Prime Minister Vladimir Putin holds a Government Presidium meeting
1 march 2012
Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:
Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues. You know about the tragedy in Astrakhan. Mr Zubkov (Viktor Zubkov) and I went there and set up a government commission. On February 27, there was an explosion in a block of flats: there are dead and injured. We must do everything in our power to help the people. We saw a house, a block of flats, where the building’s residents could be relocated. It is in a new residential development and it is nearly completed. Today we will take a decision on allocating 350 million roubles for relocating these people. Further 36 million roubles will be allocated as financial aid to the injured and the families of the dead. I will remind you these figures: the families of the dead will get 1 million roubles for each person who has been killed; every person with serious injuries will receive 400,000 roubles; every person with light injuries will get 200,000 roubles; the property which has been destroyed completely will be compensated with 100,000 roubles, and the property which has been partially lost will be compensated with 50,000 roubles per person. And in addition, each person will receive a lump sum of up to 10,000 roubles, but no more than 50,000 roubles per family. I ask you to work on this quickly and tackle all these problems jointly with the leadership of the Astrakhan Region. There are families with many children, so I ask you to pay special attention to them. We discussed these issues with the governor, he knows this, but I ask you, Mr Zubkov, to keep this under your personal control.
Please say a few words on what is happening there.
Viktor Zubkov: Mr Putin, colleagues, the government commission created following per your directive is actively working on these issues. You have already said that the decision to be taken today on Astrakhan will take into account all instructions that you made during the teleconference on Monday and on February 28 in Astrakhan. It will make it possible to provide new flats in the new residential blocks to the residents of 124 flats. To date, the relocation certificates have been issued to 121 families, and 34 families have already moved into their new homes. Work is underway to determine who owns two of the flats. Residents of one flat refused, and we are now looking for other options. Additional help is being provided by the Astrakhan Region: families living in the building received 10,000 roubles each; 26 families whose flats were totally destroyed will receive 1 million roubles within this week. Regional authorities and organisations allocated over 1 million roubles to buy essential supplies; a charity account was opened with 2 million roubles in it already. Mr Putin, since there are people who lost all of their assets, the government has held a meeting with senior executives of several Russian companies in order to provide free aid to such people. Importantly, all company owners were responsive to our request and agreed to provide free aid to the victims. It was decided at the end of the meeting that new flats – 26 in all – for the people who lost everything to the explosion will be fully furnished and equipped for free with essential items, such as furniture, linens and household appliances, including refrigerators, washers and TV sets. This will be done within 10-14 days. I will follow up on this in person.
In accordance with your instruction, I have set up a specialised working group to prepare proposals to improve household gas equipment safety. By the way, we had over 20 leak-induced gas explosions in housing this year alone. We can already see that we are dealing with a problem that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. First, there’s no state oversight over the safe operation of household gas equipment. It is not legally considered as a high-risk object. There’s no legal mechanism that would encourage homeowners to sign household gas equipment maintenance agreements. So, they have a choice: to sign or not to sign. There are no regulations covering the responsibilities of the organisations that maintain specialised household gas equipment. Over 30% of gas ranges have been used for over 40 years, and they can explode at any moment. And not only gas ranges, but water heaters and other equipment. There are no gas detectors in residential areas. This may be one of the reasons for the explosion in Astrakhan. Clearly, we cannot continue to rely on regulations that are more recommendation than requirement in this sphere. We will go ahead and toughen operational requirements and increase the liability of those who are in charge of household gas supplies and safety of the people. I will hold the first session of the working group tomorrow.
I have one more point to make, Mr Putin. At the agrarian forum in Ufa held on February 28, many agricultural producers showed interest in state support for livestock breeding. The number I gave was 1 billion roubles, but this covers only the purchases of young livestock. The total amount of state funds allocated this year for the support of livestock breeding comes to 3.5 billion roubles. The same amount of money – 3.5 billion – will be allocated in 2012 and 2013. I would like to let all our agricultural producers know about this publicly.
Vladimir Putin: Good, thank you. By the way, Ms Skrynnik, this is the time of the year – the spring sowing season – when we normally hear a lot of questions about fuel and lubricant supplies. How are things this time?
Yelena Skrynnik: Mr Putin, the information concerning the amounts of subsidised fuel and lubricants were made available to the regions on February 6; 40 regions have already signed agreements with oil companies that will supply subsidised fuel and lubricants to agricultural producers; 15 regions have already taken decisions on end recipients. The information about end recipients has been posted on the website of the Ministry of Agriculture on open access. We have requested the regions to sign agreements before March 5 and that the list end recipients of fuel and lubricants be posted on the website of the Ministry of Agriculture where they will be accessible to everyone. There was a question concerning the Kursk Region asked during the agrarian forum in Ufa, so we looked in to the situation, made fuels and lubricants amounts available to farmers and settled the issue. We are also working to increase the amount of subsidised fuel and lubricants in the Amur Region.
Vladimir Putin: You have been to Barnaul, haven’t you?
