TRANSCRIPT: [Medvedev:] Government report on its performance in 2016

Dmitri Medvedev file photo

(Government.ru – April 19, 2017)

“The Government of the Russian Federation <…> shall submit to the State Duma annual reports on the Government’s performance, including on issues formulated by the State Duma.” (Constitution of the Russian Federation, Article 114, Clause 1, Subclause “a”).

Excerpts from the transcript:

Dmitry Medvedev: Last year, the State Duma discussed and adopted 284 Government proposed bills, which have since become law. New members joined the Duma’s legislative process immediately after being elected. As a result, 91 draft laws proposed by the Government were approved last autumn and more than 270 are still being considered. These include important draft laws designed to improve the quality of forensic examination and the effectiveness of cyber protection efforts and to reduce road congestion and improve road safety.

The State Duma election was the main political event last year. Russia’s strategy for the next political cycle was determined on a single voting day. It showed that people see consistency and responsibility for the decisions taken, the ability to listen to people and honour one’s obligations, as well as winning honestly are the most important elements in the government’s work. Our people voted for stability, but they also voted for development. They expect us to do everything in our power to improve their lives and to make success a fact of life in the country. This is society’s main political need today. I am convinced that this requirement will also feature in the upcoming presidential campaign. The race for the presidency will be difficult, as it always is. However, I would like to point out that we never turned a political struggle into a war, and we won’t do it now. Of course, this doesn’t mean that there are no differences. We do have them, which is absolutely normal. But disputes between our political parties, despite the differences in their views and ideologies, only concern the methods for achieving our main goal, which is to continue to develop our country so as to ensure a prosperous life for our people.

On the political side, we have reviewed our ability to resist external pressure and have seen that we can also move forward to promote our interests. In the economy, we saw that we can do more than just respond to crisis situations, that we can also create new growth drivers. We have taken a new look at our opportunities. And we have seen that we can only rely on ourselves. The sanctions pressure continued, and it will likely last for some time yet, and oil prices were low. Nothing has changed in this sense, but we have learned to use the situation to our advantage as we joined the fight for leadership in domestic and international markets. We are no longer afraid of any challenges, because they provide a development impetus. This confidence in our own strength is bringing its first results. Our economy is growing, although many people, including those across the ocean, predicted an economic catastrophe for us. Today, our progress has been acknowledged even by those who cannot be suspected of being partial to Russia.

Over the last six months, two major rating agencies of the Big Three, I mean Fitch and Moody’s, have changed their Russian economy forecasts from “negative” to “stable.” Yet another agency, S&P, has upgraded its forecast to “positive.” By the end of this year, Russia may return to the category of countries with an investment rating. This signifies additional opportunities for an inflow of funds and for solving other problems.

Last year, our country climbed to the 43rd position in the world competitiveness rating. Our positions have grown for four years in a row, and this happens amid a financial crisis. We consistently advance in the World Bank’s Doing Business ranking of economies, which estimates the quality of a business climate. There are also significant changes here: we have climbed 80 places over the last five years. Ours was the 120th position in the world among 200 UN member states; today we are in the 40th slot. We have been ahead of our BRICS partners for two years now.

The economy is growing more effective and businesses are finding it easier to operate. There are ratings-related successes in such areas as healthcare and education. There is progress, albeit insignificant, in every area of critical importance for national development. This means that we have here not just individual successes but system-wide improvements. By and large, our country is moving ahead.

An increase in life expectancy is perhaps the main result. Since 2006, life expectancy has grown by 6 years to almost 72 years. This is the highest indicator in our country’s entire history. More than 10 years ago, we addressed the demographic problem in earnest. Today, Russia has a population of 146.8 million. We are ahead of many European countries in terms of birthrate. Among other things, this is a result of measures we take, primarily the maternity allowance, monthly allowances for a third child, allocation of free plots of land, kindergarten problem solutions, and helping working mothers.

There is yet another important achievement: the number of orphans decreased from 120,000 in 2012 to less than 60,000 in 2016. This work must be continued.

Secondly, healthcare. Last year, according to the WHO, Russia made it to the top ten countries with the most progress in fighting heart and lung diseases and diabetes, over the past years. Most importantly, the mortality rate caused by these conditions is decreasing.

