President’s first post-COVID-19 and ‘extremely peaceful’ message

Social payouts, loans for regions, support for businesses and large investment projects — key takeaways from Vladimir Putin’s address

President’s first post-COVID-19 and ‘extremely peaceful’ message
Photo: kremlin.ru

Vladimir Putin traditionally delivered his address to the Federation Council amid the strained international situation and opposition protests. To observers’ surprise, unlike the previous years, the Russian leader’s address wasn’t notable for aggression and was aimed at domestic politics, the country’s citizens, not “Western partners”. For instance, Head of Russia’s Central Election Commission Ella Pamfilova commented on it as “extremely peaceful”. This time the president did without a video of a new weapon and “the Pechenegs and Cumans”, though he compared the Czech Republic with a jackal and the USA with Shere Khan. While social problems and possible solutions became the key topics. Putin mainly talked about health care, support for families with children, business and science, federal aid to regions (which will be charged and refundable unlike social payouts). The president also mentioned a problem of investments, particularly infrastructural issues. For instance, he decided the fate of a Moscow-Kazan highway by ordering to prolong the road until Yekaterinburg until 2021. Realnoe Vremya offers the key points of the president’s speech.

Health care

  • The average lifespan is to be 78 years by 2030. Now a fall in the indicator is registered.
  • There must be a possibility of receiving a vaccine everywhere to have herd immunity in autumn: “I am addressing all citizens of Russia once again, receive a vaccine. There is no other way, the other way is worse — to fall ill with unknown consequences. We must keep all borders the virus can spread on — both near the country and inside — under control.”
  • It is necessary to provide Russia’s independence when it comes to all kinds of vaccines and medicines, including those for viruses that are resistant to antibiotics. In case of a new pandemic by 2030, the country should be ready to develop a testing system within four days and start creating a vaccine.
  • The Ministry of Health Care and regions should expand screening and occupational check-up programmes by launching them from 1 July 2021 — for this purpose, supplies of mobile diagnostic equipment will increase to the regions. Also, it is necessary to take additional measures to fight diseases that are key causes of death: cardiovascular diseases, cancer, lung diseases, hepatitis C.
  • 5,000 ambulance cars will be sent to the countryside in the next three years, through 2024. This will enable to completely renew the fleet in all the regions of the country.

About new support measures and price regulation

  • Social services must be provided in one place. The absolute majority of state services must be online in three years (by 2024). There won’t be state regulation of prices for consumer commodities. The Russian authorities will stick to market mechanisms.
  • A monthly payout for pregnant women in a difficult situation will total 6,350 rubles. An under-7 child care sick leave is equal to a hundred per cent of the salary.
  • From 1 July 2021, children from 8 to 16 years from one-parent families will receive a payout, the average amount is 5,650 rubles. All schoolchildren’s parents will receive a one-time payout — 10,000 rubles. The financial aid will also apply to first-year schoolchildren who will go to school in September 2021. The money will be paid in the middle of August “so that there will be time to prepare the kid for the school”. Besides the payouts, it is promised to build another 1,300 schools in Russia until late 2024 where at least a million children will study. 16,000 school buses will be bought as well.
  • An additional payment of 5,000 rubles for class supervision will spread to supervisors of college classes. Pedagogical universities will be paid 10 billion rubles to equip the educational process. As many as a hundred universities in regions will receive over 100 million rubles of grants: for technoparks, renew the training base, business incubators. All universities that train teachers, doctors, workers from transport and culture can receive them.
  • In 2021-2024, another 24 billion rubles will be spent to refurbish culture centres and libraries. There will be created a presidential fund of cultural initiatives, 3,5 billion rubles will be spent on it in 2021 alone. Russia will spend 1,63 trillion rubles on science, fundamental research (until 2024).

Environmental issues

  • The adoption of a law on enterprises’ responsibility for polluting nature — especially in the light of the accident at Nornickel — will speed up: “If you made income thanks to nature, clean after yourself,” the president claimed.
  • Emissions will be quoted in all Russian cities. The amount of harmful emissions must reduce by 20% by 2024. We should remind you that large-scale reconstruction of treatment facilities of Kazan has begun in April — emissions into the Volga River are due to fall three times by the same year.
  • Russia will refuse coal and hydropower plants: nuclear power, hydrogen power, energy storage systems were named priorities in electrical energy generation in the message. Almost all of them are considered green or eco-friendly technologies.