Yelena Skrynnik: Yes, I have. Mr Putin, we have acted upon your instruction in the Altai Territory. First, we have performed work with respect to ensuring access of agricultural products from the Altai Territory to the federal retail network. An agreement between the Russian Association of Retail Businesses and agricultural producers was signed, which includes meat and dairy products, flour, sugar and so on. This will enable them to sell their produce directly to federal retailers. The next thing that interested the Altai agricultural producers was reimbursement of transport costs, primarily transport of flour and cheese. We arranged with the region that the programmes you supported, those regional and economically significant programmes… Such a programme will be created in the region, and it will make it possible to reimburse transport costs. This mechanism is already in place, and it can be used to reimburse costs involved in the transport of flour and cheese.
The third issue has to do with price of raw milk. We have signed an agreement to determine the price corridor. The agreement was signed by 450 dairy producers and processors, so we hope that the 12-16 rouble price corridor – we are aiming at 16 roubles per litre – will be maintained. I believe that we should keep doing this, because it works out well for us.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much. Mr Basargin, how are preparations for the APEC meeting in Vladivostok?
Viktor Basargin: Mr Putin, the work to make Vladivostok an international cooperation hub is nearing completion. Out of 72 APEC facilities, 18 have already been commissioned. We have fully finished 13 facilities and are now in the process of completing paperwork for them. Another 34 facilities are 90% ready, and we are going to commission them soon. The city has changed a lot, with 120 km of new roads, fully renovated water supply system, the water treatment system, Sakhalin-Khabarovsk-Vladivostok gas supply line, and a gas supply line to Russky Island. We have also built a new household waste treatment facility, scrapped old manufacturing facilities and reclaimed the old landfill. There will be a new airport in Vladivostok with a throughput capacity of 2.5 million passengers now and 5 million in the long run. In addition, two runways, one new runway. Finally, the housing construction. You are aware of the construction at Snegovaya Pad, which is an absolutely new facility. We are also about to complete a bridge across the bay…
Vladimir Putin: Is it the Golden Horn Bay or Bosphorus?
Viktor Basargin: It’s the Eastern Bosphorus. We are about to complete the construction of the final phase, the bridge lock, on March 26-31. We’d like to invite you to attend this event. We believe that the infrastructure that we are currently building in Vladivostok will allow the entire region to develop at an accelerated pace within the next 25 years.
Vladimir Putin: Excellent, just make sure that the quality is good, too.
Viktor Basargin: Mr Shuvalov is overseeing the construction. We go there several times a month to monitor progress and hold coordination meetings.
Vladimir Putin: Good, thank you.
Mr Siluanov, you attended the G-20 finance ministers’ meeting in Mexico. How was it? Anything interesting to share with us?
Anton Siluanov: Yes, Mr Putin, there was a G-20 finance ministers’ meeting, which stated that the financial markets tensions have somewhat subsided due to the measures taken primarily by the euro zone countries, namely, loans issued by the ECB in the amount of 500 billion euros and progress in …
Vladimir Putin: It’s slightly lower, at about 400 billion.
Anton Siluanov: No, it’s 500.
Vladimir Putin: 500?
Anton Siluanov: About 500 billion. This also includes funds used to bail out Greece in the amount of 130 billion euros. Greece still has to approve structural measures to be carried out in the near future. The decision by the European Financial Stability Facility to support a number of countries has also improved the situation. Greater stability in Europe and across the world improved the financial situation in Russia. We see more investors coming to Russia’s financial markets now. However, we said at the meeting that despite overall improvements, the fundamental issues haven’t been resolved. The euro zone countries haven’t repaid their respective debts yet. The average sovereign debt to GDP ratio in the euro zone countries is about 90% of the GDP.
Vladimir Putin: So, it means it's growing. It used to be about 85% six months ago.
Anton Siluanov: It’s about 90% now, Mr Putin. In fact, currently the situation is back to normal, but core debt-related problems haven’t been resolved. Several euro zone countries have made provisions seeking to consolidate their budgets by either increasing taxes or streamlining expenses, including the social ones, which is very painful. These countries are concerned that the budget consolidation will stifle their growth. Therefore, they are facing a dilemma whereby they either have to cut deficits and decrease growth or keep things unchanged without cutting expenses or decreasing growth rates. We spoke in favour of toughening control over the countries with high debt levels and drafting clear-cut programmes to alleviate such countries’ debt burden. Our position was included in the final communiqué.
Vladimir Putin: What is our stance with regard to supporting the IMF and sending funds to it in the context of the current crisis and potential future transactions designed to support the euro zone?
Anton Siluanov: Mr Putin, the issue about replenishing the IMF resource base was considered as well. The countries split into two camps. The first one includes Europeans who believe that the IMF resources should be replenished in the amount of $500 billion as soon as possible.
Vladimir Putin: So that the IMF could later send these funds to the euro zone’s stabilisation fund?
Anton Siluanov: Not the stabilisation fund, but euro zone countries.
Vladimir Putin: Directly?
