24 september 2011

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin takes part in the XII conference of the United Russia party

Vladimir Putin

At the XII conference of the United Russia party

“If we truly want to succeed in our efforts, our focus must always be on the Russian people. Russian families must feel the positive changes in their lives and that is the main goal and meaning of our work.”

Vladimir Putin's opening remarks:

Friends, delegates and guests of the conference,

The United Russia conference commenced its work yesterday. I had an opportunity to attend two committee discussions and must admit that I was greatly impressed by the openness of the discussion and the professionalism and motivation of the people involved in the debates. The conversation focused on the most pressing challenges facing our nation and ways to tackle them. These ideas and proposals will be duly reflected in the party's programme and action plan.

Today, we will finalise our party's list for the State Duma elections and decide who will top the United Russia's federal election list. But first, I would like to say the following.

I am aware that United Russia members, supporters and the delegates of this conference are expecting the Russian president and prime minister to voice proposals on the country's power configuration and government structure after the elections.

I want to tell you directly that we have long since reached an agreement on what we will be doing in the future. That agreement was reached several years ago. However, following this debate as observers, both Mr Medvedev and I said that it is hardly the most important thing who will do which job and occupy which position. What's more important is the quality of work, what results we achieve, and how our people perceive our efforts, what their reaction is to our proposals for the nation's future development and whether they support us. In any democratic society the level of that support is determined at the elections.

As for the political issues such as who will do what in the future, those are secondary, as I have already said. But of course, they also have certain significance and meaning, and we do have certain proposals in that regard. But our first priority for today is to decide who will top United Russia's list at the State Duma elections. I understand that many colleagues, supporters, and members of United Russia have suggested that I top the party's list. I am sincerely grateful to you for that.

It has become a tradition in recent years for United Russia's election list to be headed by the country's president. I believe we should not change this tradition. I suggest that United Russia's list for the State Duma elections on December 4 this year be headed by President Dmitry Medvedev. I believe that this will enhance the party's prestige and will guarantee its anticipated and honest victory.

Mr Medvedev and I have some other proposals with regard to the country's future power configuration and I would like to ask him to share them with you during his speech at the conference today.

Vladimir Putin's address at the United Russia party conference:

Distinguished delegates of the conference, friends,

We have gathered today to finalise our plans for the future. We are facing enormous challenges: we must build an innovative economy and strengthen democratic institutions. But if we truly want to succeed in our efforts, our focus must always be on the Russian people. Russian families must feel the positive changes in their lives and that is the main goal and meaning of our work. Only then can we count on the support of our people.   

The global economic downturn hit hard every nation in the world and undermined their ability to secure their citizens’ incomes and to safeguard national industry and the welfare system. Not every country was able to pass this test. The root of the crisis was not in Russia, but it was our country that was among the hardest hit and faced a deeper slump than many other nations. Nevertheless, we managed to withstand these difficulties. Most importantly we protected the interests of the people by increasing as opposed to decreasing the level of social benefits.

Naturally, we could not solve every problem. Many people lost their jobs and faced salary cuts. It was simply impossible to help everyone who needed support, and hopefully, people will perceive this with understanding.

But we kept our word and prevented the repetition of destructive shocks of the past. We did not allow the return of poverty to our daily lives and did not let the crisis erase all the achievements in demography, healthcare, education, and the welfare system in general. We extended employment support to over five million people.

Mr Medvedev mentioned in his speech that we will continue building up our efforts in tackling the unemployment. I am happy to report today that not only have we reached the pre-crisis employment rate, but we have also reduced the unemployment rate to a lower level than before the crisis. 

Even at the peak of the crisis, real incomes continued growing, albeit modestly, due to increases in pensions, benefits and public sector salaries.

The elderly were among the hardest hit during the crisis. Hence we ensured that our pension indexation plans were not cut short. Despite all the difficulties, we fulfilled our promise to increase pensions by 45% in one setting. And this year, we continued the indexation, raising the pensions by additional 19%.

We extended support to domestic producers and prevented large-scale company shutdowns and bankruptcies. As a result, our key industries have been restoring their output volumes. Our agriculture not only has stood the crisis test, but has also survived two years of drought. This year will see a record harvest of 90 million tons.         

I would like to congratulate and thank our farmers for this achievement. Russia has returned to the ranks of the world’s leading agricultural producers. In the coming five years, we will achieve a nearly complete self-sufficiency in almost all types of produce.