Childbirth and infant mortality rates are also going down. They decreased by almost 75 percent in 25 years, or the entire history of modern Russia. Since 2011, the infant mortality rate has dropped by almost half, and by 7.7 percent in 2016 compared to 2015. This is mainly due to new perinatal centres.

We have built advanced medical care centres across the country. The number of patients who have received this form of healthcare has grown by an unprecedented figure, three times since 2010. Last year alone, assistance was provided to 960,000 people. When we only started this nationwide project it was available to only 70,000 patients.

We are working on new centres in regions where nuclear medicine, regenerative medicine and modern personalised health technology will be used.

This year, some 34 regions are launching a priority project to develop airlift services. We have allocated 3.3 billion roubles for this. Also, the federal budget sponsored an ambulance fleet upgrade, with 2,300 new vehicles purchased last year.

For a long time, rural areas have been affected by a shortage of doctors. Thanks to the Rural Doctor programme started by United Russia, almost 24,000 doctors have moved to villages to work since 2012. We decided to extend this programme another year and increase federal funding by about 60 percent.

We are trying to restrain any unreasonable increase in medication costs. We support domestic makers. This will continue. It requires new measures. As a pilot programme, six regions are implementing a labelling system to protect consumers from counterfeit drugs. By the end of 2018, all Russia-produced medications must be properly marked.

Even today, one in every four Russian citizens is a pensioner. Last year, we approved an action strategy to support senior citizens. This year, we allocated funds to improve the accessibility and quality of social services for seniors.

We continue to develop the pension system. In 2012, we adopted the Strategy for the Long-Term Development of the Pension System Until 2030. This brought new money into the Pension Fund almost immediately, reduced its budget deficit, and improved the collection of pension contributions.

We continue to improve the insurance mechanism too. We have transferred administration of pension contributions to the tax system. Of course, we encounter difficulties on the way. Last year, we were unable to index pensions in full. We were well aware that elderly people do not have it easy, but we did not promise what we could not deliver at that moment. When it became possible, pensioners received a one-off payment on top of their pensions. Of course, we know that this is not enough. This year, pensions will be indexed in accordance with the law. Furthermore, as of February 1, we went over to a system of indexing all federal social transfers to account for actual inflation. This is the first time we have done this.

The economic situation over these last few years has had a negative impact on these payments, of course. Wages are not high in the country today, but we are taking measures to correct this situation and are looking for additional resources to help those with low incomes.

This concerns, above all, wages for people working in the field of education, healthcare and culture, in accordance with the goals set in the 2012 presidential executive orders.

Last year, we doubled the minimum wage to 7,500 roubles. From July 1 this year, the minimum wage will be increased to 7,800 roubles, and over the next few years the minimum wage will be increased to reach the minimum subsistence level for the working population. We have everything so that we can achieve this.

The Russian Government will also continue supporting the labour market. Unemployment is not as much of an issue today as it was two years ago or in 2009. Last year, there were fewer unemployed registered with employment services than the number of available jobs. The unemployment rate stood at 5.5 percent, and this year we expect it to drop below 5 percent, which is a normal unemployment rate close to the global average.

Only recently, western foundations did not hesitate to recruit employees directly from Russian universities. They simply came and poached the most capable ones. This was a real hunt for talent. Today, we are doing our utmost to overcome this brain drain. Total research spending has increased in recent years. It is also important that this segment is beginning to benefit from private investment as well.

We have increased grants for young PhD and DSc holders. A programme was launched called Mega-Grants, whereby 160 world-class laboratories were created at Russian universities and research institutions, headed by world-renowned researchers from Russia or abroad. Another 40 laboratories of this kind will be created in 2017. These institutions offer new growth opportunities for Russian science. They also include engineering centres and innovation youth centres.

We must foster competition among major Russian corporations for the right to participate in educational projects, which goes for both higher education and vocational training. The education system should be linked to the economy and tailored to meet the needs of employers. Science and technology R&D projects funded from the budget should be focused on the needs of Russia’s industrial sector.

By 2025, schools will be able to accommodate 6.5 million more schoolchildren. The first schools have already been built as part of the effort to meet this target, accommodating 168,000 schoolchildren in 48 regions. We are also working on a project to create a national e-learning platform that would ensure that libraries, museums and exhibitions can be accessed online. In small cities, state-of-the-art integrated cultural centres are being created, theatres and museums renovated. Spending on culture currently stands at almost 100 billion roubles.

More to be posted soon…

[featured image is file photo from different occasion]