President Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, dear colleagues!
I am very glad to welcome you to our traditional meeting. First of all I would like to begin the discussion by thanking you for supporting the initiatives that were outlined this year in the President’s [Annual] Address [to the Federal Assembly]. Your parliamentary faction and the party in general have shown their willingness to become involved in implementing the strategic programme that was suggested. And therefore to share the political responsibility for its results.
I consider this to be a very worthy, forthright position and I hope that it will lead to concrete, tangible results for Russian citizens. I know that at the May session of the Supreme Council and the General Council the party’s position on the suggestion of having a three-year budget was examined in detail. I would like to say at once that I am thankful that you supported the very idea of a three-year budget, especially on the eve of State Duma elections. This is a responsible and correct approach because we are all well aware that it is difficult to keep emotions at bay during election time. And one could take the budget apart in such a way so that there is nothing left except emotions, however, we must think about our citizens.
Tomorrow, 29 June 2007, the State Duma is already planning to review the three-year budget project in a second reading. In connection with this I would like you to pay special attention to ensuring that the budget supports the priorities laid out in the President’s Address.
United Russia is solidly represented in the federal and regional authorities and could also take the initiative to improve budgetary planning. I am referring to the shift from managing budget expenditures to managing results in order to better ensure that budgetary, material and human resources are allocated as efficiently as possible. It is, of course, easy to say and much more difficult to do, but we must move in this direction.
It is equally important to ensure that the key issues contained in the Address receive timely legislative support. In the economic sphere I am first and foremost referring to the adjustment capabilities and structure of the Stabilisation Fund, support for the high-tech industries and scientific research, as well as for the development of infrastructure.
As we implement these projects we certainly need your party’s support. We will not be able to efficiently and expediently accomplish these tasks without Russia’s leading political force. And I say this in full awareness of the magnitude of the challenges we face. I am not only referring to adopting the necessary legislation, but also to raising public awareness about these issues. Russian citizens must know how these important programmes are developing and their potential impact on Russia’s economic growth. And, in turn, this means improving people’s living standards.
Your party has traditionally paid a great deal of attention to social issues. You actively support the implementation of priority national projects. We expect to see the party participate actively in pension system reform. In particular, we need to carefully analyse all aspects of the creation of pension capital. And by the end of this year I would ask that the issue of the “northern” pensions be resolved through legislative means. I know that deputies have repeatedly raised this issue and when touring the country I always get asked the same questions by Russian citizens. We are able to resolve this problem today and we must do so!
One of the most pressing problems we need to resolve today is the modernisation of public utilities: eliminating sub-standard housing, engaging in a comprehensive housing renovation including by improving dilapidated housing when possible and, if not, then demolishing it.
Already by the beginning of 2008 the Housing and Municipal Services Sector Reform Fund should amount to 240 billion rubles. We both know — you have been working on the budget for many years now — that this is a significant amount of money, and especially significant when used to launch a reform. But I would especially like to draw your attention to the fact these are not resources to simply be “consumed” or just used for renovation – they are rather resources to get on top of the problem. Of course, to solve this problem we need to engage in concrete actions, including the renovation and demolition of dilapidated and sub-standard housing. However, most of these investments are designed to push ahead with the reform, move it forward, and help precisely those regions that are ready to receive help and accomplish this reform. We need to adopt the corresponding draft bill and then the law without delay. I would add that in 2007 we are planning to allocate 10 billion rubles from the Emergency Fund for primary needs concerning housing renovation and resettling people.
The United Russia party has offices in the Russian regions and the resources to promote public monitoring of reform in the housing and municipal services sector, and of course the party should do so. Personally, I have a great deal of respect for bureaucratic apparatus. It is not possible to do anything without well-meaning, honest and efficient managers but we also know how strong bureaucratic red tape still is, how embezzlement and corruption are still widespread, and that construction, housing and municipal services are some of the most corrupt sectors. Little by little, billions of rubles are lost. For that reason the public and party structures must act as the most stringent agents of control.
One of the key tasks laid out in the Address consists in preserving and developing Russian culture. And in this respect both political parties and NGOs have enormous potential in this field.
Your party could make a real contribution to popularising the Russian language by creating a Presidential Library and replenishing the resources of local libraries, especially those located in rural areas or in small towns.
The most important event of this year will be the State Duma elections. They will introduce a proportional representation system for the first time. This represents a serious step towards strengthening democratic institutions and to increasing parties’ influence in the political system. And of course these elections will address the issue of political continuity and whether the state can continue to fulfil its obligations.
This year’s regional elections have demonstrated that United Russia is ready to contend and compete. (The party received about 45 percent of the vote.) This is undoubtedly a positive party that has evidently declined to engage in populism or empty promises.
I want to once again emphasise how grateful I am. I really see what is happening: the more empty promises there are, the more problems there are. And the more it is incumbent upon responsible people to seriously try and tackle problems — yes, it’s a truism — but it is the only way to achieve better results. I am convinced that tangible actions and real contributions to resolving peoples’ problems are the winning elements in any election campaign.
During the election campaign the party should involve groups such as youth and non-party professionals more actively. The party would provide them with a good opportunity to engage in state or party work.
I am confident that the forthcoming elections will open up new possibilities and opportunities for people who wish to serve their country.
I wish you success!