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21 Nov, 2009 16:08

Efficient modernization – vision from Pres and PM

Russia’s ruling United Russia party has held its convention in St Petersburg on Saturday. Party members discussed the country’s roadmap for the next decade.

President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have both addressed the all-Russia congress.

Medvedev to ruling party: we have to get rid of bad political habits

During his speech at the United Russia convention, president Dmitry Medvedev mentioned that only due to the joint efforts of civil society, the party and the government, Russia has succeeded to smooth the consequences of the global financial crisis.

Referring to his address to the nation's parliament, the president emphasized fulfilling the government’s social obligations is extremely important but it’s not enough, and that dependence on raw materials does not guarantee the well being of the state. “Our country requires a new smart economy,” said Dmitry Medvedev. "Based on intellectual supremacy, the improvement of people, and the creation of new technology we will be able to preserve our world dominating position. If we remain a raw material country, we’ll degrade.”

Continuing his speech, President Medvedev stated that the status of the ruling party obliges United Russia to participate actively in the country’s development. “United Russia will be able to make changes only if it changes itself to be a modern party,” concluded Dmitry Medvedev.

Putin on economy: we managed to prevent economic collapse

The economy was central to Vladimir Putin's address to 600 delegates of United Russia, gathered for the party’s convention in St Petersburg.

Vladimir Putin said that in 2008 United Russia took political responsibility to contend with the global financial crisis and to prevent an economic collapse similar to the one that happened in 1998 – and has delivered on that promise.

Russia's economy is recovering, with promising signs on inflation, unemployment and growth, stated Vladimir Putin, and supported his view with impressive statistics, but said it is still too soon to talk about the end to the crisis.

Unemployment is down from its peak last February. Putin acknowledged that inflation remains a problem, but said it is showing signs of improving, while the economy has contracted less than expected.

The prime minister’s speech focused on the economy, the technological development of Russia, state financial and social support to the citizens and business. Among many issues he mentioned were a governmental financial guarantee for foreign trade contracts and an increase of state support to hi-tech industry sectors. Defense expenditure alone would be raised by 8.5% to 1.175 trillion rubles.

Speaking about the role of the United Russia party in the economic life in Russia, Vladimir Putin named support of one-industry towns as the major current task for the party.

Russia’s leading universities will also get additional finance in 2010.

He also spoke about measures to boost the car industry, power generation and to improve the availability of mortgages.

First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov told RT that Putin's message suggests things are changing for the better.

“All the complex work done by the government to support all areas – including industry and agriculture – prevented the economy from collapsing,” he said. “Yes, it did fall by some 8 per cent this year. However, inflation has decreased and, moreover, all social programs are being carried out in full, some even with extra resources going to increase pensions, purchase medicines, and so on. That means social programs have not been cut as in other countries.

“Therefore, after this congress, we have a feeling the country is gradually recovering from the crisis and showing signs of recovery in areas like defense, agriculture, and elsewhere. We think the downfall will stop in 2010, GDP will start growing, and things will gradually come to order.”

New ideology

The main topic of the gathering has been the new ideology, described by its leaders as national conservatism. The focus of this new concept is on respecting Russia’s traditions and preserving all the achievements that Russia has made over the past few decades. The other important point of “United Russia” is that any changes that Russia may need should be implemented in a gradual, conservative way, without any sudden violent moves that may lead to social unrest.

Some analyst suggest this newfound ideology of national conservatism does not really square well with the vision of the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev. In his latest state of the national address he stressed the need to modernize Russia and to strengthen civil society – all those ideas which are usually described as liberal, not conservative. Yet the party leaders insist that there is absolutely no contradiction between their ideology and the president’s vision.

“I definitely do not see any contradictions and I do not believe that the program of Mr President should be described in terms of liberalism. It is just another stage of development in Russia and I believe that one should not look for contradictions between what he is saying and what Mr Putin has said before. The difference is between the previous period and the current period of Russian development. The previous period was about restoring the integrity of Russia: the territorial integrity of Russia, the legal integrity of Russia, the social integrity of Russia and this task has been completed. Now, the next task is to modernize the country and to make the economy function in a different way,” Konstantin Kosachev, who heads the Russian Parliament’s Commission for Foreign Relations, told RT.

Several hundred delegates from across the country gathered in St Petersburg to discuss the new concept for the country’s development. United Russia is a major political force in Russia and currently controls both the federal parliament and most of the regional legislatures.

Guest at the convention, Vojislav Kostunica, president of the Democratic Party of Serbia, former President of Yugoslavia and former prime minister of Serbia, believes the modern world is developing too fast and cannot continue to do so without some foundation.

“In the world that we face, with all its problems, we cannot go on without taking something most valuable in the traditions of all countries,” Kostunica told RT. “To me the turn to national conservatism seems quite normal though I would not overestimate the difference between conservatives and liberals.”