February 27, 2008 / 3:44 PM / 12 years ago

FACTBOX: Key facts on Russia's showcase national projects

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev, the Kremlin-backed frontrunner in Sunday’s presidential election, has focused his campaign on the results of his “national projects” aimed at improving voters’ lives.

The following are key facts on the four national projects Medvedev has been overseeing since 2006.

HEALTH

The challenge: Russia’s population is shrinking by around 700,000 people each year. Poor diet, unhealthy lifestyles, and a lack of medical care has resulted in low life expectancy.

The project:

*Improve the skill levels of family doctors, general practitioners and pediatricians and increase the wages of medical personnel.

*Raise birth rates by tackling infant and maternal mortality rates. A $10,000 payment is available to families for each baby born after their first child - but with spending restrictions.

*Build a network of hi-tech medical centers across Russia.

The criticism: Observers say Russia still lacks an efficient nationwide system of medical insurance, that purchases of hi-tech equipment for medical centers are random and the quality of overall medical services remains low.

HOUSING

The challenge: Owning an affordable home has for decades been an unattainable dream for millions of Russians. Much of the existing housing stock, built during Soviet rule, is sub-standard and crumbling.

The project:

*The Government has set all Russian regions the task of boosting construction to meet targets that are linked to the size of the local population.

*The State has pledged to make it easier for private banks to offer affordable mortgages to ordinary Russians.

*Special state subsidies for young families to help towards buying a new home.

The criticism: industry experts say the cost of housing has more than doubled since mid-2005 because demand is rising faster than the construction of new homes.

EDUCATION

The challenge: Russia says it wants to create a knowledge-based economy able to compete on the world stage. To do this, it is seeking to revamp its education system.

The project:

*The State has provided schools across Russia with libraries, modern computer classes and access to the Internet.

*Schools which win contests for innovative teaching methods can earn grants to pay for equipment and boost teacher salaries.

*Grants have been made available for the most talented students aged between 14 and 25.

The criticism: Many parents say they must pay bribes to teachers and university lecturers; critics say the overall quality of education remains mediocre; many small rural schools have shut because of low pupil numbers.

AGRICULTURE

The challenge: Russia is a net exporter of grain but it imports much of its meat and other foodstuffs because domestic producers cannot compete with foreign rivals.

The project:

*Cheap loans for agricultural producers and schemes to import livestock and equipment.

*State support for private farmers.

*Cheap housing for young agricultural specialists and their families.

The criticism: Some industry experts say the project does not address the biggest problems: poor infra-structure in rural areas and big monopolies that dominate the wholesale market in agricultural produce.

Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Matthew Jones

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