''You there, the Duma, you gone crazy together with your government!''

About how they were adopting the bill on retirement age in Russia

''You there, the Duma, you gone crazy together with your government!'' Photo: duma.gov.ru

On July 19, the Russian State Duma adopted in the first reading the government bill on raising the retirement age. 328 out of 432 deputies present voted in favour of the bill. The discussion of the reform was accompanied by emotional monologues of both its supporters and opponents, who were found even among the United Russia. The bill was compared with the attack of the Nazis, they threatened with the collapse of the ''Putin's majority'', and the money for pensioners were offered to look among ''silver spooners and prostitutes''. Read more details in the material of Realnoe Vremya.

Not enough for a breakthrough

The dispute over the pension reform in the Duma lasted more than two and a half hours. During this time, outside there was a rally, which among others was attended by representatives of the Communist Party, Yabloko and the movement Left Front. The protesters were holding the posters: ''Pension – to alive people'', ''The pension reform — shame on the United Russia'', ''Enemies of Russia!'' (the poster had caricatures of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov and Chairman of Accounts Chamber Alexei Kudrin). The Communists unfolded posters against raising the retirement age in the assembly hall.

The bill was discussed without the participation of several members of the United Russia. According to Vedomosti newspaper, the sitting was not attended by Deputy Secretary of the General Council of United Russia Sergey Zheleznyak, as well as Vyacheslav Fetisov, Viktor Ignatov, Vitaly Milonov, Nikolay Bortsov, Grigory Balykhin, Dmitry Yurkov and Oleg Kolesnikov. Dozhd television channel reported that Zheleznyak refused to come because didn't want to vote for the retirement age increase (United Russia is the only Duma party that supports the bill).

The government initiative was presented to the deputies by Minister of Labor Maksim Topilin. He reiterated the main arguments in favour of the reform: the parameters of the current pension system, including the retirement age, were adopted at the end of the 1920s, when life expectancy was completely different. Then, Topilin said, the share of pensioners was about 2% of the total population of the country, but now it is 30%: ''Life has changed significantly, we cannot stay in the 30s of the last century.''

The government initiative was presented to the deputies by Minister of Labor Maksim Topilin

The main goal of the reform is to increase pensions for non-working pensioners, the official continued. There were times when the government had to index pensions below inflation. In recent years, the amount of the indexation, as a rule, was less than 500 rubles per year. Does this mean that the Pension Fund has problems? No, the minister answered himself — but the available funds are not enough for ''breakthrough solutions''.

''This bill is like June 22, 4 a.m.''

Topilin was followed by heads of several Duma committees. Yaroslav Nilov (LDPR), Chairman of the Committee on Labor and Social Policy, said that he did not find in the bill other mechanisms for increased indexation of pensions, except for reducing the number of pensioners. Besides, the project does not provide ways to adapt older people to work. However, on behalf of the committee, Nilov recommended voting in favour: ''I voiced the position of the committee, but I hold the opposite position."

Chairman of the Committee on Health Protection Dmitry Morozov (United Russia) said that the arguments about the need to increase the retirement age have long been known. ''It is the economy. But what from the human point of view? What the man wants? To retire? He wants to be healthy and in demand. And so until aged 100.''

Communist Nikolay Kharitonov, the head of the Committee on Regional Policy and Problems of the North and Far East, spoke out against the bill. According to him, after the announcement of the pension reform he began to receive numerous letters from voters. He cited one of the latest: ''You there, the Duma, you gone crazy together with your government!'' And one more which stated that ''this bill, like June 22, 4 a.m.,'' appeared ''when people rejoiced, celebrated the World Cup''. On his own behalf, Kharitonov added that the draft law does not take into account regional differences. He proposed not to change the retirement age for the indigenous peoples of the Far North.

Nikolay Kharitonov proposed not to change the retirement age for the indigenous peoples of the Far North

Chairman of the Committee on Budget and Taxes Andrey Makarov (United Russia) first spoke about the economic benefits of the reform, but in the end switched to a more lyrical tone: are we ready to agree that 55-60 years means decrepitude?'' he addressed to his colleagues.

''Medvedev's government decided to kick a goal to the whole country''

After the speeches of the heads of the committees, the deputies alternately began to address Topilin. Alexey Didenko (LDPR) described the essence of the law as follows: ''To make everyone to have enough shoes, let's chop off one leg to all barefoot.'' Representative of the Communist Party Aleksey Kornienko, like his faction Kharitonov, spoke about the inhabitants of the Far East and Far North. He said that life expectancy in these parts of the country is lower than the average, but the bill does not take this into account. ''Why does the Russian government punish the residents of the Far North and the Far East?'' he asked. Topilin told him that in all regions, except Chukotka, life expectancy is not much different from the national average.

MP from LDPR Vladimir Sysoev noted that the pension system was changed many times, and we can only guess what surprise the government can present to pensioners. Nikolay Ryzhak (A Just Russia) is afraid that the increase in the retirement age will split the society.

Oleg Nilov, another member of A Just Russia, suggested Topilin to look for money in the informal sector, as well as through the mobilization of the unemployed (''create jobs for them, get pension contributions from them''). However, on this his advice was not exhausted: ''There are about 10 million different silver spooners, sorry, prostitutes, drug addicts, alcoholics, parasites and so on. 10 million! Why can't you make them work and get pension payments from them? The total of 30 million healthy people in the country who do not pay pension contributions, and the government cannot force them to work!''

Gennady Zyuganov disputed not with Minister Topilin, but with the United Russia

''While we were rejoicing at our masters of football scoring goals to the opponent, the government of Medvedev decided to score a goal to all country and to each citizen at once,'' Gennady Zyuganov, the leader of Communists mounted the tribune. He argued not with Minister Topilin, but with the United Russia. For the first time in the history, he said, the State Duma has brought in a bill against which 100% of the Communist Party voters and ''at least'' 8-9 deputies from the majority party oppose. ''I want to appeal to the United Russia. [Supporting the bill] in this case, you are simultaneously destroying Putin's majority. You are ruining it forever — but it is support of all of you,'' Zyuganov said.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky once again said that the LDPR would vote against raising the age, after which he could not resist and joined the discussion with everyone who spoke before him. Within eight minutes, he remembered Yeltsin, Gorbachev, the referendum on the preservation of the USSR and much more. He also said that he had never seen a drug addict in his entire life. ''I've never seen a single drug addict. Why are disgracing your own country? We have no addicts! And no prostitutes! And no alcoholics! Why are you saying what they say against us from the West?''

As a result, the government bill was adopted in the first reading: the voting was 72,9% in favour, 23,1% against, no abstentions.

By Artyom Malyutin. Photo: duma.gov.ru