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Putin Outlines a Broad Development Vista for the Nation

The bulk of Putin’s speech to the Federal Assembly was devoted to the overall development perspective for the nation, detailing a picture of where the country will be moving over the next years. Putin focused first on the issue of the family and the demographic challenges. He said that in the next six years the country would be focused on achieving a steady increase in the birth rate, promising increasing support for children, particularly in low-income families and increased support for families that are interested in having more than two children. This would also include increased support for medical care, including pediatric and prenatal care.

In order to do this, he has created a new program called “Family.” This would target regions where the birth rate is excessively low, in Central Russia and in the northwest. It includes increased housing for families as well as mortgage assistance and tax reduction. There would be further tax reductions on the birth of a third child.

He also focused on the problem of poverty, for which he urged there must be measures to bring it down, including increased care for the elderly. Putin is also focused on alcoholism. While not instituting draconian measures to reduce alcoholism (which brought down more than one Tsarist regime), he reminded his listeners of the slogan “Stop drinking—start skiing!” and to encourage sports programs and new facilities for physical training, especially in small towns and rural areas. He pointed out that life expectancy in Russia now exceeds 73 years, and he is pushing for it to be 78 by 2030, for which, he is establishing another national program “Long and Active Life.”

He turned to the importance he has placed on education and schools. There are over 18,000 school buildings in need of repair, all of which Putin intends to deal with by 2030. In some districts schools are overcrowded, with two and three shifts for many of them. Putin calls on the Assembly to build 150 schools and 100 kindergartens at federal expense to help deal with the problem. Putin also called for another project “Youth Russia,” which would, among other things, help increase the wages and the conditions for teachers, which he has talked a lot about during the last few weeks. The government will build more pedagogical universities for teacher training. He also urged that students who haven’t passed the exam for university be given a second opportunity to take the exam, in order to increase the number of students engaged in higher learning.

Putin noted that the Russian economy had grown at a higher rate than any of the EU countries or any of the G7 countries, in spite of the West’s attempts to isolate Russia. “A huge role in this was played by the fundamental margin of safety that has been made over the past decades,” he said. “Today, the share of non-resource industries in the growth structure confidently exceeds 90%, that is, the economy is becoming more complex, technologically advanced, which means much more sustainable. Today, Russia is Europe’s largest economy in terms of gross domestic product, purchasing power parity, and fifth in the world.”

Putin called out two other new national programs, “Personnel” and “Professionalism.” These address building out the structure of higher education. The present program calls for the construction of 25 new universities by 2030. Putin would like to increase that to 40, and also to build 50 new engineering schools. He also referred to the career guidance system that would begin to talk to young people at an early age about their future educational and professional prospects and interests. He referred to the discussions he had held with members of the Russian Academy of Sciences during its tricentennial celebrations with regard to these questions.

“Domestic scientific infrastructure is our powerful competitive advantage both in the field of fundamental science and in the creation of groundwork for pharmaceuticals, biology, medicine, microelectronics, chemical industry and the production of new materials, for the development of space programs.

“I believe that we must more than double the total investments of the state and business in research and development, bring their share to 2% of GDP by 2030 and, by this indicator, become one of the leading scientific powers in the world,” he specified.

He named three major principles underlying this policy: independence in key technological areas, and “have all the technological keys in such sensitive areas as preserving the health of citizens and food security”; technological sovereignty in critical spheres, “such as means of production and machine tools, robotics, all modes of transport, unmanned aerial, underwater and other systems, data economy, innovative materials and chemistry”; and creating globally competitive products “based on unique domestic developments, including in the field of space, nuclear and new energy technologies….

“Technological sovereignty projects should become the engine of renewal of our industry, helping the entire economy reach advanced levels of efficiency and competitiveness.”

In addition, Putin stressed the need for improving and preserving Russia’s cultural heritage throughout the country. He urged an expansion of programs such as the Pushkin Card, which allow students to visit museums and attend cultural events free of charge. He also mentioned the need to deal with the pollution from Soviet times and during the 1990s when foreign venture capital had entered Russia.

The complete, official translation Putin’s address will be posted to the Kremlin website.