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Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, a presidential favorite,
Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, a presidential favorite, said Friday that his election program contained four key areas - Institutions, Infrastructure, Innovation, Investment.

Medvedev was publicly backed by Putin as his successor in mid-December, and was later nominated by the ruling United Russia party as a presidential candidate for the country's crucial elections due on March 2.

"We should concentrate on the so called four I's - Institutions, Infrastructure, Innovation and Investment," the official said.

Medvedev warned against searching for "a national idea," which he said was not productive, admitting however that every nation should have a set of principles.

"Even the four I's task is not a national idea, God forbid, but a set of work principles for the next few years... if we tackle specific things, we will also be able to cope with larger tasks," he said.

Addressing an economic forum in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, Medvedev named seven tasks which needed implementing within the four key areas, including steps to remove administrative barriers and reduce tax burdens to encourage innovation and private investment in social development.

Medvedev said that Russia should sell its main exports in rubles to increase the convertibility of the national currency.

The inflow of export income from natural resources is one of the main reasons for Russia's growing money supply, which, in turn, stimulates high inflation rates.

"We should encourage the transition to ruble payments for [Russian] exports of primary goods," Medvedev said. "In particular, we need to start trading on exchange floors in these goods with new contracts exclusively in our national currency."

Medvedev described as a priority action to support exports and investment, and improve the image of Russian companies abroad.

Medvedev also announced plans to fight under-the-table-wages, a widespread practice in the country to avoid paying Unified Social Tax at 26% and income tax at 13%. He also said he wanted to see an increase in the number of home owners in Russia to 35% from the current 20% by 2012.

He urged steps to minimize unified social and individual income taxes on individual spending on education, healthcare and pensions.

"...unified social and individual income taxes must be reduced as much as possible, to socially reasonable levels for individual spending on education, healthcare and pensions," Medvedev said.

"I believe the majority of government officials should not hold positions on [company] boards. Truly independent directors should replace them," the official said.

Medvedev, who is a Russian first deputy prime minister, is also board chairman at Russian energy giant Gazprom.

The Levada pollster said on Thursday that a total of 80% of respondents planning to vote in March elections would back Dmitry Medvedev.

The other three presidential candidates include Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, ultra nationalist Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Andrei Bogdanov, who leads the tiny pro-Western Democratic Party.

Early voting was launched in Russia's remote areas on Friday.

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