ALL RUSSIAN REGIONS NEED POINTS OF GROWTH
Chairman of the Federation Council upper house of Russian parliament Sergei Mironov visited Barnaul to participate in celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the Legislative Assembly of Altai region and voiced several actual ideas about social policy development, national modernization and party formation.
VIP-premier requested Mr. Mironov to dwell in detail on the issues.
Sergei M. Mironov has been chairman of the Federation Council of the Russian Federal Assembly since January 2001. Born in February 1953 in the town of Pushkin, Leningrad region, he graduated from the Plekhanov Mining Institute in Leningrad, the St. Petersburg Technical University, the Russian Academy of State Service at the Russian president, law and philosophy faculties of the St. Petersburg State University. He served a regular conscription term in the airborne troops. He worked as senior engineer-geophysicist at Rudgeofisica production amalgamation, as geophysicist of Zelenogorsk expedition of the Soviet Ministry of Geology, senior geophysicist of air mobile expedition in Mongolia. In 1994-1995 he was executive director of St. Petersburg Revival Construction Corporation. In June 2000 he was elected deputy chairman of the Legislative Assembly of St. Petersburg. In April 2003 he chaired the Russian Party of Life. In October 2006 the unification congress of three partiers elected him chairman of the new party called Fair Russia: Motherland/Pensioners/ Life, which was later renamed into Fair Russia. Awarded with medals 300th Anniversary of St. Petersburg, In Memory of Kazan Millennium, and three times with award weapons and with the Order For the Merits to the Motherland III degree. Married with a son and a daughter.
– Mr. Mironov, during your visit to Altai Territory in connection with the 70th anniversary of the regional legislature you said the wellbeing in the region and in the whole country depends on the performance of all levels of authority. Does it mean that in market economy conditions the authorities should bear the main responsibility for the current and future situation in the country?
– Today all branches of authority face important tasks of implementing the provisions of the annual message of the president to parliament. We need points of growth, all regions must have them. Russia is a country of major regional disproportions. There is a risk that post-crisis development will even expand the gap of disproportions. That may happen if territorial and industrial development plans remain disconnected, if major energy and industrial projects launched in the past years are not adapted to promote the development of multi-industry economy in regions and harmonic growth in municipalities. And finally, it may happen if there is no single strategy for complex regional development that aims to overcome single-industry dependence of regional and local economies. The regions are the main thing. Functions and institutions that plan municipal and regional development shall be stipulated in laws and normative legal acts.
If we do not eliminate regional disproportions the country will be unable to harmonically develop and will not get rid of periodically emerging social calamity zones, of 5-10-fold gaps in economic development, infrastructure, social sphere and budget provision of geographically adjacent territories. That will in no way strengthen our state.
ADEQUATE POLITICS AND ECONOMY
– Today Russia has no mechanisms that would truly engage people in civil society. Which institutions do you believe can promote the task and how can we overcome the existing popular mistrust in authorities?
– Trust in existing political institutions is a key issue for any state. It is time to understand that in crisis conditions manipulative technologies do not work any longer as people do not want to be deceived. The political system should be adequate to the market economy model that contains numerous contradictions. Not only private interests collide, but also the interests of various social strata and groups which comprise modern society. If we push all contradictions underground, they will shoot out major social conflicts.
There is a very harmful myth today claiming that Russian society is incapable of self-renewal and transformations and cedes the reform initiative to the state. Russia does have civil self-conscience! But there are no social mechanisms that would truly involve people
in public life. Therefore, popular trust in authorities is falling, followed by decreased trust between various social groups and between individuals. I will repeat that one of the reasons remains the same: there is no genuine competition of political parties and ideologies on our political space.
Alienation of people and authorities of all levels poses a major threat for new Russia. We have to overcome it as soon as possible and encourage active popular participation in national modernization discussions. Modernization is a major project, a long-awaited common course, but modernization will succeed only when each citizen can see that the country needs him and that the future of the motherland depends on his effort.
CIVIL SOCIETY MODERNIZATION
– You focused on the political aspect of modernization. What is the political significance of modernization?
– Modernization of the country is our main task. Even if we had no strength and means we would have had to carry it out. Otherwise Russia would remain on the roadside of civilization and progress. The talk is not just about technologies, but about modernization of our public life and civil society. We can argue which path to choose, what to begin with and what to postpone, but there is no doubt we have to progress along the guideline. Lawmakers shall build up a systemic legislative base to promote transition to modernization. It is a major and basic component. No orders or calls will make businessmen do what is unprofitable for them. If we want to move the economy to the innovation track we have to create conditions profitable for the business community and at least introduce tax benefits.
