President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Deputies of the State Duma, Mr Volodin,
I am glad to welcome all of you in the Kremlin on the day of the first session of the State Duma of the eighth convocation and congratulate all of you on the beginning of its work and, of course, on your victory in the competitive, open elections.
I am pleased to note that the lineup of the parliament has a substantial number of new members. Out of 450 deputies, 218, almost half, will work in the State Duma for the first time. But all of you, all without exception, are active and engaged people. You have already established yourselves in politics, in public service, and in your profession.
It was the United Russia party that set this trend for renewal. In its parliamentary party, which has kept the constitutional majority – 48.5 percent, also almost a half, are new deputies.
The CPRF, A Just Russia – For Truth and the LDPR have confirmed their important role in the parliament. The New People, elected to the State Duma for the first time, has also formed its parliamentary party.
All this proves that the political system of Russia is developing, meeting the changing requirements of society, and giving an opportunity for energetic and purposeful people to become politicians at the federal level.
At the same time, many newly-elected deputies have served with several State Duma convocations, and this is important for successful law-making and for developing the best parliamentary traditions. It goes without saying that continuity should exist. As you know, these traditions are maintained by people who have created and expanded them, rather than in offices and conference rooms.
Certainly, your experience was needed during preparations for this first meeting. I know that this short but important and responsible period was well-coordinated and productive for the parliamentary parties and the deputies’ working groups.
As a result, the key organisational matters were quickly resolved today, the parliamentary parties were registered, the committees and commissions were formalised under State Duma regulations, the line-up and chairs have been determined, and the house leaders have been elected. Now you can work confidently on reviewing the packed legislative agenda.
You represent all regions, as well as various professional and social communities. Each parliamentary party has its own election programme. But I am confident that all of you are united by a striving to work in the interests of Russia, for the sake of successful future development, and for consolidating our traditional values as stipulated by the updated Constitution, and of course, to improve people’s well-being and quality of life.
You have your mandates thanks to the people’s will and trust. This support from our multi-ethnic nation, the only source of power in the country, guarantees the State Duma’s power and authority, its responsibility for the country and for all its decisions. I expect you to earn this high level of trust everyday through intensive and effective work.
Every deputy and parliamentary party represents the hopes of specific people, voters, that is, your voters. Even if they are a minority, their votes, requests and proposals should be heard.
You will certainly strive to fulfil your promises and party programmes and to put forth legislative motions. It is important that they be closely linked with our national development goals so that all of us can work together for the sake of the common good.
As you have seen, it is possible to reach much more impressive results by pooling our administrative, financial and common resources, at the municipal, regional, and federal district levels, as well as at the Federal Government level. This gives us much more successful and positive results, and results that are expected from us by the nation, by our people.
Yes, of course, there is no way to avoid differences in approach, in positions or points of view, but this is absolutely normal. A parliament is a venue where people should express different views and where a path to well-balanced decisions should open up in discussions and arguments.
A constructive dialogue between parliamentary parties, broad discussions of key issues with the participation of the regions and civil society organisations, and continuous, working cooperation with the Government of Russia are very important at this point. These are indispensable conditions and a firm foundation for adopting quality, necessary laws that really work.
Our country, and hence all of us, are facing many difficult challenges. I will repeat that the low average income of our citizens, of millions of people, is our main enemy, a threat to steady development and our demographic future.
In the next few years, we need to establish an integral system for supporting families with children, starting from when a mother is expecting a baby to the graduation of her children from school.
As you know, we have started drafting this programme, this system. We are doing this in stages, gradually, ensuring guaranteed benefits at every step. I would like you to continue working this way on other issues as well.
Of course, the ultimate goal is to increase the average income of our people, create jobs in all regions, ensure the continued growth and restructuring of the economy, support high-tech industries and remove the barriers that still impede the development of small business – people should have as many opportunities as possible to increase the well-being of their families.
Serious problems in healthcare, education, housing and the environment demand particular attention. The solution to these and many other problems largely depends on the effective performance of the State Duma, the country’s highest representative body. This is why it is so important for each parliamentary party and each deputy to realise their high responsibility for drafting and adopting laws.
Some of the first bills that you will be considering include the federal budget as well as the budget for social security. These documents, submitted by the Government, have at least three priorities: social policy, economic development, and healthcare, of course.
The largest budget item is social policy, and that primarily includes support for families with children, and senior citizens. Over the next three years, the Government plans to allocate 41.5 trillion rubles for social needs, 15.1 trillion rubles for economic development and support for the regions, and 10.9 trillion rubles for healthcare.
I would like to note that every other ruble to be spent under the bills on the federal budget and on social security funds will be directed to the implementation of Russia’s social policy and to healthcare.
With the continuing pandemic and the difficult situation in the global economy, there are problems we still need to address. Indeed, the economy has generally recovered to pre-crisis levels as we say, but many problems persist, including inflation. Inflation will exceed the forecasted level of 5.8 percent this year.
Higher inflation naturally hits the poorest population groups hardest. We must be aware of this, keep this in mind and respond accordingly. Let me remind you in this regard that social monetary benefits, which come from the federal budget, should be indexed to actual inflation in 2022. Federal coffers contain sufficient funds to do this, and I would like to bring this to the attention of the State Duma deputies and the Government.
As it is, maternity capital remains the only social support measure that is being indexed to forecasted inflation. I propose, starting from 2022, to start indexing maternity capital based on the previous year’s actual inflation as well, not the projected figure.
I ask the deputies to adopt the necessary amendments to the law. I believe this decision will be right and fair.
We are always attentive to those who need government support. This year, we have made lump sum payments to pensioners and families with school-age children. I instructed the Government to submit additional proposals on social support measures, which are of the essence in the context of high inflation. We will consider these proposals at a meeting in the near future.
