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The welcome wagon Here’s what Russia’s new prime minister told lawmakers, immediately after they voted him into office

Source: Meduza
Alexander Nemenov / AFP / Scanpix / LETA

On January 16, State Duma deputies approved the appointment of Federal Tax Service chief Mikhail Mishustin as Russia’s new prime minister. The new head of Vladimir Putin’s cabinet won the support of 383 deputies. Another 41 lawmakers abstained, and not a soul voted against him. At the hearing, Mishustin made a speech outlining his plans for the federal government and also answered a few questions. Meduza summarizes these remarks below.

Mikhail Mishustin: The president set a rapid pace for the work ahead when he gave his state-of-the-nation address. The speech must be understood as a program of social justice based on traditional values that appeals to ordinary people. First and foremost, this means taking care of children and families and growing their prosperity and quality of life.

We have the financial resources to carry out these tasks. Regional officials must ensure that people are paid on time and that they see these improvements firsthand. 

The most important issue is the new quality of public administration. The government’s priority is the growth of citizens’ real incomes. Business needs to be protected. We must increase labor productivity. The money allocated to national projects should go to the industrial and engineering sectors. The development of the military-industrial complex is another priority. We need a breakthrough in the digitization of Russia’s real economy. The agrarian sector must continue its growth. We need to improve the country’s roads and accumulate additional income. Every member of the government cabinet will be personally responsible for achieving national development goals.

The cabinet and the State Duma have proven that they can work as a coordinated team. I hope we will be able to cooperate in the interests of the country and all our citizens.

Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the State Duma: Following the cabinet’s resignation, deputies have criticized various federal ministries, but it’s important to keep effective professionals in the cabinet because there are many worthy people in this government.

Vladimir Kashin, Communist Party deputy: Can we count on continuity and a preserved structure for the Agriculture Ministry?

Mishustin: You can, but there need to be consultations.

Alexey Didenko, LDPR deputy: The bigger families are in Russia, the poorer they are. What’s your assessment of our initiative to forgive or freeze debts?

Mishustin: Not good. Forgiving loans will lead to a whole series of bankruptcies. 

Andrey Isaev, United Russia deputy: Where is the cabinet going to find the money to fulfill the proposals made in the state-of-the-nation address?

Mishustin: We have the money. This year, we will need roughly 450 billion rubles [$7.3 billion] and, in the next four years, about 4 trillion rubles [$64.9 billion]. 

Oleg Nilov, Just Russia deputy: In Russia, there’s more than 30 trillion rubles [$486.6 billion] stuffed under people’s mattresses at home. The reason is more than 300 banks going bankrupt. We’ve proposed raising the insurance indemnity to 10 million rubles [$162,200] for all depositors. What do you think?

Mishustin: I’ll study the bill and let you know.

Nikolai Osadchii, Communist Party deputy: The president’s May 2012 executive orders on financing science and raising teachers’ salaries aren’t being implemented. Will the new cabinet get on this?

Mishustin: Of course.

Sergey Katasonov, LDPR deputy: The budget is effectively being met and the National Wealth Fund is nearly at its ceiling, but the population isn’t exactly rejoicing because incomes aren’t rising. We want everyone to experience this equally and fairly — the federal budget, the cabinet, and the citizenry. What do you think?

Mishustin: I like the sound of it, but one important point I’d make is that there is a huge number of social security benefits — hundreds of them — but it’s unclear how these benefits are being spent. Targeted assistance is what matters.

Anton Getta, United Russia deputy: The world economy is slowing down and some are talking about a looming financial crisis. What’s your assessment of the Russian economy’s stability and what would help maintain a growth rate no lower than the global economy’s? And what will you do to ensure that people feel their quality of life is improving?

Mishustin: Right now, there’s macroeconomic stability, we’ve created sufficient reserves, and we have low inflation. To develop further, we need to stimulate investment growth. We need to regain the trust lost between the authorities and the business community. We must implement the government’s national projects and possibly spend National Wealth Fund money on the country’s infrastructure.

Oleg Nikolaev, Just Russia deputy: The president outlined the importance of a digital transformation of our country’s economic and social spheres, and he’s suggested relying more on Russian-made software.

Mishustin: I’ll answer this in some detail. The world is on the verge of major changes. Digitization affects an entire economy. Of the companies that led the world in capitalization 20 years ago, only Microsoft remains. The others have disappeared [from this list]. The new leaders are digital giants. In 10 years, they’ll be replaced by new startups. And Russia has its own wonderful solutions and platforms. There are smart guys here and we need to help them. And the federal government needs to become a digital platform that helps people. In the tax service, we had a slogan: “Be discreet and don’t mess with business.” If you don’t notice us, all the better. I hope we’ll create a platform like that. We’ll be telling you more about that. Thanks.

Summary by Alexander Baklanov

Translation by Kevin Rothrock