It seems that Vladimir Putin is serious about nanotechnology (perhaps, fashioning himself after Mr. George W. Bush).
WRAP-UP: Putin focuses on demographic, social issues in annual address
May 10, 2006
In his annual state of the nation address to both houses of parliament on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin focused on social and demographic issues.
In particular, Putin commented on the government’s increasing investments in public services.
“Increased economic capabilities have allowed us to allocate additional investments for public services,” he said.
In September 2005 Putin announced the launch of the national projects, which envisage total investments of over 120 billion rubles this year. They include education, agriculture, healthcare and housing projects.
Putin also outlined a set of measures aimed at promoting population growth in the country.
Russia’s population has declined from a historical high of 148.4 million people in 1992 to about 143 million people at the end of 2005, according to Russia’s State Statistics Service.
Putin said that immigration alone would not be able to solve the problem of Russia’s declining population.
Making a bow to growing nationalism in Russia, the president said that immigrants should make efforts to adapt to the Russian culture.
Putin called for adopting a program starting from January 1, 2007 that would encourage couples to have more children. The program should support young families and women making the decision to have a child.
The president proposed increasing subsidies to families, including a larger monthly subsidy to a family for their second child.
Putin went on to comment on his idea of doubling Russia’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 10 years, which he put forward in 2003.
“We seem to be coping with this task and during the past three years the average annual economic growth amounted to 7%. However, I’d like to point out that, unless we get rid of some problems, improve major economic indicators, guarantee a proper level of economic freedom, create equal conditions for competition and strengthen property rights, we are unlikely to achieve these economic goals within these time limits,” Putin said.
For an economy to double within 10 years, it should grow at an average annual rate of over 7.1%. Russia’s GDP rose 7.1% in 2004 and 6.4% on the year in 2005. Russia’s 2006 budget projects the country’s GDP to grow 5.8%.
Putin also called for investing in the energy, communications, space, aircraft, IT and nanotechnology industries to assist in Russia’s economic development.
However, these investments should be carried out without “disturbing financial stability,” Putin said. He did not elaborate.
Meanwhile, obsolete equipment and poor energy efficiency are major challenges for Russia’s economic growth, Putin said.
Commenting on the government’s increasing role in Russia’s economy, Putin said that government investments are necessary but they should not be the only means of economic development.
Putin also said that Russians’ high degree of distrust in the government and big business was a major problem for the country.
Putin said that failed hopes for better living standards during reforms in 1990s were the major reason behind distrust.
He also said that the unprecedented personal enrichment of few at the expense of people had also fueled the distrust.
To emphasize his efforts in the past few years on the issue, Putin quoted U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his speech.
"In the working out of a great national program which seeks the primary good of the greater number, it is true that the toes of some people are being stepped on and are going to be stepped on," Putin quoted Roosevelt's speech delivered in June 1934.
One part of the historical Russian translation Putin quoted - " are going to be stepped on" - was closer to "we will continue to do so" and could have been interpreted as a reference to the so-called Yukos affair. Oil company Yukos has been burdened with multibillion dollar back tax claims since 2003; its major owners and top managers either went to jail or live in exile while being prosecuted in Russia.
"But these toes belong to the comparative few who seek to retain or to gain position or riches or both by some short cut which is harmful to the greater good," Putin said continuing with Roosevelt's quote.
"Great words," Putin said. "Too bad it is not me who said them."
Putin also called for strengthening Russia’s military, noting that the country’s military budget is 25 times less than that of the U.S.
“Their house is their fortress - good for them,” Putin said. “But that means that we also must make our house strong and reliable.”
However Russia should not increase its military might at the expense of economy and social services, repeating the Soviet Union’s mistakes, Putin said.
Putin also commented on Russia’s possible accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Talks on Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) should not turn into “bargaining” over issues that have nothing to do with the WTO’s objectives, he said.
(27.0802 rubles - U.S. $1)