Prime Minister Vladimir Putin chaired a meeting of the Presidium of the Government of the Russian Federation
25 august 2008
Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:
Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues.
Mr Kozak and I have already started discussing what is currently being done in South Ossetia to restore the city of Tskhinval. Mr Kozak, you have been there. Could you please tell us how things are, what is being done and how this work is organized?
Dmitry Kozak: In line with the government's instructions, we have endorsed the membership of the interdepartmental commission on assistance to South Ossetia. On August 22, the commission held its first meeting. It determined the policy of all federal executive bodies, including executive authorities of the Southern Federal District, and of North Ossetia.
I should emphasize that North Ossetia has been very helpful. It has hurled all effort into helping South Ossetia. Regrettably, this will not allow it to prepare properly for winter because all building-maintenance services are now operating in South Ossetia.
All regulations have been endorsed. The Finance Ministry has defined the procedures for funding the work from the federal budget. The order for coordinating this work and its acceptance by the commission has been approved, as well as the procedures for signing a contract on the inspection of all buildings.
At present, the work is going on at 43 sites, for the time being without any contracts. I will explain a bit later what the problem is. The sites have been inspected. For the most part, North Ossetia's Spetsstroy (Special Construction Administration), the Energy Ministry, Rosavtodor (the Federal Roads Agency), and Rossvyaz (Federal Communications Agency) are working on these sites.
By now the majority of districts have electricity back; rubbish pick-up has been organized; chemists, outpatient clinics, and ambulances are working again.
Public transportation has been set going; telephone cables have been partially fixed, and mobile communications have been fully restored on the entire territory of the republic.
The post office and the bank are open. Government and municipal institutions are getting back to work. By September 1, 16 republican schools will be ready to start work: five in Tskhinval, and 11 in other places. The university will start classes from September 1. The two surviving buildings require minor repairs; one building is beyond repair, and classes instead will be held at School No. 6.
Today, more than a thousand people are working, apart from rescue and recovery operations under Resolution No. 850 on emergency relief. This number will be considerably increased by the end of the day.
The main obstacle to our progress on specific sites is the temporary inefficiency of the government and municipal authorities. This morning, I spoke with the republic's President, and he promised to form a new government by the middle of this week.
We are hoping that this will help us quit working in emergency conditions, and start working quickly but normally. Everything will be transparent and clear; each site will be inspected in advance, and a package job contract will be concluded.
We have agreed with the acting Prime Minister of South Ossetia that the primary contractor will hire more than a hundred subcontractors. The plan is to send them to specific sites in the near future.
We have enough material resources. As for financing, before the end of this week money will be transferred to a special account opened in South Ossetia. Today the government of South Ossetia will submit a list of officials authorized to conclude general contracts for construction works and accept the work done.
This is the gist of what has been done by today. An additional report will be made by the evening.
Vladimir Putin: Mr Kozak, is there some consolidated information on the scale of the damage done to South Ossetia by Georgia's aggression?
Dmitry Kozak: I must emphasize that we have not established the scale of damage. We have inspected major sites, and calculated roughly what sums were required to restore them. In our estimate, based on a visual inspection of 750 sites, we are planning to earmark 16 billion roubles ($650.94 million, or €441.62 million) for the republic's comprehensive recovery; an additional 9.5 billion roubles ($386.49 million, or €262.21 million) were spent on top-priority operations. This adds up to 25 billion roubles ($1.02 billion, or €690.04 million).
Vladimir Putin: That is more than a million US dollars?
Dmitry Kozak: That's right.
Vladimir Putin: Is this roughly the damage done by the aggressors?
Dmitry Kozak: Yes.
Vladimir Putin: This is clear. All right, please continue your work. I would like you to report regularly on the implementation of the plans to restore South Ossetia, and particularly, Tskhinval.
In your report you mentioned winter preparations in one of Russia's regions ¬-- North Ossetia-Alania. What about the housing and utilities winter preparations in the rest of the country?
Dmitry Kozak: We are checking on them. We are carrying out the decisions made at the meeting of the interdepartmental commission on monitoring winter preparations. On the whole, in all measures undertaken on Russian territory, we are three to five percent ahead of the relevant period of the past year. We are one to two percent behind on two positions, that is, purchase of fuel for the autumn and winter. Here we are behind the relevant period of the past year.
