Blueprint of 21st century Russia

A country free of corruption, and a move towards modernization and the World Trade Organization - that is the future President Dmitry Medvedev has outlined for Russia at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

Modernization was the main theme and according to Medvedev is connected to all of Russia’s problems and challenges that it faces.

The president has defined key steps that are vital for Russia to move forward in its push to modernize the economy.

“I don’t want a major renewal of just the outdated elements in the economy, but all public institutions,” president said. “We need systematic changes. We should not hesitate to say sorry about many bad habits. We cannot focus only on the step by step development – that would be a mistake. There might be stagnation behind the stability. That is why we need to quickly change everything that stops our breakthrough development. All this is the basis of the strategy I have outlined in the past three years as Russia’s president. The strategy is a modernization program. I am sure this is up-to-date policy for Russia.”

“We can significantly change the situation over the next few years,” he added. “That is why we need to focus on the following: improving the investment climate in Russia to create new jobs in the regions, the creation of police and other security forces, improvement of the effectiveness of the jurisdiction system, and finally the modernization of government, applying modern approaches and decentralizing power.”

The president also mentioned that he believes that this push for modernization in Russia has to begin with society having the desire to unite to modernize their country.

“My choice is a policy which would ensure maximum opportunity for the economic activity of the millions of our citizens,” he said. “Citizens who are protected by the law and the whole might of the government power.”

With that, he believes, Russia can really become the biggest and most effective economy in the world.

Medvedev also pointed to a fight against corruption as a key to Russia’s future. He said, quite harshly, that corruption is literally choking the economy, and that people who are doing this need to be taken care of.

“The noose around the neck of those who practice corruption should be tightened and whole of Russia agrees with this without any exception,” he stated. “The corruption is very difficult to deal with. The existing order of criminal prosecution is very slow and very complicated. It should be maintained at least so that there are clear guarantees in place in case of unjustified accusations, which unfortunately does sometimes happen. At the same time the government should be purged of corruption in a more decisive way. And for that purpose we should enhance the way those suspected of corruption are dismissed from public service.”

In terms of corruption the president also spoke about government reforms and decentralizing power.

The judicial system is suffering serious problems and needs to be reformed as well, according to the president, a topic that he often touches on. He believes that tendering for judges and making them accountable for their decisions is an essential step for building an effective court system, something that everybody requires.

Viktor Kamyshanov, from the International Federation for Peace and Conciliation considered President Medvedev’s intentions to be a positive step toward development and modernization.

“I think the promises are very good. And we knew that there is quite a lot of technologies [sic] which are invented by Russian institutions, by Russian scientists. I think that if these will provide [the] intention of the president good ground, good basement for using these technologies, then the declaration will be put into practice.”

­Professor Daniel Treisman from UCLA says that steps to solve problems which are hampering the process of moving toward modernization needs to start at all levels simultaneously.

“Everybody knows the most effective techniques for fighting corruption and improving the effectiveness of the state, and that is to introduce more political competition at all levels, at the same time as increasing freedom of the press. Of course, sometimes we exaggerate in the West the restraints on the press in Russia, but still to have more generally independent publications and television channels would help tremendously. The question is whether Medvedev at this point is prepared to take more risks than he has in the past. And also of course in co-operation with Prime Minister Putin that introduced elements of political competition and media freedom that have become scarcer in Russia in the last ten years.”