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Succession does not mean “no changes”

February 28, 2008 | RBC

Top-priority national projects could undergo changes following the election

There are only a few days left before the presidential election in Russia. Its results will be announced next week, after the Central Election Commission (CEC) tallies the ballots, but we can already sum up some political results. It can be said that the current presidential campaign is different from anything ever seen or heard in Russia up to this point. Its “general line” was built around the idea of the succession of power and the ongoing pursuit of the existing policies, which all in itself is big news for Russia. Still, what is the meaning of this “succession,” a concept that is fairly abstract for most voters? Formally speaking, it first emerged during the 2000 campaign, although back then the essence of the campaign was in fact to reverse the policy, from the difficult 1990s to overcoming the crisis and establishing order. At the 2004 election, the term acquired a new sound, as the continuation of an “era of stability.” The 2008 election has clearly set a new tone for the concept.

As it becomes clear from wat politicians and government officials are currently saying, today's meaning of succession is far from simply the maintenance of the status quo. Quite the opposite, it is about changes, albeit along the same lines of policy and guided by the same values, but still significant changes. “Even though the economic situation is currently in our favor, we are modernizing our economy only in fragments... If we follow this scenario, we will not achieve the necessary progress in improving the quality of life of Russian citizens,” President Vladimir Putin stated during a meeting of the State Council. “The only real alternative for this course of events (as we have already mentioned before) is the innovative national development strategy based on one of our main competitive advantages: the realization of our human potential, the most effective use of people's knowledge and skills for the consistent improvement of technologies, economic results, and the life of the society as a whole.”

In the grand scheme of things, the President's February speech summed up the results of the first two years of Russia's top-priority national projects. The logic is quite clear: during the first six years, the country was recovering from crisis and accumulating economic resources, and then it began to “invest in people,” which was what the four national projects were about. However, all things are relative, and it has become clear that national projects were aimed at meeting only the most urgent, basic social needs: take for example the purchase of ambulances, the construction of affordable housing. To speak of succession in terms of this policy means that social needs will continue to be the number one priority. Meanwhile, a completely different approach will be used: a more profound systemic approach instead of the pinpoint, need-specific one.

The human being as the focal point, rather than a means, of any state policy is the main objective that the succession concept should lead to. Experts are already mulling over just how this will be done. They believe that the bulk of responsibility will rest with the regional authorities, who will need to restructure their policies in accordance with the new ideology.

Regional leaders appear to understand this very well. “A situation where regional economies used to grow on their own, on old yeast, no longer exists. Further growth is impossible without drastic changes, related primarily to the problem of management efficiency both in business and on the state and municipal government level,” Governor of the Vladimir region Nikolai Vinogradov told an regional economic meeting. This year, the region intends to complete a draft development strategy up to 2027 and a mid-term development plan. Meanwhile, Moscow will complete updating its general city development plan until 2025, with some of the main theses having already been divulged: social responsibility, quality of life, attainment of efficiency and comfortable conditions for the people. The administration is also working on a development strategy until 2025 for the Russian capital.

It is possible that all the new administrative documents being developed in the regions will reflect the ideas proposed by the federal government. The Moscow general plan, for example, no longer centers on housing construction alone. The press has been discussing for several months its ideas for building a new and improved road network, accelerated construction of amenities, relocation of industrial enterprises outside city limits, and building a hundred kindergartens per year. The strategy will concentrate more on forming the city economy, a model that would facilitate a new level of the quality of life.

The list of regions proposing new development programs can go on and on. Most of the initiatives reflected in them are in harmony with the ideas coming from the federal government. In fact, many of the regions started working on their programs before the February State Council meeting, at which Vladimir Putin delivered his “program” speech. This means that the understanding of the need for a new, people-oriented policy has already been reached both on the federal and regional levels. Meanwhile, the main participants of national projects and state programs will be the ordinary people. And, as they are the ones that the new type of state policy is intended for, they should be the first to understand it. Given the decision that Moscovites and their elected deputies made in December of last year, this understanding is there in the Russian capital. Therefore, it can be assumed that Moscow, as well as the other regions, will vote in favor of stability and further steady growth for the years to come. However, any results would be premature until the last ballot has been cast, as that would mean to decline the responsibility for the choice that the future depends on.

Analytical department of RIA RosBusinessConsulting


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