Have social projects improved living standards?

More than $US 8 billion has been spent this year in Russia on the so-called national projects. These are education, health care, housing and agriculture, which have been underfunded for years. Although with money comes change, the results depend on the pr

Four national projects were launched two years ago with one goal – to improve standards of living in Russia.
 
Now it’s time to draw some results.
 
“Experience of the projects shows that investments in human capital are among the most effective in our history. They brought results not only in sectors where investments are being made but also over the whole economy and society. That’s why healthcare, education, agriculture and the household sector remain long-term priorities for our development,” Dmitry Medvedev, First Deputy Prime Minister, who is in charge of the national projects, says.
 
He has also benefited from them. Virtually unknown two years ago, he is now one of the most recognisable politicians in the country. He’s even running for president. But regardless of election results, he says the projects will continue.
 
With more than $US 4 billion pumped into the industry this year, it has already started paying off.
 
The birth rate has increased by 8 per cent in 2007 – that’s about 100,000 more babies.
 
The authorities like to stress that the national projects not only improve lives but actually save them.
 
Still, opinion polls don’t always agree. According to a recent survey by the Levada centre, 53 per cent of Russians felt that national projects had no impact on their lives. And even more people – 74 per cent – said the money allocated for the projects will be used ineffectively or simply stolen.
 
Experts also say proper management of funds will be critical for the projects’ ultimate success.
 
“For the moment basic technical infrastructure is being created for the projects. The question is how this infrastructure is going to be used, whether it will be wasted or, on the contrary, used effectively. That is something to be decided by the next government and the next president,” Boris Kagarlitsky from the Moscow-based Globalisation Problems Institute says.