President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Colleagues,
We have met here to discuss drafting the Presidential Address. In addition to members of the Presidential Executive Office, major representatives of the Russian Government are also present here today. I hope that we will discuss the many existing ideas, as well as specific suggestions regarding the Address, and many other issues directly related to it.
Lately, I have been bringing up this subject at various meetings. I have met with the leaders of United Russia [political party]; in two days I will be meeting with the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, and at the end of the week, I will meet with other parliamentary parties, so I will have multiple occasions to further talk about it.
I would like to draw your attention to the fact that this year, we have fundamentally changed the approach to preparing this Address. Before, the major concepts and content of the Address were only made public on the day when the Address was delivered by the President to the parliament. But I have decided to experiment this year and do it differently. Following the publication of my article [Go Russia!], which was released on September 10, 2009, we have seen a new trend in discussing its ideas, because in a sense, the article itself is a summary of the Address, or its framework – one that I suggest using in our work here.
At the same time, the article was an invitation to everyone wanting to debate problems of our nation’s development to join in on the discussion. In my view, it is of a principal importance that this document be discussed by everyone concerned – i.e., by entire Russian society.
Since my article contains quite a detailed strategic policy outline, I think that the Address should be more specific and provide concrete responses to the issues the article raised. Suggestions are pouring into the Presidential Executive Office, the Cabinet, and the presidential websites. They also pop up in general discussions on various subjects on the Internet. This trend seems to be persisting actively. More than 13,000 comments and proposals have come in from individuals, political parties and public organisations in the five weeks since the article was published.Of course, this is not just a matter of how many suggestions we received, although that, too, is important, since it demonstrates the degree of discussion and shows that there is interest in the problems that were addressed. What’s most important is that a wide variety of participants are expressing their opinions through this social discourse. We are hearing from a multitude of very different people: businesspeople, scientists, students, and the expert community. I see all of this as a good, successful turn of events.
Colleagues, I would like to hear your comments as to which of the proposals made by the public have already been taken into account in the Address, and which are currently being reviewed and assessed – particularly in the context of their financial feasibility, as after all, in preparing the Address and analysing various suggestions, we cannot ignore the current financial situation. We should be realistic in understanding our financial capacities, but we must nevertheless learn to dream. We must consider which of the suggestions may be useful for our post-crisis development, because right now we will not be able to use and incorporate all of them into the Address. But I think that we must nevertheless continue this work.
The discussion covered nearly every topic that I touched on in my article. The greatest number of the comments so far received concern issues of economy, science, and national technological modernisation – these topics accounted for about one third of the responses. There were many interesting arguments on what should be done to advance the five areas of technological modernisation addressed by the Commission for Modernisation and Technological Development of Russia’s Economy, of which I am the chair. I think that we will discuss it briefly.
We are searching for answers to a variety of questions that concern us: what we will do after the crisis, whether the Russian government and Russian economy will learn new lessons from this crisis, or whether the development our nation’s economy will always be held hostage by its current reliance on raw materials. I think that the answer is entirely clear to us. Still, yesterday and the day before, I spoke with representatives of business community and public organisations, and none of them have seen any changes. None of them perceive that we have learned any lessons from the crisis. And yet, that is our goal, the goal of everyone present here: the Russian Government, the Presidential Executive Office, and the President himself. I hope that the Address we prepare will be oriented toward the future too.
There are many questions that remain unanswered. For example, why is it that our intellectual excellence, which we are very proud of, has not resulted in economic achievements? Why is it so difficult for us to use this intellectual potential to serve our average citizens? These seem like general questions, but they have entirely concrete, specific significance and implications.
As part of our modernisation efforts, we should create powerful, modern research and development centres. In order to do this, we need specialists and people ready to work in those centres. Thus, I think that one of our challenges is to attract expatriate scientists who, for various reasons, are currently living and working abroad. Incidentally, I received and carefully read the open letter from such scientists regarding the development of fundamental sciences and Russia’s future, which was submitted on September 9 of this year. It was signed by about 150 people – well-known individuals who are clearly not indifferent to the future of our nation. It contained many critical assessments of how things stand in regard to science in Russia. There are some very concrete suggestions on what we should do in order to really convert our intellectual potential into economic results.
I believe that we will need to look into all of this, and perhaps we can even draft a special Address on this topic.
There is another issue we pay close attention to: the problems regarding our schools and our national education initiative, entitled Our New School. I spoke about it in last year’s Address. Currently, we have prepared this document, but we need to think of how it can be implemented in practice. I recently met with teachers on Teachers’ Day. Of course, they all expect us to progress from these conceptual documents to actual work on modernising our schools. Recently, we have been able to make some advancement in this area; what’s most important is to keep going, especially since we have declared that next year has been declared Year of the Teacher.
Certainly, there is no point to go into specific technicalities at this time. There are particular issues to be reviewed at this meeting – we should discuss a number of suggestions and their eligibility for the Presidential Address. We will do this as well.
I suggest that we begin working. Thank you.