Support measures for business

  • Putin obliged the government and regions to restore the post-COVID-19 labour market until late 2021, firstly, by financially encouraging private investments, particularly, by supporting small and medium-sized businesses. The support will not be only financial but also administrative: the possibility of “building a turnkey plant in Russia faster and simpler than in other regions of the world” must be the result.
  • Apparently, tax legislation regarding businesses will see serious changes. As Putin said, it will be “adjusted further”. The state will seemingly encourage those companies that will invest their profit in developing their production (“We will encourage those who invest”, not use them for dividends, by the end of the year. The corporate sector’s income this year promises to be record high despite all the problems businesses and the economy have faced, Putin thinks.

How regions will be supported

  • The regions’ debt burden will decrease. All the amount of debts, which exceeds 25% of incomes, will be replaced with budget loans, while restructuring awaits the budget loans granted to fight COVID-19 last year. 220 billion rubles that were taken out by the regions last year to cover anti-COVID-19 expenses are to be repaid this year already, but the president offered to expand them until 2029. We should note that the regions’ debt to banks is 500 billion rubles. Market bonds account for another 767 billion rubles of the regional debt.
  • The regions will have to annually deliver 120 million square metres of new housing: “The more we will build the more accessible housing for Russian families will be,” Putin explained.
  • People will soon not pay for laying a gas pipeline in a settlement. For this purpose, the government was asked to develop a gasification plan in settlements. But it is already clear that gas companies will be at a loss.
  • Infrastructural budget loans at 3% for 15 years for no less than 500 billion rubles in total were additionally announced. However, the regions that followed a well-thought-out policy will receive such loans more: the more debts, the fewer infrastructural loans. Loans will be granted for specific projects that will be inspected at federal level. Roads, including roads circumventing cities, upgrade of systems of housing utilities and public transport, the tourism industry’s facilities are a priority. For instance, Kazan’s neighbour in the Volga Federal District Nizhny Novgorod will get an opportunity to keep developing the metro, start to develop the city centre.
  • However, money from the National Wealth Fund will be allocated for a Moscow-Kazan highway. Moreover, it is planned to prolong this road to Yekaterinburg and deliver it by 2024. It will be possible to travel across Russia’s European part — from the Baltic States to the Urals — on this road in 2024. The road should help “raise” the territories the roads cross and improve the quality of life of their population.
  • The key infrastructure of the road must entail the territories’ development. Infrastructural loans will be granted for this too. Particularly, to build a network of local roads that are connected with the main road. A programme of preferential loans to build hotels and other tourism infrastructure projects will be launched until 2024. The rate is 3%, the term is 15 years.
  • To attract foreign tourists after a fall of the coronavirus epidemic, they will be able to apply for electronic visas to travel to Russia within four days.

Foreign policy

  • “Unfriendly campaigns against Russia don’t cease. It is a kind of new sport: who will speak about Russia louder,” Putin commented on colder relations with the Czech Republic and the USA. At the same time, he is sure that on the world stage Russia “is keeping a very low profile” and would like to “have friendly relations with all members of international communication”. The president, in fact, compared Czechia with the little jackal Tabaqui who hangs around Shere Khan (he meant the tiger from Kipling’s The Jungle Book, the USA).
  • The reply to the unfriendly campaigns will be “asymmetric, quick and harsh”, the organisers of “provocations” will regret it, the Russian president is convinced. Putin particularly named Avangard supersonic vehicles, Peresvet laser system, which are already on guard, among the means of the “asymmetric” reply. While the first regiment with Sarmat heavy missiles will be on duty by late 2022. By 2024, the share of modern weaponry in Russian troops must amount to 76%, while the share in the “nuclear triad” will be over 88% in 2021 already.

Final results of the message

  • Russia’s government will present a national development plan by 1 July. It will be discussed with the State Council and the Civic Chamber.
  • The message itself lasted for 78 minutes, or nearly an hour and 20 minutes.
  • The Russian finance minister assessed the costs on the presidential address at 400 billion rubles for two years, of which 170 billion will be spent on the payouts for every Russian schoolchild. Most of the sum — around 270 billion rubles — will be allocated from the budget this year, 130 billion rubles will be next year.
By Sergey Afanasyev. Photo: kremlin.ru