15 september 2011

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin holds a meeting on the results of his talk with the participants of the national primary elections

“We need a case-by-case approach!” said the prime minister, in reference to concrete problems of the people.

Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues.

As you know, yesterday I met with participants in United Russia’s primary elections to the State Duma. Some of these people are members of both the party and the Russian Popular Front. I must say, the talk was highly informative and specific. They brought up problems that we have been discussing in some form or another, but the problems were formulated in a way that often seemed new, while certain other matters, I must say, we do not even notice. This is what I would like you to focus on today. The case in point is a range of problems that we need to address immediately.

First of all, this concerns the elderly. It's clear that there is a certain kind of programme, and a lot has been done recently, including the fact that we have carried out the so-called valorisation. However, there are categories of senior citizens who merit special attention. I will not mention these categories now, but it is clear we need to address each case specifically. We need a case-by-case approach! For example, we have to differentiate between the oldest people, people who live alone, separate categories of pensioners and so forth. I would like you to say a few words about what is being planned in this area in the near future.

Next is support for people with disabilities. Yes, we have adopted the Barrier-free Environment programme. Yes, we have allocated significant funds from the federal and regional budgets. Yes, we are developing a programme to enhance accessibility in administrative buildings, and facilities for sports and social activities in order to eliminate any obstacles for the disabled. However, the participants in yesterday's meeting pointed out that there was a certain category that required a specific approach. These are blind, deaf and mute people. The people who have to live with this disability are in a very difficult situation. And they are also in a difficult situation when it comes to support from the government, which is minimal. I have asked you to think about this and to propose solutions. There is a particular example of the kind of help needed in a facility not very far from here, in the Moscow Region, if I am not mistaken. But we also need to think about every person in this category.

We are also currently considering modernisation of school education. We touched upon this topic at a recent meeting with the rectors and it surfaced again yesterday. This concerns teachers in pre-school facilities, arts schools and so on. Clearly, it requires detailed examination as well as funding, but we must think carefully and should perhaps begin working at the regional level. Speaking of which, many regions have already responded quite successfully. They do not forget about these categories. But I would like you to offer your suggestions today.

The next question has to do with housing. We already discussed this at a meeting in the Moscow Region, and our colleagues from the industry, for example, said that housing opportunities such as renting were by an order of magnitude inferior to what is available in Europe. But if we want to make this housing plan acceptable for the people, we need to improve the legal infrastructure in order for people to feel safe against all kinds of arbitrary behaviour, including that of financial nature. Please think about this as well.

Next, there are issues of hostel accommodation, especially student accommodation. During the crisis, we were forced to cut this programme but later we started extending it again. I would like Mr Fursenko to say a few words about this as well. The problem is not only a lack of dormitories, but that there is often a lack of established regulations that would allow providing Wi-Fi networks or any Internet service, and so on. I would like the Ministry of Communications to look into the situation and offer some proposals.

Finally, there is the important issue connected with industrial restructuring. At the meeting yesterday with the participants in the primaries, we mentioned aircraft engineering or, to be more precise, motor engineering. When we restructure the industries, which is inevitable… If we want these industries to be competitive with our main partners in the United States or in Europe, we cannot do without this restructuring. This may seem obvious, but we need to be very careful about keeping jobs and a skilled workforce. Even amid the most difficult times of the crisis, we did everything we could to hold onto jobs. What is going on now? I would like to hear a report and specific proposals. Let's start with this. Please.

Denis Manturov (Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade): Mr Putin, ladies and gentlemen, I think a mistake was made: the entire staff was not duly informed because the authorities communicated directly with both companies’ trade union leaders as the Star and Inkar fuel supply control system manufacturers were merging. We will certainly amend the programme to streamline production and reduce the staff because we had an understanding with the trade union that wages will be raised without increasing the wage fund.

Vladimir Putin: What exactly are the companies you’re speaking of?