Political system modernization means genuine multi-party system and a truly competitive environment in politics. Only competitive environment and public control can change the situation. An opposition party is always attentively watching as if through a microscope the actions and inaction of the ruling party and each of its representatives. If their involvement in any corruption scandal is exposed, resignations immediately follow and the government steps down, early election is announced and the opposition comes to power. That is normal and real democracy.
I am convinced that only one option is acceptable for modern Russia – modernization based on democratic values. There is no other option left for us in current conditions. Well, we can recollect that Peter the Great had once transformed Russia with rack, whip and axe, as well as the Soviet industrialization experience for which our people paid a colossal tragic price. There is various foreign reform experience. For example, Turkey under Ataturk carried out tough and authoritarian transformations for 20 years. Chinese experience is instructive, as well as of some other Asian and Latin American countries. There are specifics everywhere. They have to be analyzed and taken into account. However, most of the experience is unsuitable for the current Russian situation.
Firstly, we have our own unique history and national specific.
Secondly, we are living in the XXI century when it is simply immoral to carry out any reforms without caring for the social price.
Thirdly, let us not forget why Russia needs modernization today. We are not going to “catch up with and overtake America” again. We are speaking about the necessity to build up our own “smart” economic model, about innovation mentality, transition to society of knowledge, and postindustrial development. In such an undertaking no whips, no GULAG, no “general party line”, and no authoritarianism can help.
It is possible to compel a person to work harder and more intensively, but it is impossible to make him think innovatively, design and invent. It is possible to earmark more funds for new technology design or acquisition abroad, but if we continue to stake on cheap and undervalued labor, if acute problems are unresolved and demographic crisis continues, there will be no result. We have politicians who want to reduce the whole modernization idea to a complex of bureaucratic and technocratic measures. They believe that directives from the top can boost scientific and technical progress and transform the country. Nothing of the kind.
If the public potential is not engaged in full, if there is no creative competition between ideas and approaches, if there is no multi-party system all positive impulses from the top would be barred by objective social, economic and political constraints.
SOCIAL SOLIDARITY CHARTER
– At the gala opening of the regional Nadezhda oncological center you said Russia will have a new oncological treatment system by 2015 which will be skilled and accessible. How do you believe the current social policy of the state agrees with the possibilities and hopes of ordinary people to cure from heavy diseases?
– The commissioning of the new Nadezhda oncological center in Barnaul is hard to overestimate for the health of the people. It is a major achievement of regional and health authorities and constructors. All participants deserve merits. Doctors received a possibility to fight lethal disease with equipment the region has never seen. Treatment technologies are also unique and provide medical consultations through Internet and allow doctors to consult each other in TV link-ups. There is no such high-quality treatment technology abroad.
Altai doctors are efficiently using budget funds. They introduced daytime in-patient clinic technologies that are 5-10 times cheaper than previous. Unfortunately, today the spread of oncological diseases poses a global problem. Russia increased health care financing to help accomplish new tasks in treating cancer.
In the framework of the national priority Health project Russia is actively running a federal oncological program. Due to the social policy of the state there are all grounds to say that a principally new system of oncological help will be formed by 2015. To make it accessible for various strata of the population is mostly a political task that directly depends on the level of civil self-conscience of the public.
Legislators have to design the necessary complex approach, as well as a package of laws on state guarantees to doctors and patients. There is a complete understanding of the importance of preserving professional potential and creating worthy labor conditions for medical staff. Control over accessibility of social, medical, educational and pension achievements of the state to all strata of the population is in the hands of the public, its feeling of social justice and ability to defend it.
I am convinced that drive for justice is deeply rooted in Russian self-conscience, in the system of values transferred from generation to generation through culture, traditions, and historic memory. The new model of socialism proposed by Fair Russia Party for the country takes it all into account, as well as political culture achievements of the global socialist movement.
We believe, and it is reflected in the party program, that the pension system should be radically changed. A new Pension Code is necessary that is based on solidarity system of pension provision rather than on current insured system. Pension expenditure of the state shall be doubled. The current crisis is first and foremost social and only then financial and economic.
The Fair Russia Party has drafted the Social Solidarity Charter that stipulated mutual obligations of all levels of authority, civil society institutions and business circles in promoting anti-crisis measures. The main problem awaiting immediate resolution is the elimination of all forms of social inequality, as it is the main barrier on the way to building a just and socially oriented society in Russia.
I am convinced that only civil society can counter bureaucratic omnipotence. Victor Hugo once said that only brotherhood can save freedom. One of the tasks of the Socialists is to search for a path to popular accord and build up the perception of common goal and personal involvement in the fate of the country.
By Emma VERSHININA, BARNAUL-MOSCOW