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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Medvedev Pledges $12Bln for National Projects in '08

First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, the favorite to succeed Vladimir Putin as president, on Tuesday said the government would increase spending on the national projects by 15 percent to $12 billion next year.

Medvedev told a Cabinet meeting that the government would boost spending on the four national projects — housing, health care, education and agriculture — to 300 billion rubles ($12 billion) in 2008. This year, the country allocated 260 billion rubles to this program.

"Investment into human capital has proved to be one of the most effective," Medvedev said. "The national projects paid back not only in terms of development of these industries but the economy and society on the whole," he said in comments posted on the government's web site.

Medvedev is in charge of the national projects, which were launched in 2005. The role, in which he has featured regularly on state television, has helped boost his profile.

Medvedev told the government meeting that the national projects would have to be integrated into a larger program to develop the country until 2020. Education, agriculture and health would remain the government's priorities, he added.

Medvedev said in March that the national projects could be wound up after three years, at the end of 2009. Putin first announced the projects in September 2005 and in November moved Medvedev, then head of the presidential administration, to the Cabinet to oversee them.

Putin earlier this month backed Medvedev, a lawyer and longtime associate from his hometown of St. Petersburg, to run in the March 2 presidential election. Pollsters say Medvedev's election is virtually guaranteed because of the president's endorsement.

Putin, who has to step down as president after two consecutive terms, has said he is ready to become prime minister if Medvedev is elected. Analysts say this would ensure that Putin retains an influential role.