Denis Manturov: Star and Inkar. Both companies are based in Perm. We will first address the problems of streamlining production and do without major personnel cuts. A turner Valery Trapeznikov, who took part in yesterday’s discussion, mentioned, among others, the problem of redundant managerial staff, which naturally arose with the merger. The managerial staff is being reduced now, so we will solve all problems quite soon.

Vladimir Putin: Alright. Let’s move on to dorms. Mr Fursenko, what’s the relevant programme for this year, and what grants are earmarked in next year’s budget?

Andrei Fursenko: Foundations have been laid for 21 dorms. All unfinished buildings were completed last year, so about 100,000 sq m of dorms were commissioned. Construction is underway on far fewer buildings than before, so the output will increase next year again. We have agreed with the Finance Ministry to redirect part of the federal targeted programme’s funds to dorm construction, as it’s hard to find idle money these days. We expect to invest about 8 billion roubles in dorm construction in the next two years.

There is another big problem – deplorable living conditions in the available dorms, which are rather numerous. Their total floor space exceeds 7 million sq m, if I am not mistaken. As you were told, 2.5 billion roubles were allocated for capital repairs this year out of saved funds. More than 70 universities received extra grants, and will repair their dorms during this year. We will continue the job next year. During the repairs, we intend to resolve the issue of dormitories being accessible for the disabled; we are making this a goal. Another goal is to create better living conditions, including those things you said about the internet. This is automatically done in new dormitories. You have visited the Far Eastern Federal University, and they naturally have it. Kazan is now getting ready for the World Student Games and it is building a village for the participants. Universities are doing it at new dormitories, but it will require some time, because not only money is needed but also a quality overhaul.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Shchegolev, please.

Igor Shchegolev: Under the Government House programme we are connecting networks to places where our citizens are, including to schools. As you know, we had such a programme adopted at a certain stage. Now we have the opportunity to provide free wi-fi at a certain speed –  which is fairly high – for universities and student dormitories within this academic year and the next one. But we are encountering a problem: many rectors and deputy rectors do not allow it – for obvious reasons. Of course, it would be better to do this on a national scale, as one big project – this will both shorten the timeframe and will not require any additional subsidies from the federal budget for some basic things. So if Mr Fursenko and I manage to find a way to persuade the management at universities to agree to it – given that this will not require any spending; on the contrary, it will be done by companies that are willing to do it – it could be done quite quickly.

Vladimir Putin: Submit your proposals. A few words about support to the volunteer movement.

Vitaly Mutko: The volunteer movement. First of all, we have created the legal framework for these activities: amendments related to volunteering have been introduced to the law on education; a definition for this movement has been given. Second, regarding volunteers that will take part in student construction teams. As you know, a number of decisions have been made on benefits during this service. For example, they will receive a pay. And those who are sent to construction teams will receive a discount on social taxes. As to the volunteer movement, we have started a general programme, we have a website, which already has about 7 million users, and we have begun offering special support programmes to volunteers in different spheres. Search teams that search for the graves of our soldiers who went missing in the Great Patriotic War in order to re-bury them are very successful. They are currently working on a huge project to create a living book of memories. We want volunteers to collect the memories of those who are still alive. We have a very big programme in preparation for our sporting events – in Sochi, and for the World Student Games. Sochi alone is expected to have 25,000 volunteers, and 18 special training centres have been set up to train them.

Vladimir Putin: At universities?

Vitaly Mutko: At universities. We have held competitions from the Far East to Kaliningrad, and 18 universities won. We have given them certificates and launched training programmes. Volunteers also work in the social sphere, helping city services to clean up the territory. In summer, we sent a lot of volunteers to children’s sport and recreation camps.

Vladimir Putin: The colleagues I met yesterday had some proposals. I will pass them on to you for you to review.  

What about our plans to raise pensions next year?