That is very important, indeed. We managed to curb the double-digit inflation which devalued pensions, savings, and salaries. For the third consecutive year, inflation has been at the lowest rate in the entire recent history of Russia. This year we may have a deficit-free budget. The economy has been steadily recovering, which is our shared victory. It has become possible due to the diligence and talents of our workers, engineers, farmers and the business community – millions of people who have been working hard.    

In fact, they did more than work hard. I travelled a great deal throughout the country and could see the hardships people faced during the crisis. The great majority of people not only did their duty and worked hard, but also managed to maintain a positive outlook. I want to thank the citizens of our country for their understanding and support, and for their achievements.  

Friends, we have come through this challenging period with confidence and dignity, but by no means should we take things for granted. We must objectively and realistically assess the situation and our capabilities. We should honestly admit the dependence of our economy on the natural resources and the market, the dangerous levels of income disparity, the high levels of violence and corruption, the sense of injustice and insecurity people feel when dealing with government institutions, courts and law enforcement agencies; the administrative barriers to initiatives in business, public service and social projects. Unfortunately, these negative phenomena are still widespread in our country. We can and must eradicate them.    

Russia has repeatedly achieved breakthroughs worthy of its greatness, strengths and talents, its cultural wealth and shared values that hold together the united and indivisible Russia. I am confident that we have sufficient energy and determination to achieve even greater objectives and goals. And it is our national economy that should spur the new development prospects.  

Today, the Russian economy grows at the annual rate of 4%, whereas the most developed nations have annual growth rates of 1% to 2%. These figures should not mislead us, however, as in absolute terms those 2% amount to more than our 4%. At the current growth rates we will fail to strengthen our positions and most importantly, will not be able to ensure modern and quality living standards for our citizens. We will fail to maintain our scientific, educational and human potential and convert it into new achievements.   

The leading economies of the world remain unstable and continue to generate systemic problems. The modern world is full of risks that we cannot control. We must be strong to safeguard ourselves against any shocks.

The main precondition for that is to ensure that our growth rate is much bigger than the one we currently have. We must recover the pre-crisis growth rates of 6% to 7% per year and then join the ranks of the world’s five largest economies in the next five years. This is an absolutely feasible objective. 

Moreover, this growth must be qualitatively different: based on advanced technology, increasing efficiency and newly created modern industry, rather than on mineral resources.

As they say, a country works when its factories are working, but they must work on a different technological foundation and in an entirely new business environment. We will dramatically upgrade or create at least 25 million modern jobs in industry and the public sector. In effect, we will modernise every third job – this is our priority national goal for the next 20 years.

I’m convinced that Russian business must become the driving force of our development projects. I’m referring to the generation of entrepreneurs that is increasingly gaining ground, creating competitive production lines and innovations and occupying the leading positions in the national and world markets.

We intend to continue improving the business climate and to implement fair principles of competition, as well as stable and predictable economic policy. Therefore, we are going to discuss all draft laws concerning business with the business community to rule out the possibility of any barriers in the way of business initiative.

We must have the most advanced technological regulations. Every project must have the shortest possible road from the planning stage to the opening of a new construction site, plant, factory or shop without any additional costs or red tape. We must support business by prioritising the construction of infrastructure facilities. This is important for all people in this country. We will double road construction in the next ten years.

We will definitely help our companies that are trying to conquer foreign markers with modern products. All niches are occupied and it is difficult to get in. We will use the capabilities of development institutes and invest in fundamental research here in Russia and advanced R&D as well as the national innovations system.

In the next five to ten years we must almost completely re-equip our army and navy. We will involve not only our defence enterprises but also our civilian industrial and engineering companies in this effort. I see the increased State Defence Order (SDO) to be a major instrument for upgrading our industrial defence complex and the rest of the national economy. To allow enterprises to steadily improve their planning and work the SDO will be placed for three years ahead rather than one year as today. This will help enterprises substantially improve their  performance.

We must make the SDO system much more effective. We must buy quality innovative products for public needs and the social sphere; we must create a system that will reduce corruption and ensure maximal transparency, starting from the purchase plans and ending with the implementation of the contracts.

Our integration projects must encourage the development of domestic business. The Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan is in force. The Common Economic Space – a more advanced stage of integration – will become effective on January 1 of next year. We will continue moving further towards the formation of a Eurasian union.

The tax system must also be tailored to economic modernisation and be fair – those companies that live off natural resource royalties must pay higher taxes; lower taxes must be the privilege of those companies that are involved in innovation and production, that are building new enterprises and launching new business lines. This is fair because the latter’s risks are higher.

