President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon, dear colleagues.
A year ago we agreed to coordinate our efforts to overcome a major economic crisis. As the ruling party, United Russia was responsible for the situation in the country and played a very active and significant role in these efforts.
In the federal and regional parliaments and local councils, United Russia supported virtually all the measures proposed by the President, the Government Cabinet and the country’s Central Bank. Naturally, they moved quickly to enact the legislation necessary to stabilise the money supply, safeguard the bank deposits of individuals and organisations, and protect the national credit and financial systems.
Regional leaders, many of whom are members or supporters of the party and of course are present here today, also generally managed to do what had to be done and worked conscientiously.
Anti-crisis offices took action and continue to operate in every part of the country. First and foremost their activities were directed at cooperation with trade unions and other non-governmental organisations, directly with companies and the workers who faced the most severe economic problems, and of course with the citizens whose welfare was under direct threat.
Thanks to the cooperation of civil society, United Russia and government authorities at every level, the negative effects of the global crisis have been alleviated to a very significant degree. Of course we would all like to reduce those effects to zero, to eliminate such consequences entirely. Alas, no country in the world can do that, and we are no exception. Yet we were able to minimise the damage. The government – and by that I mean all of us here – has successfully met its social obligations, and that is what is most important.
I must stress that carrying out such commitments is of course essential but is not in itself enough. We need to ensure the resumption of economic growth and increase in incomes of our citizens. How? I spoke to this issue in my Presidential Address [to the Federal Assembly] and so there’s no point in simply repeating myself.
Nevertheless, I will say a few more words about the state in which we currently find ourselves. A backward commodity-based economy, which in the modern sense of the word can hardly be called an economy, cannot guarantee substantial and sustained national prosperity. Our social well-being is highly dependent on factors over which we have no control, on the fluctuations and vagaries of global market conditions.
True, other countries are in a similar position to some degree. But our country's dependence on global situation and foreign markets is extremely high. And this is bound up with the structure of our economy. That is why our country needs a new economy, a smart economy based on intellectual superiority and the production of highly specialised information, aimed at continuously improving our quality of life through the creation of new technology. Such an economy is crucial if Russia is to remain a global power. We simply have to create one.
This will help us achieve a decent standard of living for everyone. Really, if we remain a supplier of raw materials, we’ll just go round in circles and begin to deteriorate as a result. Therefore, to maintain its dominant position in the political system, the challenge for United Russia is clear: it must not only stabilise the situation in the country but also modernise the economy. That is your main task.
Being the ruling party entails great responsibilities. I hope that everyone here understands that such situation is not life-long privilege. It can only be maintained by hard work, adapting to life’s changing circumstances and responding to new challenges.
United Russia is not an ordinary non-governmental organisation. Rather, it represents real political power: it is a party of leaders and managers, the party in power. Practically all our government elite are in your ranks, as well as outstanding scientists and artists, public figures and entrepreneurs, representatives of all ethnicities, professions and religions, veterans and young people. For this reason Russia’s citizens justifiably expect you to do more than simply promote modernisation, or merely party or parliamentary supervision of what happens – we have enough supervisors. Citizens have the right to demand specific results.
I believe that party representatives should play an active role in projects that have social importance such as improving energy efficiency, the domestic production of medicines, broader access to information networks, and setting up e-government.
Once again I would like to draw your attention to the need to revamp the entire system of social relations. Government bureaucracy should refocus on the search for talent individuals and encourage people to become modern citizens. Support for gifted pupils, students, stimulating the creativity of scientists and entrepreneurs – all this is the foundation of an innovative economy. It will not be established by bribes and kickbacks, but rather through the creation of new competitive advantages.
Only well-trained, prepared, modern, smart people, inventors of new products, services, and technology are capable of creating a knowledge-based economy, while government and business must be both customers and the direct consumers of these innovations. They must also provide jobs to those who can invent new things. And as you yourselves know perfectly well, thank God there are many such people in our country.
Dear colleagues and friends,
Our political system must match the interests and convictions of intellectually curious, free, enterprising, socially aware, talented people. During the first few years of the new century, we strengthened and organised the institutions of our democratic country, and succeeded in this. This year, together we took important decisions designed to modernise our country’s political system.
Now I would like to once again thank all members of United Russia who supported my proposals. I expect the same support in further work on developing democratic institutions at the regional level. I recently laid out the main vectors for this work in my Presidential Address [to the Federal Assembly]. United Russia will be able to make changes only to the extent that it can change itself – I think this is self–obvious. The party must always be modern so as not to become obsolete, keep up with life and its own voters.
Unfortunately we have to admit openly that some regional representatives of both United Russia and other parties are guilty of this. They occasionally show signs of a retrograde mentality and reduce political activity to intrigue and games. Elections are intended to be an expression of the popular will, a contest of ideas and programmes, but as a result they sometimes turn into exercises in which democratic procedures are confused with administrative ones. We must simply get rid of these people and at the same time these bad political habits as well.
In the end democracy exists not for parties, those in government or in opposition, but for citizens, so that people can exercise their exclusive right to determine their government, to decide how their country is to be ruled, and the party is only a tool, a very important tool, it’s true, an absolutely necessary one, but only a tool, a means, not an end.
I am confident that United Russia will be able to eliminate all these administrative excesses. Your authority in society has been very high. After all, in your ranks there are some genuinely famous, very popular people. It is necessary to modernise the party, make it more flexible, more open. You need to learn how to win, we all need to learn how to win in a fair fight.
Although this is a party matter, I want to say a word about current discussions concerning amendments to the [party’s] Charter. First, they provide for the compulsory participation of party representatives in political debates during elections at all levels and, secondly, the nomination of candidates on the basis of a preliminary party vote, the so-called primaries. These are good ideas, and it is a sign that United Russia has chosen the right road for itself.
I would like to sincerely wish party members, everyone present in this hall, and all members of the party new successes and achievements. I sincerely hope for your support. And I am confident that together we will serve our country with honour.