Anton Drozdov (Chairman of the Board of the Russian Pension Fund): Next year, we plan to index pensions to the expected inflation rate for this year (which is 7.06%) on February 1, and to the growth rate of the Pension Fund’s revenues (2.4%) on April 1. This means that overall we will raise pensions by 9.6%. Also on April 1, we plan to index the monthly monetary allowance by the planned inflation rate (which is 6%). We will also index the social pension to consumer prices above the inflation rate, 14.1%, also on April 1. So we will index pensions several times next year, on February 1 and on April 1. All the necessary allocations for this purpose have been made, the budget has been coordinated and will soon be submitted to the government for consideration.

Vladimir Putin: When?

Anton Drozdov: We plan to submit it tomorrow.

Vladimir Putin: Good. And what about elderly people living alone?

Maksim Topilin (Deputy Minister of Healthcare and Social Development): I would like to report, Mr Putin. If an elderly person is living alone, over 80 years old and needs special care, there are additional allowances that are financed by the Pension Fund, 1,200 roubles. This programme is functioning.

The Pension Fund also provides co-financing for programmes that are drafted and endorsed by the regions (it is within their powers). The sum is not that big, about 1 billion roubles a year. We have included this programme in next year’s budget. Different projects –  including expanding gas supply and possibly repairs – are financed locally depending on people’s needs. People get support depending on their individual needs. Moreover, in order to provide social institutions with the infrastructure required to make services available to the elderly, we co-financed the purchase of special mobile centres together with the regions under this programme so that these services could be provided at home, if a person needs them.

You have also set a task related to the disabled. Unfortunately, we have a waiting list for providing rehabilitation devices. But things are changing fairly quickly. In order to raise the quality of this service and to make it more available, we have been conducting an experiment that involves transferring this power to regional authorities for the third successive year. Consequently, when social services visit a person, they find out about this need.

On your instruction, we reviewed our internal reserves together with the Finance Ministry and are currently drafting proposals on adjusting this year’s budget in order to increase financing of this programme from the ministry’s savings. At the moment, we estimate it at some 7-8 billion roubles, and we plan to phase out this waiting list in the first quarter, in accordance with the task you set, in order to provide quality rehabilitation devices to everyone who needs them.

In addition, we have prepared a draft law on increasing allowances for keeping guide dogs, including for people with impaired vision and hearing. These allowances have not been indexed since 2005. Yesterday we coordinated it with the Finance Ministry along with the budget, since this means additional spending; it is not huge, but the increase will be significant, from 10,000 to 17,000 roubles for a guide dog. So we have coordinated this draft law and will submit it together with the budget for the government’s consideration at the meeting tomorrow.

Next year we will conduct an experiment to introduce a new classification of the disabled as part of the Accessible Environment programme. The classification we have today is simple: group I, II and III. Neither employees of socials services or employees of, for example, an airport or others institution can evaluate it, and it is unclear to them what kind of disability they are dealing with. Transitioning to the international classification system will allow us to describe a person’s disabilities in his or her documents, and then it will be clear for service providers. This is a very complicated job and we have some events planned for this experiment next year in a number of regions. This is a serious and fairly long job, but I think we will get it done.

Vladimir Putin: So that people’s rights are not infringed on when they are travelling, flying, and so on.

Maksim Topilin: We will get it done. And now people do not even have a document saying what they need.

Vladimir Putin: And what about the category I have mentioned, the blind, deaf and mute people?

Maksim Topilin: It will work the exact same way for them. This category will be included in a person’s documents and it will be clear which services he or she needs.

Vladimir Putin: Services are fine, but yesterday there was a question about putting them into a separate category. All right, just think about it.

Maksim Topilin: We will have to work on it.

Vladimir Putin: Do it and then report back to me. And please (to Deputy Minister of Regional Development Alexander Viktorov) work with the regions to ensure that we don’t have any shameful cases where old people are left without care, when people who are 90 or 100 years old are left to live alone in a shack. The local authorities have to know about it, and efforts have to be made to address this problem. Let’s discuss some other things. I have some questions.