I’d like to make one more point. Speaking about social justice, we must admit that wealthy people, whose number is steadily increasing in this country, should pay higher taxes than the middle class and the majority of the population. This applies, above all, to taxes on consumption, real estate and other property. At one time we agreed to have a 13% flat income tax. This is one of the lowest income tax rates in Europe and the rest of the world. I know all about the criticism on this score and the attempts to revise it.  But I’d like to repeat that we did this to help business develop and not only that. We wanted to allow our rank-and-file citizens to increase their pensions and receive bank loans and mortgages. We are not going to renounce this policy. However, speaking about the business aspect of this issue, society has the right to expect that entrepreneurs will think not only about maximum profits and minimal costs but also about their employees. When all is said and done, it is the people who make a business venture successful.

We hope that our domestic companies will actively invest in social projects and our culture, education and personnel training and will help civil society develop charity and volunteer programmes. In a word, we hope that business will share in the life and concerns of Russia together with its citizens.

Incidentally, just yesterday we discussed administrative monitoring of our tax policy at the government meeting. Some things that are usually inconspicuous have suddenly come up. I will explain what I’m talking about – the authorities must treat the people properly and if mistakes occur through their fault they must redress them.

I’m referring to the following issue. In the last few years we have built a normal accounting system for taxes on the private property of individuals. But some mistakes had piled up because this was the formative period. Some mistakes were made in addresses, personal information and even the amount of taxes charged. As a result, the accumulated debts reached almost 30 billion roubles. These were transport, land and property taxes and even taxes that no longer exist, but some people owe money to the government. The number of people who have become involuntary debtors through government mistakes has reached almost 36 million. But the main problem is that to clear up these alleged debts and prove their good faith, people have to waste their time and energy on appealing to courts and collecting papers. In the meantime, these debts entail more penalties.

Therefore, I’d like to ask the Finance Ministry, the Federal Tax Service and our Duma deputies to submit proposals on changing the legislation so that erroneous tax debts accumulated before January 1, 2009 could be written off in a simplified manner, without judicial procedures. This will show once again that we have a hard-and-fast rule – our state serves the people and not the other way round. We must not only remember this but also act in this manner.

We have pushed back the demographic crisis that threatened Russia’s very existence. Just think of it – only recently, this country lost a million people a year. In 2008-2011 more than six million people were born in Russia – a record number in the last 20 years. The average life span has increased by more than three years since 2006, and this is a very good figure compared to other countries. In 2013 the average life span in Russia is expected to exceed 70 years.

We are still behind our European neighbours. We must consolidate the positive demographic trends and ensure that the population gradually increase. Demography is an indicator of society’s wellbeing and a government’s effectiveness.

We have always emphasised the need to create and consolidate a truly massive middle class in Russia. Today this class is mostly people who are carrying this entire country on their shoulders. They are entrepreneurs that produce real commodities and services, qualified doctors, school and college teachers, industrial workers and engineers, scientists, cultural figures and farmers. They form the backbone of this country. These people are building the future.

I’m convinced that every working person in Russia must be able to earn a decent wage. Economic growth and higher labour productivity must lead to a fitting increase in the standard of living. We spoke about this during the opening of the congress yesterday and I’d like to repeat that by the end of 2014 the average wage must be increased by 1.5 times to reach about 30-35 thousand roubles per month.

Wages of public sector employees must be raised considerably. Wages of qualified specialists employed in this sector must not be below the average for the given region. We already adjusted federal public sector wages for inflation by 6.5% on June 1, 2011. We said then that we would look at economic performance again and, if it permitted, we would adjust them again. Now I can tell you that this is possible. Starting on October 1, 2011 we will increase the federal public sector wage fund by another 6.5%.

In turn, the regions will have to adjust the salaries of their public sector employees, and we will help them do this. In two years the wage fund in healthcare will be increased by 30%. Next year the salaries of teachers will match or exceed the average in all regions without exception.

We will do this not in two years as we planned and promised but earlier. Teacher wages at all higher education institutions should also match the average in their specific region in 2012. I’d like to emphasise that the growth in wages, especially in the social sphere, should encourage a professional and honest attitude to labour, so that education, healthcare and other social areas should meet the needs and requirements of our people.

We will invest in professional development for teachers, resolve the issue of ungraded schools, especially in rural areas, create an accessible educational environment for people with disabilities and create the conditions that would attract young people to work in schools.

We must pay special attention to school sports. There is one modest but good proposal – to provide modern equipment to all school gyms by 2014, when we will host the Olympic Games.

In five years we will have one million more school children than now. The birth rate is growing and we are all happy about it, but we must think now about expanding the number of seats at schools, building new ones and repairing old ones. In five years we must build at least a thousand schools and repair all schools in hazardous condition – unfortunately, these do exist.

