but we were nevertheless able to do it. And for the people who are watching this blog today, there is no need to explain the kinds of opportunities that access to the World Wide Web provides. I would like to say that in the future, I will continue to personally see to it that despite financial difficulties, the central federal government and the regions will continue to work on this programme and continue to finance access to the Internet in a timely way.
During the crisis, the issue of creating new jobs has become more relevant, but the development of digital technologies opens up new possibilities. And all the experience acquired by humankind can be used by our citizens in many different ways: through the Internet, through digital programmes, and through digital television.
Despite the financial difficulties, there is another goal I spoke about last year, which I do not intend to give up. We must consistently implement all of our outlined plans for resolving the demographic situation in our country. These are the same measures for promoting higher birth rate and lowering mortality that we currently consider to be a priority and which are already being implemented in Russia. Of course, we will need to adapt them to this crisis situation, but that does not mean that they will be halted. On the contrary, you know that not long ago, a decision was made to allow the use of maternity capital to pay off mortgages beginning in 2009 instead of 2010. And as of today, the Russian Pension Fund has given out nearly a million certificates for maternal capital. I believe that this measure will help families who want to have a second or third child, and will help to resolve the problem of acquiring housing.
Of course, we will also continue work on medical issues, such as decreasing mortality rates from heart attacks, strokes, cancer, and traffic accidents. These programs will be financed and, as I said before, the money that was previously designated for national projects will be allocated in full.
I would like to say again that the crisis should not paralyse our movement toward projected goals. After all, during the last three years, we have made real efforts to change the situation in our country and to change the situation in sectors as sensitive as the housing market. We have set a very ambitious goal for 2012, to build no less than one square meter of housing per person, per year. And today we must do everything in order to at least maintain the possibilities of developing the construction sector so as to sustain the resource which we have been working with lately, and try to build as much good, economic housing as possible. Because the construction sector and the building of housing have always had and will continue to have a so-called snowball effect, it will create new jobs and allow us to resolve our most important social challenge, that of providing housing. We will take all the necessary measures to do this. In particular, we are implementing major programmes, with the help of funds that were specifically set up for this task and the aid of the Ministry of Defence, which helps to provide and finance housing for service personnel.
There is another topic that I would specifically like to talk about. As you know, we have addressed the problem of flights from the Far East on multiple occasions. This is a difficult topic, because the cost of a ticket is quite high, and our citizens, people who live in the Far East, have repeatedly raised the issue of creating additional opportunities to fly to Moscow, Saint-Petersburg, or to the southern part of our country. Recently, decisions were made in regard to this problem. I feel that these are important measures, and they serve to fulfil promises we made last year, promises I personally made, when we addressed problems in the development of the Far East. Of course, for now, this is only one step, but it is an important one, because it will allow young people who are in schools or universities, as well as elderly individuals, to fly to Moscow, Saint-Petersburg, and Sochi with significant discounts – nearly 50 percent.
Last year’s events in the Caucasus were a great challenge for me personally, and for all of us. For the first time in many years, Russia had to take military action to protect its citizens, to protect a peaceful population from the aggression that was brought on by the government of Georgia. These events forced us to once again re-evaluate the situation related to asserting our interests in foreign policy.
I feel that the decisions that were made showed the correctness of what was done and showed the necessity of the steps that were undertaken. And what’s most important is that we were able to defend citizens of the Russian Federation and other people who were living in those regions. We were also able to defend the national interests of our country.
There is yet another topic to which I have been giving and will continue to give the most thorough attention: the fight against corruption. The National Anti-Corruption Plan has already been passed – a national plan for fighting corruption, which, unfortunately, is one of the most acute and relevant problems of our society today. Next week, I will be holding a meeting of the Council on Fighting Corruption and I intend to devote more thorough attention to this topic during my next televised talk.