Working group created to handle Russia's social & economic problems

The Kremlin, the government, deputies, governors, officials from public and research organizations, and entrepreneurs have put their heads together to work out solutions to the most important tasks facing Russia.

According to the Russian president's aide, Igor Shuvalov, the working group responsible for "coordinating efforts to solve top-priority social and economic tasks" was formed this summer and consists of 27 representatives of the country's major political parties, public organizations, and government bodies.

Shuvalov, who heads the group, said the first session had focused on choosing the most important of the 47 topics offered. By eliminating the less important topics, the group had selected five top priorities: creation of a market of affordable housing, modernization of the educational system, reform of the military organization, and all-round development of Russia's enclave on the Baltic Sea, the Kaliningrad region.

"The president has approved the chosen topics and instructed the group to have corresponding federal bills ready by next April or May," Shuvalov reported. The idea was that the bills would become laws somewhere in 2004 or early 2005.

The first results of the group's activities, or "conceptual outlines of the future bills" as the president's aide put it, must be submitted to the president in November.

At this moment, the group, aided by the government, is busy discussing joint approaches to the mentioned problems.

"The members of the working group are unanimous in the choice of the group's strategic goal: to raise the nation's wellbeing," Shuvalov said. "They are ready to consolidate efforts. They believe that when solved, the tasks in question will directly improve the quality and conditions of life of every individual, protect people socially and economically, improve the demographic situation, and change the Russian way of living." On July 11, 2003, Vladimir Putin gathered the government's top officials, heads of both houses of the Russian parliament, the Presidium of the State Council, and officials from public, business and research organizations in the Kremlin and stated that it was necessary to consolidate society to solve the tasks facing the country. He said it might be useful to set up a joint working group to "move forward and hear each other," as he put it.

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