We must by no means forget about preschool education. Almost 1,900,000 children are on the kindergarten waiting list. At one of United Russia meetings we mentioned the figure of 1,700,000 but now we already have 1,900,000. This is a very high figure.

In the next few years the regions must eliminate the shortage of places in kindergartens. We must do everything to ensure that our children grow up in normal conditions, that Russian families receive real, tangible assistance from the state. We must allow women to go back to work and regain their qualifications after childbirth – this is a very important task.

And I’d like to make one more point. Kindergartens are not simply buildings. They are groups of educators who care about children. Therefore, we must raise the social status of preschool education workers by all means. This is the prerogative of the regions and I’d like to ask the United Russia deputies in regional legislative assemblies to pay special attention to increasing the pay of preschool education workers.

We must make real changes in healthcare, and moreover, our people should be able to see the results of these changes. Patients must know about the responsibilities of doctors and other medical workers so that they may urge strict compliance with their rights as patients. We must admit that many citizens are dissatisfied with what is going on in many healthcare establishments. Our people must know their rights and be able to urge compliance.

We will provide special support to rural healthcare. As I have already said, we will give up to one million roubles as a resettlement allowance for doctors that come to work in rural areas.

We have started implementing two programmes to revive our medical industry and pharmaceutical production. We must end our dependence on transnational corporations. The main goal is to provide our people with quality medicines at affordable prices.

I believe we must extend our programmes for doctors to mid-level medical personnel. All regions must do this. We will work to this end and provide aid if need be, but we must get to work.

In early September we proposed special mortgages with reduced interest and minimal down payments for young teachers and the Teacher’s Home project on housing cooperatives for schoolteachers. Discussions during primary voting have shown that people support this project. I think it is worth expanding. This is what we should do.

Therefore, I’d like to ask the future Duma and the government to donate free federal land for the cooperative construction of housing for all public sector employees without exception – doctors, school and university teachers as well as cultural professionals and  social workers. This is the right and fair thing to do.

I would like to ask the regions to join this project and help build infrastructure facilities with their funds as well. Each family in Russia must have the prospect of solving their housing problems. This is an important goal, one of our priorities. By 2016 we must practically double the construction of modern, affordable housing. But the main criterion for us is not simply square metres but a real opportunity for Russian families with various incomes to make a home for themselves in a new house or flat.

After we bring down inflation, we must further reduce mortgage interest rates in the near future. These are market phenomena, and so I want to be very careful, but I’d say we must approach 6.5% - 7% in the next few years.

Affordable housing also means reasonable and fair utility prices. We must resist any attempts to pick the pockets of the people. Managing and utility companies must not get away with unjustified bills for heat, electricity and water. We must maintain strict oversight.

We have now made a very important and tough decision to limit rate increases charged by the majority of natural monopolies to the annual inflation rate. As you know, we made only one exception for Russian Railways, considering their duty to ensure safety and make repairs throughout the year.

The decision not to allow the rate increases of natural monopolies to exceed the inflation rate should curb the growth of housing and utility prices. We plan to adopt a comprehensive approach here. There is a proposal to establish a social quota on communal resources within whose limits the utility rates should not exceed the inflation rate. But those who waste electricity and water or those who have many flats will certainly pay more. This approach is only fair. It will also encourage people to be thrifty and promote the introduction of new technology.

Needless to say, we will honour our commitments to people who are entitled to public housing. Together with the regions we will fully meet our housing obligations to the veterans of World War II. In the next two years all those who are on the waiting lists in the Armed Forces and the Internal Troops of the Ministry of the Interior will receive permanent housing. We will continue providing housing for employees of other security and defence agencies.

In the future, service members will be able to receive flats according to a set plan. They will not have to wait for years, as was the case until recently. The military and employees of law-enforcement agencies must have a full package of social guarantees for themselves and their families and salaries that adequately reflect their enormous responsibility. Considering the hardships of military service, their salaries should be even higher than those received by qualified specialists and managers in leading industries.

Starting on January 1, 2012 we will increase the wages of enlisted personnel of the Armed Forces and the Internal Troops, as well as of employees of Interior Ministry bodies. Starting on January 1, 2013 the personnel of other security and defence agencies will enter the new system.

There is one more issue that we must decide without any further delay – military pensions. The pensions of all military personnel will increase by 1.5 times on average on January 1, 2012 regardless of what departments they belong to.

People say with good reason that they must have the opportunity to lead a decent life and make a career for themselves, earn money and give a good life to their children not only in the capitals and major cities but all over the country, in any town or village of Russia. Herein lies enormous potential for our advancement, for the exploration and development of the vast Russian territories. To do this we must make full use of the principle of federalism as a competitive advantage.