All problem regions have been identified. We are constantly working with them. On August 28, we will hold a national teleconference on winter preparations.
In line with the Government's July instructions, we have discussed with the Finance Ministry allocation of additional funds from the regional budget. Four regions will receive additional subsidies.
In addition, we have prepared a list of indicators to rate the performance of government bodies in the regions of the Russian Federation during preparations for the coming winter season and sum up the results of their efforts following autumn and winter.
As we agreed at the government meeting, after December 15, that is, after completing the preparations, we will evaluate the performance of the executive bodies. After April 15, the results of the autumn-and-winter period will be summed up.
At a meeting on August 28, we will recommend the local governments in all regions to rate the bodies of executive power by the same yardstick, and then to reward or punish them by sanctions. I consider it absolutely essential for the executive bodies to work at the proper level.
Vladimir Putin: Remember, we talked about the need to toughen sanctions for inadequate preparations for the autumn and winter? I have asked you to draft proposals on this score. Where are they?
Dmitry Kozak: We will report on this question by September 1. We have discussed the necessary amendments to the legislation with the Justice Ministry, the Prosecutor's Office, and law-enforcement bodies.
Now the priority task is not changing criminal or administrative laws but monitoring compliance with them. We will submit a report on this issue by September 1.
Vladimir Putin: All right, you have a bit of time left.
Mr Ivanov, you head the intergovernmental commission with Uzbekistan. I'm going to Tashkent in a week. What about out bilateral cooperation with Uzbekistan? It is one of our key partners.
Sergei Ivanov: You are absolutely right, Mr Putin. Uzbekistan is our fourth biggest trade and economic partner in the CIS. In recent years, out trade has been steadily on the rise. Russia is investing more and more money into the Uzbek economy. Today, two thirds of all foreign investment in Uzbekistan is Russian.
Tomorrow, Mr Azimov, First Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan, is coming to Moscow. Together, we will analyze in detail the implementation of decisions in trade and the economy, which were made by the last year's meeting of the intergovernmental commission on trade and economic cooperation. We will also identify priority issues, including those pertaining to the preparations for your visit to Tashkent, and the commission's next session in Moscow in November.
Naturally enough, the main prospects of our cooperation with Uzbekistan are in the fuel-and-energy sector.
I would also emphasize the aircraft building industry, because during the visit of Uzbek President, Mr Karimov, we signed an agreement of the integration of the Tashkent Chkalov Aviation Production Association into Russia's United Aircraft Building Corporation (UABC).
In addition, we have good prospects for cooperation in transportation, communications, science and technology.
As in any big business, there are also some problems, some bottlenecks. We will discuss them in detail tomorrow as well. We have also made progress. At the recent Government session, we approved the agreement on the protection of interests of migrant workers. Now it is being submitted to the State Duma for ratification. It will help us further promote cooperation.
I hope that the momentum which has taken shape in our relations with Uzbekistan in trade, the economy and other spheres in the last few years will develop further.
In addition, on Wednesday I will chair a session of the Government Commission on Transportation and Communications. We will discuss as a separate issue the condition of sea ports and development of special economic zones. The Ministry of Economic Development has already conducted the first contests.
Quite recently, I held a special meeting on the plan to develop the Murmansk commercial port. It is located on the west bank of the Kola Gulf. All interested parties took part in it. We made all the final decisions. I believe that in the next few months, the Transportation Ministry and the relevant agencies will start designing and building a new deep-water oceanic port in Murmansk.
Vladimir Putin: These are good, ambitious plans; this is progress in the right direction, particularly considering that one of our main tasks is to develop the infrastructure. But now I would like to draw your attention as deputy prime minister in charge of transportation to the fact that people have been waiting for days at a time at our airports. Could you please put it straight as soon as possible. I would ask you to do this personally.
Sergei Ivanov: I will, Mr Putin.
Vladimir Putin: If you need money, it will be allocated immediately. September 1, the beginning of the new academic year, is near at hand. The number of passengers carried by aircraft and railroads is on the rise. We must have perfect order here. What is going on? People are waiting for days, some of them have small children, and there are no proper conditions. Please, check into this matter today.
