23 february 2011

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin meets with Kaliningrad Region Governor Nikolai Tsukanov

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s meeting with Kaliningrad Governor Nikolai Tsukanov focused on plans to improve the region’s healthcare sector, lower utility prices, and support for agriculture

Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: How are you learning your way around your new job? What problems do you see as the most pressing? What are you planning to focus on in the near future?

Nikolai Tsukanov: First of all, I’d like to thank you, Mr Putin, for taking time to visit the Kaliningrad Region on Defender of the Fatherland Day.

We recently conducted a sociological survey to identify issues of concern to every resident. The quality of healthcare and utility prices came up on the top of the list. Oddly enough, Kaliningrad’s urban population is worried about agriculture. The affordability of transport is another major concern. So, these are currently the four biggest concerns of our population.

With regard to utility prices, we’ve raised them this year by a mere 5.5% in the capital, Kaliningrad, where half the region’s population is concentrated. As for the province as a whole, prices have risen 7% on average, although we could have opted for double that rate. But we’ve chosen to maintain them at an affordable level.

We appreciate your help with natural gas prices, which we’ve managed to keep down this year, thus avoiding price hikes in heating.

Speaking of the healthcare modernisation programme, we threw our weight behind it, but eventually our allocations were somehow cut in half.  I’d expected an increase, actually. To Kaliningrad’s population, this issue is a highly important one, as you know, so we’re willing to co-finance the programme fifty-fifty.

Vladimir Putin: How much do you need? Two billion?

Nikolai Tsukanov: 2.8 billion.

Vladimir Putin: The total amount of funds should exceed ten billion if we include health insurance payments, correct?

Nikolai Tsukanov: We need 2.8 billion…

Vladimir Putin: … in budget  allocations?

Nikolai Tsukanov: Yes, in budget allocations. We plan [to contribute] as much, hoping the total will come to at least 5 billion.

We have the problem of transport affordability, so we’d like to arrange for all kinds of medical services to be provided on the ground, including complicated surgery because not everyone can afford travel fares.

Vladimir Putin: I see.

Nikolai Tsukanov: I'd appreciate it if you considered this request, Mr Putin.

Vladimir Putin: I will.

Nikolai Tsukanov: As for agriculture, we currently have crops being cultivated on 45% of our lands.

Vladimir Putin: Farmlands, you mean?

Nikolai Tsukanov: All of our land could be used for farming, actually. About 90% of it, at least. There are a few controversies related to the indeterminate [property] status of lands, which haven’t all been properly demarcated. But we’re working now to solve this issue.

Another acute problem has to do with owners who have purchased farmland and had it registered [as such], but do not farm their plots. Unfortunately, we cannot carry out land inspections more often than once every three years, which lets land owners take their time farming the land.

We’ll try to develop annual programmes providing incentives for farming by owners, so that at least 10% of newly designated lands could be added to the farming pool per year.

So far this year, we’ve allocated almost twice as much money for irrigation purposes as last year. And we hope to make irrigation an important business sector that is not forced to rely upon imports.

We still have a lot of food imported from abroad. Transit through Poland recently caused price hikes in foodstuffs. So now we’re trying to support small- and medium-sized businesses as much as we can in an effort to replace imports with domestically produced foods – staple foods above all.

Vladimir Putin: Do your agricultural enterprises have enough fodder cereals? 

Nikolai Tsukanov: We asked you to let us use cereals from our reserve. You gave us the go-ahead, and it was a great help to us, as our farmers did not have enough.

We’ve got a lot of farms breeding pigs and poultry, and fodder there has been in short supply. Until recently, that is. Now that we’ve got the authorisation to use the reserve,  we can fix the problem.

Vladimir Putin: How much is in the reserve?

Nikolai Tsukanov: Nine million tons. That’s exactly the amount we lacked. So now the problem is off the agenda.

Vladimir Putin: Good.