We must also support and consolidate local self-government. We will grant more powers and funds to our regions and municipalities, but the local bodies will have to bear greater responsibility for their work.

We must encourage the regions that are carrying out their development programmes and increase their revenues. We must make sure that they have a stake in collecting more of their regional taxes.

As we have discussed this with our colleagues who made it through the primaries, the regions in turn must acquire instruments and institutions for supporting municipalities. We must do all we can to support territorial self-reliance, self-organisation, volunteer participation and the active involvement of public organizations and businesses in regional and municipal life. This is a crucial factor in building people’s trust in government and the authorities at all levels.

Solidarity and the efforts of ordinary citizens are particularly important today. We must ensure that the civil society oversee the bureaucracy, put forward rational initiatives and promote honest people to infuse fresh blood in the government. We must not be afraid of an engaged society but support it in every possible way.

Our policy must be absolutely truthful, honest and consistent. Only then will United Russia continue to be a party that people trust, a party that has a constructive agenda to offer the nation; only then can we ensure stable national development, peace and social harmony.

We have established the Popular Front, which has quickly developed into a broad public coalition and given opportunities to people outside the party and even members of other parties, to many energetic and caring people, to influence government decision-making and implementation efforts.  The Front is a source of new members for United Russia and a venue for a search for new approaches and ideas. We must determine our priorities not from the armchairs of our offices but, as I’ve already said, together with our people and in their interests.

We have worked together on our programme of future actions for almost five months. It incorporates the initiatives and projects of the regions, public organisations and our citizens, or rather our voters. All in all, we have received more than a million letters, appeals and amendments to our programme and the legislation. Society is showing tremendous interest in and readiness for discussing all kinds of problems. These proposals amount to a popular mandate. We must scrutinise these proposals, select the best ones and make them the foundation of our work for the next five years.

We have many outstanding issues yet. We still have to implement much of what we have planned. We must improve much in our economy, the social sphere and the lives of our citizens. I’m confident in our ability to achieve this, and we will do this on the basis of national consolidation and with a reliance on broad public support and on all social strata and civil society institutions. We will succeed by pooling our efforts.

We have already entered a lengthy election cycle. The elections to the State Duma will take place on December 4, to be followed by the formation of its committees and government bodies. The presidential election is scheduled for next spring. I’d like to thank you for your positive response to the proposal for me to stand for president. This is a great honour for me. Thank you.

I hope for your support in the future. After the presidential election, we are scheduled to form Government of the Russian Federation.

These are all very important stages in creating the foundation for political stability in Russia, without which we will not be able to steadily develop the economy or raise the standard of living. The elections to the Duma are the first step in this direction.

On this point, I’d like to address all those present, all United Russia members, our supporters and all citizens of Russia to support United Russia at the Duma elections and to vote for its candidates headed by Dmitry Medvedev.

I’m sure that United Russia will win, and Mr Medvedev will have the public support to form a new, effective, young and vigorous administrative team. I am sure he will head the Government of the Russian Federation to continue our work to modernise all aspects of our life.

Thank you very much for your attention. 

Vladimir Putin’s closing speech:

Friends, colleagues,

We are facing the elections as a broad coalition together with people representing almost all strata of Russian society. Our team has many bright and strong people. New politicians have emerged. As I said before, more than half of the candidates on our list have never taken part in federal elections before. More than 100 candidates are not party members.

Our programme is based on people’s initiatives. In fact, it is a programme that fully represents people’s interests. Over the next five years we will be guided by it in our work. We will tackle the challenges facing our society and address the issues that concern our people. We will work hard to make sure that every person is in demand, that everybody can fulfil their potential and be certain of their own and their children’s future. No place in the world has so many opportunities for creative endeavours as Russia. No place in the world has such vast opportunities for hard work, knowledge, energy and talent - no place but Russia. No place in the world has such resources and such spiritually strong people as Russia. Russia has everything it needs to achieve truly great aims, to achieve success. And our guiding principle is to keep moving forward. Our strength lies in the trust of our people! Together we will win!

 * * *

Friends, colleagues,

Once again I would like to thank you for the work that we have done today and for the joint efforts that have led us to this day. As Mr Medvedev just said and I agree with him, a lot of work lies ahead: the presidential election, forming the parliament and the government. In accordance with the current legislation we will have to make more decisions at this conference today. That is why I would like to thank you once again and announce that the conference is not over and will continue after a break.

Thank you very much.