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4 Feb, 2008 13:45

Spotlight on Medvedev`s social record

Addressing a team of top Russian officials, First Deputy PM and leading presidential candidate Dmitry Medvedev has called for more money to be allocated to orphans. Medvedev is in charge of supervising a social programme started by President Putin three y

The National Projects are intended to improve the lives of ordinary Russians in the areas of health, housing, education and agriculture.

The social programme has been Medvedev's baby since 2006 and he's been seen jetting across the country visiting hospitals and construction projects.

Public opinion

In an opinion poll published by the Levada centre, a Moscow research institute, 53 per cent of respondents said they believed the National Projects were unlikely to have significant influence on their lives. Only 31 per cent thought the efforts would make a difference.

The same poll found that 52 per cent of Russians believed money allocated to the projects would be misspent and just 15 per cent thought it would be spent well.

Such scepticism isn't surprising in a nation whose last memory of economic reform in the 1990s saw a handful of tycoons become billionaires at the expense of schools and hospitals.

But there is evidence Putin is coming good on his promises.


$US 4 billion of investment into healthcare last year has given ammunition to the fight against Russia's crippling demographic problem, with 100,000 more babies being born than in the year before.

Not only has there been a rise in birthrates. More equipment, better medication and new ambulances have also meant fewer deaths and a longer life expectancy.

And it's not just Russia's public health system reaping extra government investment.

Last year over $US 400 million worth of funding went in to modernising the education system.

This involved raising teachers' salaries, making more schools online and increasing the variety of educational facilities.

But some of Russia's most serious problems lie in the far-flung villages. That's why there have been state subsidies for farming and agriculture to help lift rural communities out of decline.

Back in the booming city it's not jobs which are in short supply but affordable housing. The government is trying to address the problem by increasing construction and helping poor young families get on the property ladder.

All these measures sound impressive, but critics argue available funds simply aren't enough and important areas are being overlooked.

“So far the basic tech infrastructure is being created, but the question of how this is going to be used, whether in an effective way or be wasted in a purely technocratic way without understanding the social, cultural consequences,” says Boris Kagarlitsky, Director of Globalisation Studies.