Putin Focuses On Domestic Politics In Annual Address Amid 'Social, Economic Stability'

Putin Focuses on Domestic Politics in Annual Address Amid 'Social, Economic Stability'

The same podium from which two years ago Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a new world military balance, the president today outlined a new Russian political reality

MOSCOW (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 15th January, 2020) The same podium from which two years ago Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a new world military balance, the president today outlined a new Russian political reality.

At the same time as foreign journalists and observers can rest easy that Putin's annual address to the Federal Assembly was devoid of new weapons systems, Russian citizens democratic imaginations have been set alight with the prospects of political reorganization and voting opportunities.

Putin began his address by acknowledging Russian citizens' desire for change and proceeded to dedicate the bulk of his speech to a renewed focus inwards, tackling issues of constitutional amendments, efficiency of government bodies, and impact of social programs.

Highlighting a state of social and economic stability and ensuring that Russia's defensive capabilities are ensured for years to come, the president believes it is time to focus on the Russian citizens.

"We must resolve wide-ranging social, economic, technological tasks standing before the country immediately and without delay ... their realization requires a renewed quality of state administration, the work of all levels of the government and direct dialogue with the society. The need for change has become sharply defined in our society today," the president said in the introduction to his speech.

Putin offered a slew of changes to the 1993 constitution of Russia but maintained that there is no need to adopt a new constitution altogether.

Furthermore, Putin deemed the changes important enough to refer to the Russian voter for approval of the amendments.

Most notably, Putin offered to transfer the power to appoint a prime minister, governors and other top officials from the president to the parliament while at the same time limiting the president's power to reject the parliamentary appointees.

Putin also proposed prohibiting top Russian political figures from having foreign citizenship or residence permits in foreign nations, as well as barring any individual from running for president if they have resided in Russia for less than 25 years or have ever held any dual ir foreign citizenship.

"I think it is important to hold elections for Russian citizens to be able to decide on the amendments proposed to Russia's constitution. Only following election results will decisions on the amendments be made," Putin said.

Serving his fourth term overall and second consecutive one, Putin also said that he agreed with the constitutional limit of two consecutive terms for the position of president, but added that he does not believe that it is a "principal" issue.

Despite this, Putin maintained that Russia must remain a strong presidential nation republic with the president retaining status of commander-in-chief of the armed forces as well as remain in charge of law enforcement agencies.

"I am sure that our country, with its huge territory, complex national-territorial organization and diversity of cultural and historical traditions, cannot develop normally and, I would say, simply exist in a stable manner as a parliamentary republic. Russia should remain a strong presidential republic," Putin said from the podium.

Shortly after the address, speaker of Russia's upper house of parliament, the Federal Council, Valentina Matvienko said that Putin's readiness to reconfigure the power structure is a sign of stability in the country.

"The president has very courageously shared a part of his presidential powers with the parliament.

This is a good signal for the society, that we face a stable political situation and the president does not worry as he passes a part of his powers to the parliament," Matviyenko said, as aired by Russia-1 broadcaster.

Speculations on the timing and nature of the upcoming vote immediately arose among election officials and observers.

"If everything is solved quickly, this may happen this year," Central Election Commission Secretary Maya Grishina told Sputnik at the conlusion of the address.

Adopted in 1993 on the simmering rubble of the Soviet Union, the Russian constitution has been changed only once in 2008 when parliamentary and presidential terms were increased.

The proposed changes echo statements made by last year by Vyacheslav Volodin, chairman of the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, in which he proposed expanding the legislatures powers.

Putin proposed more federal support for families and prospective mothers on the back of a declining birthrate.

Despite successful social programs to motivate families and child-bearing carried out over most of the past decade, birthrates in Russia are predictably declining as a ripple effect of the hardship in the early 1990's.

Amid a collapsing Soviet Union, emigration and spiraling poverty dealt the Russian population a severe blow, with Putin juxtaposing birthrates in 1991, 1.19 children per woman, as worse than in 1943, at 1.3 children.

"According to preliminary estimates, birthrates [in 2019] stand at 1.5. Is that a lot or not enough? For our country - that is not enough. Yes, that is about the same as in many European countries, but for our country, that is not enough," the president said.

Setting the target at 1.7 by the year 2024, Putin proposed to shift financial support allocated at the second child - nearly half a million rubles - immediately at the birth of a first child.

The president linked low birthrate directly with low income and pointed out that up to 80 percent of the Russia's low income families are families with children. This way, Putin outlined increased financial support for low income families by monthly social allowances to children from birth until school-going age (usually 7 years old in Russia).

"Demography is an area where there is no universal, much less specialized solution. We must evaluate each of our steps, every new law and state program we must evaluate as a highest national priority - saving and increasing the people of Russia," Putin said.

Regarding overall poverty, Putin derided governors and regional officials over the ineffectiveness of "social contract" programs to reduce poverty rates in the country's furthest expanses.

Putin focused on the increase in citizens' real income as the measure of upcoming economic reform.

"On the basis of a stable macroeconomic foundation, conditions must be created for a substantial growth in citizens' incomes. I note that this is a most important task for the government and the Central Bank ... In 2021, GDP growth rate in Russia must be higher than world average," Putin said.

For this, Putin presented a detailed plan to launch a new investment cycle into Russia's key sectors, attract more foreign investments and avoid increasing taxes on Russian businesses.

According to the World Bank, the gross domestic product of the world economy at large grew by 3 percent in 2019, mostly thanks to rising developing economies of Africa and southern Asia, while Russia's economic growth was about 1 percent in 2019.

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