I would also like to stress that the United Russia party went to the elections with a programme based on proposals from people from all regions of our country. These initiatives must be fully reflected in the draft law on the budget, and the factions, of course, must monitor the implementation of these projects so that they bear results before the deadline.
I would like to note once again that making our national ideas and the constructive, substantive priorities in the parliamentary parties’ programmes a reality is our common task. It requires the joint, coordinated work of all factions. I hope that this is how it will be in practice, and, let me repeat, the activities of the State Duma will only be successful if the deputies strive to develop the solutions that our country, society and citizens need.
United Russia, which holds over two-thirds of the mandates, demonstrated this approach during the preparations. It could lead most committees, but the faction continued the traditions of the previous convocation and, when approving the leadership of the committees, provided other factions with the opportunity to chair almost half of them. Thus, the opinion of voters, your voters, colleagues, of those who voted for these parties, was taken into account, and they received additional opportunities for effective and responsible work in order to fulfil the demands of their voters.
The legislative process requires thoughtful and professional work as well as consideration of many factors, such as financial sources (those above all, perhaps) and, most of all, knowing and understanding people’s requests, essential interests and needs. This is why you should always stay in touch with your voters, know their worries and daily problems, and help them without fail.
Now I would like to address those who are part of parliament for the first time. Those who have worked here for more than one convocation know about this, and this is what they are doing. This is my point: the drafting and adoption of laws, lawmaking is the main activity of the Duma, for all deputies; this is clear, understandable. However, for the people, for your voters you are primarily their representatives. Do not forget this. People can and will address you with diverse questions. Maybe some will not be within your competence, but they rely on you, so remember that they went out and voted for you.
I would also like to ask you to comprehensively analyse how the regions are carrying out our national goals and to help them promptly when your support is needed. The State Duma deputies have the authority to do this, including parliamentary control.
I would also like to talk about the situation with the coronavirus infection. There is no getting away from this today. You know that the number of infections is growing in many regions and medical specialists are working in difficult conditions. We all know well that vaccination can save us from the virus and from a severe course of the disease. It is necessary to step up the vaccination pace. I would like to ask you to be most active in this work, to educate people and speak in the media. People trust and listen to your advice and recommendations. It is very important to do this without a tone of administrative reprimand. We should persistently and patiently work with the people and explain to them the benefits of preventing this dangerous disease.
In conclusion, I would like to emphasise again the importance of continuity in your activities – in both the lawmaking process and your ability to create an atmosphere of trust, mutual respect and cooperation, while being open to society and our people.
The deputies of the previous, seventh convocation did a lot to promote the traditions of Russian parliamentarism that had its 115th anniversary this year. I hope your deputy corps will not only preserve the best traditions of this most important historical heritage but will also make its own contribution to its development.
I would like to wish you success in serving Russia and our people. All the best to you.
State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin: Mr President.
On behalf of all the deputies, I would like to express my gratitude to you for your support of the parliament, for the steps you are taking to promote democracy in our country.
Last year, you proposed an initiative to delegate some of the President’s powers to our citizens; now they will be able to participate in the formation of the Government of the Russian Federation, through their deputies.
This puts an additional responsibility on the State Duma deputies. I do hope that the decisions that we worked out today and then adopted will help make the legislative branch of government more effective and, most importantly, responsible for the decisions made.
Indeed, we have chosen a complicated configuration that you initiated, where the opinions of all parliamentary parties (we have five of them in the State Duma now) are taken into account and, as you rightly said, citizens who have elected deputies from various parties also have a say. Now, regardless of their party affiliation, people who voted for these five factions, five political parties will have the opportunity to influence decision-making in the State Duma, a real chance to participate in the discussion of these decisions.
The new State Duma has more committees than before, 32. But this actually reflects, among other things, the new authority to form the Government that was given to the State Duma by the Constitution. There will be committees that correlate with federal ministries where it was necessary. This structure will allow us to work more effectively with industry-specific ministries, focus on the agenda and adopt more effective laws.
We are actually preparing the State Duma for this, discussing issues with the party faction leaders, and we believe this is achievable and especially important at present as Russia is facing challenges and problems on a global scale. We believe the lower house absolutely must have an agenda that will unite all members regardless of their party affiliation.
That is why it means a lot to us that work has begun without foot dragging: tomorrow, the State Duma committees will begin to hold their meetings and the State Duma Council will gather for a meeting; on Thursday, we will get down to our legislative activities. This is why people run for the State Duma in the first place – to represent the interests of our citizens and solve issues and problems by using laws.
Hopefully, support from the President will allow us to do this effectively. Indeed, the path our political system has traversed, becoming more open and competitive all the while, shows how much is possible. But it is only possible if we develop incrementally, without slipping into populism and demagogy, something we also talked about earlier today.
Mr President, you have noted many times, when wishing [deputies] all the best in their election campaigns, that the path of populism is destructive. We have twice lost our country and there may be no third chance to hold it together. It is essential to understand this and to do everything it takes to make sure that parliament strengthens our sovereignty and addresses the issues raised by the President.
Thank you very much.
Vladimir Putin: Mr Volodin, colleagues,
Thank you for the words you addressed to me. Still, I believe this is a good occasion for us to express gratitude to the citizens of Russia for their engagement during the election campaign, for their proactive approach to life and for the confidence they have in the authorities and the candidates they have voted for and who are now members of the State Duma.
Of course, this confidence stems from their hope that all of us, all levels of power will work conscientiously and hard, and do whatever we – you – can, to address the challenges facing the country, so that our people have confidence in what is happening in the country and, as they used to say earlier – I am not afraid to use this stock phrase – confidence in tomorrow. I am sure that you will spare no effort. I wish you every success in your work.
Thank you very much. All the best to you.