28 september 2010

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin meets with the head of the Komi Republic, Vyacheslav Gaizer

Prime Minister Putin and the head of the Komi Republic, Vyacheslav Gaizer, have discussed the republic’s performance in the first six months of 2010. Mr Gaizer has noted stable positive trends in the public services and the economy, and emphasised that inflation has been lower in his republic than across the country and that the demographic situation has been improving, primarily due to the government’s social support programmes. However, there has also been a modest decline in oil production in the republic.

Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: Mr Gaizer, how did your republic perform in the first half of the year?

Vyacheslav Gaizer: Our republic's economy was adversely affected by the economic downturn, but we've been seeing a steady positive trend for all major macroeconomic indicators since the start of the year. Our industrial output has remained at last year's level, without any decline in production. And we've also experienced some increase in coal production, about 20% year-over-year. There's been some growth in timber processing as well, between 7 to 28%.

But, to be frank, there've been some cases of underperformance. Oil production levels have fallen somewhat, by 3%, and logging output has declined. We hope, however, that here, too, the situation will stabilise by the end of this year.
This [the republic's industrial performance] has naturally produced positive results, such as lower inflation. The consumer price index now stands at 4.9, compared with 7.9 last year. Unemployment is also down, after peaking at 3.4 at the beginning of the year it has now dropped to 2.2.

Vladimir Putin: Fine.

Vyacheslav Gaizer: As of today there are fewer than 12,000 unemployed people.

Retail trade is growing steadily. All this is, of course, reflected in consolidated budget revenues where we have seen a growth of almost 15% on last year. This means we can say with certainty that we will recover our 2008 revenue figures by the end of the year. So we are recovering those positions lost in 2009 as far as budgetary provisions are concerned.

Vladimir Putin: What about the gross regional product?

Vyacheslav Gaizer: Over 140 billion roubles. Our GRP is the same as last year's.

Vladimir Putin: On last year's levels - that's not very good is it?

Vyacheslav Gaizer: Our industrial output is at the same level as last year because, despite some growth in coal and timber industries, there has been a slight (3%) drop in oil output, which accounts for the lion's share of the GRP. So it is down to that. But we do hope that things will have improved by January 1, and that we will also see growth in this sector.

The fact that we are seeing slower growth in the number of loss-making businesses and, as a result, growth in consolidated budget revenues has allowed us to take additional welfare measures in the republic to help them weather the crisis. This includes the decision made by the government of the republic to raise public sector wages from October 1. This increase will benefit workers whose basic pay, including the extra northern allowance, is still under the statutory minimum wage. In connection with this we had to use resources from the incentivisation funds set up by businesses to meet that shortfall. On October 1, we abolished this disproportion in order to liberate the incentivisation funds. The next phase will be launched on January 1 of next year, as agreed with the trade unions in a trilateral commission. We are currently making the necessary estimates for next year's budget and setting reserves in place. We also determined our social priorities, considering how to further develop national policies in education and healthcare. The most important weak points were identified in every sector. Small schools are one problem we face in education, due to our sprawling territory. There are over 50 such schools here, both primary and secondary.

Vladimir Putin: I was shown the designs while visiting the companies, I took a look at them, and some were really good.

Vyacheslav Gaizer: We have already started to implement them. We have opted to close schools that cannot be improved. First, we are going to change them and build new schools in place of the old ones. We are planning to build 21 schools over the next two and a half years. The first one is already operational, catering for 200 students. Seven more will be completed before the year is out. In addition, a distance-learning programme has also been introduced at such schools.

Vladimir Putin: To improve teaching quality.

Vyacheslav Gaizer: Yes. Since these schools are understaffed, we started running trial lessons as early as September 1 - not only for disabled children, but also for small schools. Now we are coordinating our next moves with communications experts. A great deal depends on the quality of communication here. In healthcare, we are making more facilities available: we have a modernisation plan ready, which we will champion following the government's decision ...

Vladimir Putin: So you are in touch with the Healthcare Ministry?

Vyacheslav Gaizer: Yes. We have also adopted several new healthcare programmes. One of them involves launching travelling diagnostic facilities for the countryside.

Vladimir Putin: Is that by rail or road?

Vyacheslav Gaizer: By road. We have already received two of these vehicles and are kitting them out. By the end of the year the project will have been completed in southern regions of the republic and we will be in a position to demonstrate it to the Ministry of Healthcare and Social Development. A telemedicine service will also be provided. Making a diagnosis in a village isn't enough, they need to have access to qualified professional assistance and advice from the centre of the republic. As regards telemedicine, we have a separate project underway in the republic. It is going well.

All this enables us to further improve our death and birth rate statistics. Over recent years the death rate has fallen 15% while the birth rate increased 12%. In infant mortality terms, we have one of the best figures in the country - it is down by 41%.

Vladimir Putin: The problem is two-fold: child mortality and maternal mortality. Both must be combated.

Vyacheslav Gaizer: Yes, indeed. The part of the programme we are implementing now concerns perinatal centres and obstetrics, including intensive care units.

Vladimir Putin: Why, have you commissioned a new perinatal centre?

Vyacheslav Gaizer: We already had one. We have modernised it, so it's not new but it has been improved.

Vladimir Putin: How did you go about its modernisation?

Vyacheslav Gaizer: We bought new equipment, carried out repairs and made improvements, including to basic conditions there (no small factor!) as well as to intensive care, because it also has a bearing on improving these indicators. Especially where premature babies are concerned.

Vladimir Putin: I see. Did you replace much of the equipment? What precisely? And where did you find the money?

Vyacheslav Gaizer: It all came out of our republic's budget and programmes financed under the national project.

Vladimir Putin: Have you visited it?

Vyacheslav Gaizer: The perinatal centre?

Vladimir Putin: Yes.

Vyacheslav Gaizer: No, not yet.

Vladimir Putin: Then go and see it.

Vyacheslav Gaizer: Our centre?

Vladimir Putin: Of course - your centre. I frequently stop by our federal centres.  Go and take a look at that one.

Vyacheslav Gaizer: Sure.

Vladimir Putin: Go and have a look at it, and find out what else they need.

Vyacheslav Gaizer: Will do.

Vladimir Putin: Do you have any wage arrears?

Vyacheslav Gaizer: Now, the official figure is one million roubles, across the whole republic.

Vladimir Putin: Practically zero.

Vyacheslav Gaizer: Practically none. We have a permanent commission overseeing the situation and it keeps it well under control.

Vladimir Putin: Good.