‘Workers of Russia, become an aristocracy!’ - Putin
In the opening line of his article, published in Komsomolskaya Pravda on Monday, Putin writes: “Russia is a welfare state.” Period. This brief statement does more than frame the prime minister’s campaign program. It represents the heavy foundation stone upon which Putin plans to build Russia’s social agenda long into the future.
For Putin, social policy should “support the weak,” while providing an “equal starting position” for all members of society. This represents the continuation of a progressive theme that began during Putin’s first presidential term in 2000 when he took the bite out of big business and the so-called oligarchs.
Today, Putin is adjusting his political sails to the new challenge confronting workers in a knowledge-based, global economy – namely, staying relevant. Not surprisingly, it is the “owners and executives” that land on Putin’s radar as major contributors to the workers’ plight.
Noting that companies must constantly update their technology to remain viable, the same rule applies to workers. Yet “some owners and executives continue to act as if we live in the early years of the 20th century, as if you can get a strong position in the market by saving on workers.”
The PM, pointing to Germany’s successful experience with “work councils”, spoke out on behalf of labor unions. “Together with labor unions, we should consider what laws we can adopt in order to give workers more control over their companies,” he said.
We need to recreate a “worker aristocracy” in Russia, Putin added.
Teachers and healthcare workers get attention
Lumped together with work-related issues, Putin addresses the importance of keeping salaries competitive for Russia’s teachers and healthcare workers.
“A doctor, a teacher, a professor…these people should make enough money where they work, so that they don’t have to look for a side job,” he argues. “Unless we take care of that, all our efforts to improve administrative and economic mechanisms and to upgrade the equipment in those areas will have little or no effect.”
Putin provides a specific timeline for when the new wages incentives will go into effect.
“Starting from September 1, we will raise the wages of the faculty at state-funded universities, also to match the average wages in the region,” he revealed. “From 2013-2018, we will gradually double the average salary of a university professor and bring it up to 200 per cent of the average salary in the economy.”
Putin went on to stress the importance of people receiving fair compensation for the work they do for their society.
“At the end of the day, people should not be paid simply because they belong to a certain institution,” he said. “They should be paid for their real contribution to science, education, healthcare or culture, for offering specific services to society and the people.”
Married – with Children
Putin also wants to provide social guarantees for large families who are struggling to make ends meet. It is important to keep in mind that Russia has been witnessing dismal demographic numbers since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Under the program, Putin wants to provide an additional 7,000 rubles per month to families with two children or more.
If the program yields positive results, and if the economic situation remains favorable, the program could expand to other regions of Russia, for example, to the territories of Russia’s Far East.
When it comes to improving the quality of Russia’s educational institutions, Putin believes that Russia should focus on what it does best.
“We need to build on our strong sides; Russian universities and the Russian Academy of Sciences have been famous for their mathematicians,” Putin stressed. “We can set a goal to make our school education in math the best in the world in 10 years’ time."
This will give Russia a serious competitive edge, the top contender in next month's presidential campaign added.
Meanwhile, students should not have to think too much about supporting themselves as they pursue their studies.
“It is high time to make tough decisions concerning student allowances,” Putin advises. “Those who cannot continue their studies without it – and are high achievers at that – should receive an allowance equal to the students’ subsistence level.”
Of course, Russia will continue to issue scholarships and grants to those demonstrating outstanding academic and scientific performance, Putin pledged.
In putting Russia on the economic fast track, Putin promises that investment in education will be a major priority.
Housing & healthcare – for all!
Putin went on to address other important issues affecting the lives of average Russians, including affordable healthcare and housing, things that many people took for granted in Soviet times. Putin subtly warned that people may come to miss the certainties associated with the Soviet Union, which provided free housing and healthcare to all.
“A decrease in the affordability of housing is exactly what many of our fellow citizens regard as a sign of deteriorating living standards in Russia compared to the days of the Soviet Union,” he wrote.
Putin’s proposals effectively address the uncertainty that many Russians are now experiencing. Although the “free market” has given them new freedoms and pleasures, it has also introduced entirely new anxieties that did not exist just 20 years ago. In Soviet times, men and women did not need to worry themselves over daunting questions, like what will happen if they lost their jobs; how will the parents afford to hire a nanny; and who will pay the medical bill if somebody in the family gets sick?
Today, such questions form the backbone of Putin’s political program, which works to alleviate social injustices that are an unfortunate symptom of a dog-eat-dog free market system.
Putin, however, admits that his program will only be successful based upon the “efficiency of the measures” undertaken.
“The key factor of social policies in Russia is not even the scale of resources that we commit to address our social challenges. It is the efficiency of measures we undertake,” the prime minister concluded. “A fair society and a fair economy will be the key conditions for Russia’s consistent development for years to come.”
Putin’s four previous articles outlined the presidential candidate’s vision on the Russian and world economies, the current political situation in the country, the issue of nationalism, ethnic identity and migration as well as the future of democratic institutions in Russia.