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Dmitry Medvedev focuses his election program on social issues
At the time that President Vladimir Putin was addressing the mass media community at his last major news conference in his incumbent capacity, telling the audience, among other things, he does not foresee any problems in relations with his successor Dmitry Medvedev after he himself moves to the office of prime minister, Medvedev, the favorite of the current presidential race declared his program to the voters.
While Putin acted out his usual tough role of a stringent guardian of state interests, Medvedev displayed himself as an apparent liberal, who mostly cares for the freedom and affluence of an individual.
His speeches by and large revealed emphasis on social issues and people’s pressing needs.
Thursday, candidate Medvedev addressed an economic forum in the East-Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, where he spelt out the four major guidelines and seven tasks for Russia to concentrate on in the next four years.
“We must concentrate on four ‘I’s’, so to speak – the Institutes, Infrastructure, Innovations, and Investment,” he said.
The seven tasks that, according to him, should be solved in the above areas are the elimination of a neglect of law, a radical slashing of administrative barriers, and easing of the tax burden, a rise of the ruble to the position of a regional reserve currency, and implementation of the nationwide social development program.
“We should cross out infringement on law from the list of habits our citizens live by and see to it that legal infractions stop enriching some people and depraving others,” Medvedev said.
He also spoke for a real independence of mass media, saying: “We must defend the real independence of mass media that provide the agencies of power with feedback signals from society.”
One more key priority for the coming few years is to ensure independence of the judiciary from other branches of power and to guarantee “fairness and equal access to the justice system for everyone.”
Medvedev spoke in favor of making the justice system more humane – “first of all, through a mitigation of pretrial restrictions until the passage of sentences, as well as through an improvement of conditions for inmates in jails.”
He believes that all the newly adopted legislative norms should first pass the phase of public discussions and public expert scrutiny.
Medvedev said that people often neglect law because they do not know it properly. Along with it, it is important to change the situation in legal practices.
“Officials, policemen, judges, prosecutors, and businessmen must embark on this course by purifying themselves first,” he said.
One of Medvedev’s proposals was to drastically slash permissions to engage in one or another activity and to replace them with the procedures where people would be allowed engage in an activity upon filing notices about their plans.
Besides, he believes in the importance of handing over a big lump of functions from the state to the nongovernmental sector, saying at the same time that “corruption is the most sinister disease afflicting our society” and it should invite “a really tough resistance.”
On the economic plane, he said he thinks the government should collect taxes in the amounts that do not exceed its real operating needs, and a number of measures are imminent in that sphere over the short term.
He underlined, in part, the importance of introducing a unified reduced scale of the VAT. “Simultaneously, it would make sense to continue analyzing the rationality of another possible step – the replacement of the VAT with a sales tax,” he said.
Medvedev set the task of building a ramified and transparent financial system “that might become a pillar of global financial stability in the future.”
“We’re facing a task of turning the ruble into a regional reserve currency,” he said.
Medvedev mentioned the sphere of energy resource exports and production, saying Russia will definitely fulfill its contract obligations on exports of crude oil and natural gas “without infringing on its domestic demand /for these fuels/ and, at the same time, ensuring the supplies with the aid of lucrative technologies that will help us use our riches economically.”
He singled out the importance of tough sanctions for violations of ecological laws.
Innovative plans and economic changes are feasible on the condition that all people get equal opportunities, Medvedev said, admitting that a half of the country’s population still do not feel the effects of economic growth on their private lives.
“Hence we have alcohol abuse and high suicide rates,” he said. “Unless we create equal opportunities for all people, any slogans regarding innovations and the importance of economic changes will mostly be senseless.”
Every particular individual should be the main target of care in the social sphere, and the whole system of healthcare, education and social security must center its activity on each family and each individual, Medvedev said.
Russia stands in need of a system of continuous and commonly accessible education, he said. “Graduates of universities and junior technological colleges, who get post-graduation jobs, should not start learning anew /at their workplaces/ but, rather, should act as independent carriers of knowledge and skills much needed by the industries.”
In the field of medical care, he made accent on the importance of reducing disabilities and mortalities from the diseases that up-to-date medical science knows how to cure for quite some time already. “For this purpose, the entire system of medical assistance should be revamped,” Medvedev said.
He described the current Russian system of healthcare as the one that has inherited many worst features of Soviet medicine and has augmented them with the most problematic features of commercial medicine.
A way out of the situation lies in “giving people the right to choose an outpatient clinic, an attending physician and an insurance company on their own, Medvedev believes.
Medvedev also mentioned the housing problem, saying a possible solution to it lies in a shifting of priorities from the construction of huge apartment blocks to a mass production of individual houses. He recalled the task that President Putin had set for achieving by 2012, namely, the commissioning of no less than one square meter of housing floor space per person a year by 2012.
On the same day, Medvedev addressed Siberia’s Second Forum of Mothers, where he proposed improvements in the system of levying alimonies. They go beyond computing the alimony as a certain percentage of earnings of one of the parents and presuppose establishing a minimum admissible size of the alimony.
In addition to this, he promised a mechanism of assistance to the families where problems with timely payment of alimonies emerge.
Medvedev told the participants the government has drafted a package of regulatory documents that will put the activity of employers under stricter control.
They envision, in part, shorter working hours for women having children. “These acts will motivate the employers to treat working women’s needs more attentively,” Medvedev said.
He promised increases in the so-called ‘maternal deposits’ that the government issues to women giving birth to a second child and subsequent children. As of January 1, 2008, the deposits increased to 267,500 rubles /USD 1=RUB 24.7/ from the previous 250,000 rubles and are due to go up to 307,000 rubles in 2010.
“With just two and a half weeks left before the presidential election, the favorite of the race, First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev made an offbeat step that can boost his popularity with a sizable part of the electorate, especially with divorced mothers,” writes the Moscow-based Nezavissimaya Gazeta.
The initiative to reform the system of alimonies is destined to produce resounding PR echoes, given the fact that 30% Russian children are being brought up in single-parent families, while a mere 12% divorced males pay alimonies for children, and only from the officially declared part of their earnings, the newspaper says. In reality, the amounts paid by divorced fathers are minimal, as about 50% Russians get wages under the table.