MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin focused on social needs in his state-of-the-nation address Wednesday, promising to raise welfare payments, improve education and the struggling health care system, and remove toxic dump sites from cities.
Speaking before lawmakers and top officials, Putin said the government will boost benefits to support young families. He also promised tax breaks, lower mortgage rates and housing subsidies for families with several children.
He said the tax burden on developers will be eased to encourage them to expand housing construction.
Putin emphasized the need to combat poverty, saying that 19 million of Russia's approximately 147 million people live below the official poverty line, currently the equivalent of around $160 a month.
Improving the health care system will be another top priority for the government, the Russian president said. He promised to pour additional resources into underfunded hospitals and clinics and make medical assistance available to residents of all remote villages across the country.
He said the government will fund the creation of new state-of-the-art children clinics and conduct a sweeping anti-cancer program.
Putin noted that another key task is solving the problem of overfilled dump sites, often near residential areas. Noxious fumes from landfills near Moscow stoked protests last year.
Putin urged authorities to rein in shadowy waste management companies that neglect regulations. He said authorities should close 30 dump sites in big cities in the next two years.
Putin emphasized the need to modernize the nation's infrastructure, saying 60 airports will be revamped in the next six years.
He said the nation needs to focus on building a research and production capacity on artificial intelligence and robotics to secure its technological edge.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.