Putin Spells Out Purpose of Social Plan
President Vladimir Putin acknowledged on Tuesday
that increases in federal spending designed to improve living
standards were part of an attempt to win people's trust and
keep the current leadership in power.
"In recent years -- the last five, six
years -- we have consistently implemented a certain economic
policy. It is producing tangible results," Putin said as
he opened the first full session of a council set up on his
orders to implement the social projects.
"And only by working in this way day after
day, year after year, can we hope to receive a mandate of trust
from the citizens of Russia to pursue this policy further,"
said Putin, who assumed the presidency nearly six years ago,
at the start of 2000.
Under Putin's plan, dubbed "national projects,"
the government is to pump an additional 138 billion rubles ($4.6
billion) in budget funds into health care, education, agriculture
and residential housing next year. The government is also supposed
to attract an additional 42 billion rubles through funding outside
the budget and state-backed loans for those areas next year.
The additional money will go toward salary
raises for some medical professionals and teachers, residential
housing construction and state-sponsored mortgages for young
professionals, as well as the construction of new medical centers
and purchase of new equipment for hospitals, clinics and ambulance
While the sectors Putin has designated are
seriously lagging behind, opposition politicians have criticized
the initiative as an attempt to curry favor with the public
and create a feel-good factor ahead of the presidential election
Putin said the extra funds would increase federal
spending on education and agriculture by one-third. Health care
would receive 60 percent more funding, while spending on residential
housing would quadruple.
"It is clear that even as recently as
a couple of years ago, funding on such a scale was the stuff
of dreams," Putin told the council, which met in the Kremlin
and included senior government officials, senior members of
both chambers of the parliament, representatives of the presidential
administration and regional leaders.
Putin warned, however, that the multibillion-dollar
project could fail due to a lack of government efficiency and
an abundance of red tape.