Sergei Ivanov: A headquarters has already been set up at the Transportation Ministry.
Vladimir Putin: The headquarters is fine. But the problem must be resolved. Please, deal with it yourself, and push the matter through.
Ms Golikova, a medical centre is about to open in Penza.
Tatyana Golikova: According to the plan, first surgical operations will be done there on August 26. The register of patients has already been compiled. It is already clear on what scale they will render medical aid until the end of 2008. Also, a cardio-vascular centre will soon open in Astrakhan.
Vladimir Putin: When will it start working?
Tatyana Golikova: I believe, in October. Practically at the same time a centre for traumatic surgery, orthopedics, and prosthetics will open in Cheboksary.
Vladimir Putin: I will go there and see in what condition they are.
Tatyana Golikova: We will tell you when they will start working. There is a very lengthy approval procedure. You visited it with me in February, and it was practically built. But it was not fully equipped yet, and some licenses had not been received yet. Our legislation makes this process rather difficult. We have come to the start of operations only now.
Recently, we summed up information on high-technology medical aid. In the first six months of this year, we have fulfilled our plan by 50%. We planned 195,000 high-technology operations to be funded from the federal budget for 2008. Such operations are made in 186 centres. Some 75 medical centres are regional. Medical aid is rendered to 160,000 people in federal institutions, and to 35,000 people in regional ones.
As of June 1, such aid was given to 96,474 patients. The federal institutions are a little ahead of the plan with 58% for the first six months of the year; the regional centres are slightly behind with 43%.
When the budget for this year was specified we adjusted the funding for high technology medical aid. This will allow us to bring the current figure of 195,000 operations to 200,000 by the end of this year.
In addition to the general adjustments, we put three high technology medical centres on government payroll - two vascular centres in Penza and Astrakhan, and the centre for traumatic surgery and orthopedics in Cheboksary. We have also covered the funding for additional 13 medical establishments in regions of the Russian Federation: six centres for cardiovascular surgery, traumatology and neurosurgery, and seven centres for pediatrics, hematology, and child oncology.
Vladimir Putin: I have signed a document on the Moscow Centre of Hematology.
Tatyana Golikova: Many thanks, this is very important. My colleagues have been waiting for this document for a long time. I am hoping that the funding for this year, and the budget for three years will make it possible to build a proper centre on a high international level, all the more so since many children require hematological surgery. Unfortunately, the scope of aid rendered by us today is not sufficient, although we have increased it in the second half of the year. The construction of the centre will be a landmark. Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: Mr Ivanov, yesterday I also signed a document on our information system. Please, pay attention to it.
Mr Gordeyev, what about the harvest?
Alexei Gordeyev: The harvest is being collected at a good rate -- much faster than last year, and the average for the last few years. As of today, 55.5% of grain has been threshed, and the gross yield was 75.5 million tons, which is 20 million tons more than last year. Now the harvest collection has moved to the Urals and Siberia.
We have adjusted our forecast. If the weather in September is good, we are sure that the harvest of grain and grain legumes will be no less than 95 million tons. Let me remind you that last year this figure was 82 million tons. As I reported to you last time, this is a record harvest in the past 15 years.
Speaking about the crop yield, that is how many centners we collect from a hectare, it is obvious that this will be a record in Russia's entire history. It is possible to say that technologies play a certain role in the productivity of fields, and our ability to withstand bad weather. So, everything is going as it should.
Our priority now is to store the grain and maintain [purchasing] prices at a reasonable level. Mr Zubkov held a meeting dedicated to this issue, where I also made a report. All the decisions have been made. Today, government operators have started purchasing grain on the market.
Vladimir Putin: This is good. Mr Shuvalov, we have talked today about the WTO entry. I have already said many times that we are fulfilling the commitments undertaken many years ago during the talks on the entry, but this process has not been completed up to this day. In the meantime, our economy, its individual branches, and primarily agriculture carry a rather heavy load. It appears that we get no advantages from the WTO membership, if there are any at all, but are carrying this load. We must clear this up, especially in the context of sharp price fluctuations on the world market, including the food market. We must seriously think about the protection of our commodity producers in the countryside. Farmers have long demanded that we take action in this direction.
