Media Review

17 february, 2012 13:46

Komsomolskaya Pravda: Five steps in Putin’s social plan

By 2012 Russia will have become a social welfare state. A quick review of current government spending will bear this out. Over half of all budget spending will be allocated for social needs, or about 27% of the GDP.

By 2012 Russia will have become a social welfare state. A quick review of current government spending will bear this out. Over half of all budget spending will be allocated for social needs, or about 27% of the GDP.

During the global financial crisis of 2008 the government not only fulfilled its social commitments by paying wages and pensions without fail despite a sharp drop in revenues, but it also sharply increased social spending to maintain living standards.

The government has proved its capacity to honour its commitments. However, during economic upturns society’s hopes tend toward more lofty aspirations like social justice. The key issues here are the growing inequality and social stratification, various aspects of demography and the need to upgrade social services, primarily by developing healthcare and education and creating a comfortable environment for everyday life.

In his programme article “Building Justice: A Social Policy for Russia,” Putin suggested a clear-cut plan of action that consists of the government’s response to the demand for justice. His new plan consists of five steps.

Firstly, the state will step up its demographic improvement policy. Today, the average life span in Russia is already higher than it was during the final Soviet years of 1990-1991. However, it is necessary to strengthen the positive trends of a decreasing mortality rate and an increasing birth rate. Putin proposed introducing special benefits for the birth of a third and subsequent children in demographically stagnant regions in the amount of a child subsistence minimum payable until the child reaches three years of age. In practical terms, this would amount to about 7,000 roubles a month. Putin also reported the government’s intention to carry out a programme on priority improvements in housing conditions for families with three or more children. Women with children will receive support in finding jobs, including remote employment.

Secondly, Putin announced a sharp increase in the salaries of education and medical workers. He set the goal of doubling the average salary of professors and lecturers over the average in a given region in 2013-2018. Increased pay must be provided immediately for those who have research achievements and enjoy the respect of students and graduates. The target for doctors and researchers is the same as for higher school lecturers – 200% of the average pay across the region by 2018. The stipend for students with good academic performance will be increased by an average of 5,000 roubles a month. At the same time, the government intends to expand the practice of providing scholarships and grants to those who show outstanding results in their studies and research.

The third step is to ensure a reasonable lifestyle for the elderly. The government will continue increasing all categories of pensions. At the same time Putin proposed drafting a fundamentally new pension policy for the middle class so as to give people broader opportunities for making a responsible choice in solving retirement money problems. To achieve this, it is necessary to develop the funded component of the pension system. The government can and must pay its retired workers enough for food, medicine, clothes and other basic necessities. But the funded component will allow pensioners to afford a more typical lifestyle.

The fourth goal is to restore the prestige of professions. Putin believes every person must have an opportunity to work in his chosen occupation and upgrade his professional skills. It is necessary to draft a national plan for the development of professional standards and an open data base of members of professional associations.

Trade unions should join the efforts to consider opportunities for expanding by law a workers’ participation in the management of business. Russia is facing another ambitious task – to reestablish a professional labour status. By 2020, this status should make up at least one third of all skilled workers – about ten million people (25 million including their families).

The fifth step is to resolve the housing issue. It is impossible to do this without accelerating the construction rate of new housing, offering new mortgage programmes and developing more rental options. Putin suggested a resolute reduction in mortgage rates. It should decrease in parallel with the reduction of inflation. The government will also encourage the development of savings and funded mechanisms.

Putin emphasized the need to create a more comprehensive rental market on a par with increasing opportunities to buy flats. This market must have transparent rules. Putin suggested drafting additional programmes for a non-profit rental market for prospective low-income tenants. He believes that together, these measures can make new housing affordable for 60% of Russian families by 2020 and resolve the issue in full by 2030.   

Putin’s five steps are intended to allow Russia build a modern social welfare state and to make a breakthrough in the quality of social services and living standards. The government is setting forth a well-considered plan for meeting society’s requirement for justice at the right moment. Putin’s new plan is aimed at building a nation based on the principles of justice for Russia.

Pavel Danilin, political analyst