13 december 2010

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin holds a working meeting with Arkhangelsk Region Governor Ilya Mikhalchuk

At their meeting, Putin and Mikhalchuk discussed the challenges of welfare and upgrading the region’s healthcare infrastructure. The prime minister asked if the region had made any progress in housing construction and suggested that the governor make new proposals on corporate housing for young professionals.

Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: What are your year-end results like?

Ilya Mikhalchuk: Pretty good, actually. We've performed quite well in logging and timber processing. In the first ten months (of 2010), we increased our output year-on-year by 28% in logging, 14% in industrial wood production, and by about 12% in cellulose. Overall, the growth rate came to about 20%.

Vladimir Putin: What's the situation like in welfare? How are you dealing with pensions and healthcare-related issues? What's the average wage for your public sector workers these days?

Ilya Mikhalchuk: The average wage is currently at 14,000 roubles [per month] in the healthcare sector and 12,000 roubles in education. We plan to raise it throughout the sector by 6.5% as of January 1. Initially, we planned the pay rise for the latter half of the year, but then decided that we could make it by the first of January if we worked hard enough.

As for modernisation – a priority you set while in Kaliningrad – we're planning to allocate between 2.2 and 2.5 billion roubles for the purpose next year. We intend to build 70 rural medical centres and two larger clinics in two years. And we are due to commission a clinic for cancer patients by the year's end.

Vladimir Putin: Where's that?

Ilya Mikhalchuk: In Arkhangelsk. A large one, costing an estimated 1 billion (roubles).

Vladimir Putin: How many beds will it hold? Around a hundred and fifty?

Ilya Mikhalchuk: It will have a surgery unit equipped to modern standards. We're launching a regional clinical hospital next year that will serve as many as 450 beds.

One of the issues I wanted to discuss with you is the need for new hospital facilities. At the moment, we have no adequate facilities for the city's regional children's hospital. The clinic is housed in six dilapidated buildings, with 50% of the premises currently in disrepair. We need to build a new children's hospital, intended primarily for diagnostic services. The existing regional clinic, which holds 800 beds, leaves much to be desired.

Concerning modernisation, we're going to commisson a centre for perinatal care in Kotlas next year. Our supply of medical staff is among northwestern Russia's highest, I must say, with 43 doctors and 114 paramedics available for every 10,000 inhabitants.

Vladimir Putin: And how high is the (regional) birth rate?

Ilya Mikhalchuk: The current rate is 12 per every 1,000 inhabitants, and it's on the rise. The mortality rate is 14 per every 1,000. But infant mortality is going down. In the first 10 months of this year, we saw it drop by 20% – 22%, to be precise – thanks largely to improved aid with problematic deliveries.

But aside from all of these programmes and the use of "maternity capital," in keeping with your resolutions for the improvement of young families' living conditions... we're also running a programme of our own, you know. We provide young mothers with free meals that we subsidise with money from the regional coffers, and we set up additional preschool classes [for children under 6]. Nonetheless, there's still a sense that not enough is being done. As I said, one of the main problems we face is the shortage of hospital accommodation for children.

Vladimir Putin: I suggest we discuss this issue later within the limits of the healthcare modernisation programme.

Ilya Mikhalchuk: I'd like to express my sincere appreciation: we'll have a one-billion-rouble loan released thanks to your support, and that money will go to finance housing programmes for public-sector workers, beginning with healthcare.

Vladimir Putin: And how has your housing construction been developing this year? Do you recall any figures for the amount of residential space commissioned thus far?

Ilya Mikhalchuk: We've set ourselves a target of 230,000 square metres, but we're actually lagging behind schedule. The hurdles are all the same, you know – the economic downturn, that kind of thing.

Our year-end figure for the residential space commissioned will be 150,000 square metres. But we've deliberately set ourselves high targets for this year, and we hope to double the figure we met a year ago. It was 129,000 square metres last year and this year, we were aiming for nearly 250,000.

Vladimir Putin: That's quite an increase, isn't it?

Ilya Mikhalchuk: Indeed.

Vladimir Putin: The price of one square metre is in the range of 32,000-33,000 roubles or more?

Ilya Mikhalchuk: It's 38,000 for new housing and 37,000 for used facilities. But the price we set for WWII veterans in the region is 28,750 roubles. The same goes for people who need to be relocated from shabby housing that may put their lives at risk.

Vladimir Putin: I suggest that we jointly draw up a corporate housing programme for young professionals [working in your region]. You come up with a set of proposals. And working together, this programme will reflect a collaboration between top management, regional authorities, and the federal government.

Ilya Mikhalchuk: That would be great. Actually, we've got a few projects underway that we could use as building blocks for the scheme you're proposing. We have two apartment blocks under construction right now in which the price of housing is set at 28,750 roubles per square meter.

Vladimir Putin: Let's develop a similar programme for a period of seven years.

Ilya Mikhalchuk: For the city or...?

Vladimir Putin: No, no, for Sevmash.

Ilya Mikhalchuk: Certainly.