But this does not mean at all that we should relinquish our strategic movement towards the WTO once and for all. But we must be clear on this issue with our partners, and elementary justice should prevail. I would like to ask you to pay attention to this.
Igor Shuvalov: Mr Putin, my colleagues and I have been working on this issue on your instructions during this summer. A special plan, coordinated with the Foreign Ministry, has been approved. The Minister of Agriculture made a special trip to Geneva to talk with the ambassadors of the Kern Group. Talks were conducted on the amount of agricultural subsidies in case of Russia's WTO entry, and possible compromises were discussed. The Minister of Economic Development has held talks with the EU Commissar for Trade. We have sent a message explaining our position to Minister Schwab (Susan Schwab is US chief trade envoy to the WTO).
The Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister have completed bilateral talks by signing a relevant agreement with Saudi Arabia.
The last edition of a report by the working group says that we have advanced on the majority of issues, Mr Putin. Only technicalities are left.
But at the same time, some important questions are still outstanding, such as export duties on timber, some groups of tariffs, and regulation of companies, which are seen in the United States as companies partially owned by the state.
Our current view of the situation allows us to make a collective proposal. We suggest the following. We should continue the talks in the working group on the entry to the World Trade Organization, bearing in mind that this is a priority of our foreign economic policy. But there are some agreements which contradict the interests of the Russian Federation, and we should tell our partners about the need to withdraw from them so that we are not linked by such trade regulations with these countries. This being said, we would make a commitment to fulfill such agreements in full when we enter the World Trade Organization. Mr Putin, I have made a report on this subject, and will send it to you today.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you. Completing this part of our meeting, I would like to congratulate our Olympians, members of our national Olympic team who won 72 medals, including 23 gold, 21 silver, and 28 bronze, and occupied a confident third place in an unofficial point-count.
We have a young and promising team. To turn promise into reality, the sports organizers - the Ministry, and the National Olympic Committee - should do everything to create the conditions for the training of athletes who are capable of winning such stunning victories and making such achievements as we have seen now in Beijing. I would like to congratulate them once again. Mr Zhukov, what do you think about the results, and how is the Government planning to help our athletes, and in general to promote high-achieving sports in the future?
Alexander Zhukov: Mr Putin, I think that our athletes did really well. There were many bright victories during the Olympics.
As we all know, we have lost our positions in some sports. We must simply learn a lesson about the training of athletes from this. Today, we have two very serious programmes on the development of sports. I think that this will help us to restore our former positions.
As for the preparation of the Olympic Games in Beijing, and Games themselves, we have sent a big group of experts from the Sochi Organizing Committee to Beijing. Our Chinese colleagues have put together a special programme, and our experts are studying how the Olympics in Beijing were prepared and held. On the whole, the hosts deserve top marks. Everything was at the highest level. We will borrow from the experience of our Chinese colleagues, and not only in conducting the Olympics, but also in the training in the whole number of sports.
Vladimir Putin: All right. Let's return to this question once again, analyze the results in strictly working conditions, and see what should be done to improve this. I suggest we return to the current agenda.
As you can see from the documents, the Defence Ministry has drafted amendments to the law on Commemorating the Victory of the Soviet People in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945. I would like to say in this context that Victory Day has always been and will remain a truly national holiday. It is the day when we recall tragic and glorious pages of our history, honouring veterans, and when we teach a lesson of patriotism and public spirit to the younger generation.
I believe that the law presented by Russia's Defence Ministry should be supported.
We will also discuss the distribution of subsidies from the federal budget.
A total of 3.2 billion roubles ($130.19 million, or €88.32 million) are allocated to the Kamchatka and Maritime territories, and the Arkhangelsk and Murmansk regions to make up for higher prices on fuel oil. Mr Kozak has already mentioned it here. This is one of the measures which should help these regions to get through the cold season without any accidents, not to mention emergencies.
A total of 1.2 billion roubles ($48.82 million, or €33.12 million) are earmarked to the republics of Altai, Ingushetia, and Yakutia, and also to the Stavropol territory to eliminate the consequences of disasters of the past years.
It is planned to allot 250 million roubles ($10.17 million, or €6.9 million) to the Republic of Mari El to make up for its spending on the 7th All-Russia Rural Summer Sports Games.
Let us get down to work.