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15 Jan, 2008 16:29

Social reform - the focus of Medvedev's presidential campaign

Vladimir Putin is using his last few months as Russian President to place social welfare at the heart of the election for his successor. Putin wants the four national priority projects launched in 2005 – education, health care, housing and agri

Putin said this new course in social politics should be the mainstay of the presidential campaign of United Russia's candidate, First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

“The most important thing now is to ensure the continuity of the current political course, to fulfill the promises given to our citizens. The country has entered the presidential campaign. And of course during this campaign the most importance will be paid to social policy,” Putin said.

Infrastructure and welfare programmes have been in the spotlight for the past two years after the National Projects programme was set up. Its key goal – investing in Russia's human capital by boosting the sectors that officials say determine the quality of life in the country: education, public healthcare, housing and agriculture.
Now Vladimir Putin wants to turn the projects into a permanent fixture on Russia's political landscape.

“We've worked out a modern approach towards managing resources, staff and finance. We have to use this approach in the future. It would be prudent not to cancel these national projects in the coming years but instead to transform them into state programmes targeting specific results,” the president said.

The official figures on the overall benefits the programme has brought across the country have yet to be released. However, Putin’s likely successor, Dmitry Medvedev, who has been in charge of the four national projects, says the results so far have been positive.

“The work on national projects has been very active for the past two years. But this year is a special one – it's been declared the year of the family and 52 million of Russian families should be feeling the benefits of this work,” he said.

The focus on people-friendly policies gives Medvedev a strong platform to campaign on. And if he puts his money where his mouth is, should he reach the top of the political ladder, this focus will not shift.