#2 - JRL 7067
Russia's Putin Says Time to Tell the People the Truth About Promises Made
Source: Channel One TV, Moscow, in Russian 1200 gmt 18 Feb 03
Russian president has said that the time has come to tell the people which promises can be kept and why others can not be fulfilled, Russian Channel One TV said today.
Reporting on Vladimir Putin's meeting with heads of regional parliaments in Moscow today, the TV said the meeting was devoted to changes in the Russian laws, aimed, according to Putin, at improving the people's standard of life. Representatives of authorities at all levels ought to be clear about which promises they are able to keep and which promises can not be kept, the TV quoted Putin as saying.
Putin was shown addressing the meeting from the rostrum. He said: "I want to put a question to you. Do you know what the level of the state's obligations towards the population is? Well, if we wanted to fulfil all the obligations to the people we are duty-bound to fulfil, everything as enshrined in the relevant laws, what sort of budget should the Russian Federation have? Who knows? Only the experts do. No-one knows the specific figure. This is because so much has been written about it in the past few years that we are unable to get to the bottom of this to this very day. The approximate estimate stands at R6,500bn. However, the country's consolidated budget is R3,500bn. So R6,500bn less R3,500bn equals three trillion roubles' worth of unfulfilled obligations towards the population. This, then is where the problem lies and why we are working together.
"It is necessary to arrive at a delimitation of powers and to stop lying to the population, to specify who is responsible for what and what sources they ought to use to raise budget revenues to fulfil these obligations. If we are unable to keep this or that promise, we must bluntly and honestly say: we are not going to keep this promise, we are unable to do so.
"Our people can forgive everything, bar one thing: lying. But we are postponing things constantly, year in, year out, pretending not to notice that there are laws in force. We say that this or that law will not operate this year, knowing that it will not be in operation the following year, either, because there is no money. Why lie?
"I mean, in this context it is, of course, absolutely right and proper to specify priorities, the things the state must do at all costs, fulfil without fail, help the disabled, assist the war veterans, and so on and so forth, the poorest strata of the population, things that must be done and to specify things which we are for the time being unable to do and if we can, to what extent. This, actually, is our goal."
The TV said that the meeting was going to deal with preparing a mixed electoral system in the regions. "The law says that no less than a half of local parliamentary deputies must be elected from party lists. The regions' attitude towards this idea is not unequivocal and the president made his views known today," the TV said and showed Putin addressing the meeting again.
He said: "All in all, this system is not being introduced to suit someone's interests or serve someone's needs, to please someone or to create advantages in the competitive political struggle in the regions or in the country as a whole. It is being done in order to make our country, Russia, more understandable to us, ourselves and to the world, to make her more stable and predictable, to ensure that when our people go to vote they elect not just a good man, but a good man with understandable political convictions and so that this person bears a dual responsibility towards the country, the voters and towards the party whose ideals he has made his own for electoral purposes.
"Clearly it can not be done overnight. This requires time. I agree with many of those present here that it is, perhaps, necessary to adopt a more even-handed and sensitive approach. Let us ponder what must be done. I am not against this, I am for this. If you think that your views have not been taken account of sufficiently, let us ponder things, but let us not do it in what is all too often our usual Russian way: we'll think for 100 years just to make sure that we do not have to do anything."