Anton Siluanov: Yes, this will be a direct agreement with euro zone countries. The second group of countries spoke in favour of the European countries first using all available mechanisms, including financial stability mechanisms, in full, and increasing the total amount of funds in this source to $1 billion. This issue will be considered at the meeting of the euro zone heads of states this week.
Vladimir Putin: What is the position adopted by our partners in the United States and China?
Anton Siluanov: The United States wants the euro zone to make the first step. The second step will involve the participation of the United States in replenishing the IMF resources. As for China and other BRICS nations, we had an earlier meeting of finance ministers and came up with a common position that we will first wait for the European countries’ decision on resolving the current financial situation and then, along with other countries, we will be ready to offer our solution on how to replenish the IMF resources. Our position – and it was supported by all BRICS countries – is to monitor two issues at a time. This includes the replenishment of the IMF resources and increasing the IMF quotas in accordance with the decisions made in Seoul in 2010. We stated this during the meeting and received general support.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.
Anton Siluanov: Mr Putin, may I share some information that has to do with your meeting with entrepreneurs in the Altai Territory?
Vladimir Putin: Yes.
Anton Siluanov: The issue at hand was that loans issued to agricultural producers carried very high APRs.
Vladimir Putin: They have been already revised this year.
Anton Siluanov: Yes, 17%. We got in touch with the banks providing such loans and managed to bring the APR down to 12%. I’m referring primarily to two enterprises that raised this issue – Rubtsov meat packers and Kupava LLP.
Vladimir Putin: Exactly. Thank you, this is very important. Most importantly, this is in line with economic realities. Please give my thanks to the banks. Thank you very much.
Mr Fursenko, how’s comprehensive school reform going in the regions? Last year, we allocated 60 billion roubles to address this issue. Almost all regions have managed to bring teachers’ salaries in line with the average salaries. Some have not, though. This year, we will take a step further and send more money. How much is scheduled for this year? Is it 60 billion?
Andrei Fursenko: It’s 60 this year, and it was 20 last year…
Vladimir Putin: Yes, 60 this year. Are you prepared for the next phase and how are things in general?
Andrei Fursenko: Mr Putin, first of all, all agreements with the regions were approved and signed, and the first tranche in the amount of 30 billion roubles was released to the regions. The second tranche is scheduled for release before July 1 after we are done with assessing the first quarter performance. This project provides for, first, another increase in teachers’ salaries, because the average salary in the regions went up. Salaries will be increased using regional funds that became available after federal funds had been used to upgrade schools. Teachers’ salaries will match average salaries in the regions before the end of the year in accordance with your instruction. At least, we have it in the agreement and assumed regions’ responsibilities, so we now know how it will be done.
We are going to focus on upgrading schools this year. Unlike previously, this year we will invest both in current and capital repairs. Using these additional funds, 9 billion roubles to be exact, 4,500 schools, or almost 10% of all Russian schools, will be able to conduct capital repairs. Next, we will buy 2 million pieces of new equipment for schools and 20 million books for school libraries, including textbooks and fiction. A quarter of a million teachers and school officials will take career advancement courses, which will improve the quality of education. You said in Kurgan that the quality of education should be improved, so we are now getting ready to introduce new approaches to performance evaluations of teachers. The training courses that I mentioned will help us to carry out performance evaluations at a new level. In addition, we are helping all schools to transition to budgetary and autonomous arrangements. I can say that almost all schools will see improvements in teacher training quality this year.
Vladimir Putin: Good. Keep it under your supervision so that things run smoothly. We spoke in Tomsk about the need to support the student initiatives. We have allocated 3 billion roubles to this end for 2012–2013. What has been done on this front?
Andrei Fursenko: This is also what you instructed us to do after the meeting with the students. They asked us to support their initiatives, and we have announced a contest for student association development programmes at all higher education institutions accountable to the Ministry of Education. All programmes are divided in two categories. The first one has to do with improving students’ professionalism, supporting students’ research societies, research centres, business think tanks, vocational centres and industry-specific student construction teams.
The second category includes social and cultural activities of students, including student sports, creative contests, volunteer movements and interethnic relations. We have set up a contest. The results will be summed up around March 8. Over 200 higher schools have already prepared applications. Importantly, unlike during all previous contests, applications to this one are submitted by the united students’ council. In other words, the application is being prepared and filed by self-regulating student bodies. Select students and the chairman of the council are accountable for the implementation of the contest along with the rector. We plan to allocate subsidies in the amount of 20 to 40 million roubles to the winners depending on the number of students. We expect 100 institutions to participate in the contest. In all, like you said, 3 billion roubles will be allocated during two years. The contest commission will include delegates from self-governing student bodies and unions, as well as representatives of the State Duma and the Federal Assembly. If we see that this contest is effective, then we will probably hold such contests at other executive bodies. Perhaps it makes sense to expand this contest and apply it across all educational institutions just like it was done at national research universities. It doesn’t matter that student organisations are already actively participating in the preparation of applications.
Vladimir Putin: Good. Ms Golikova, we decided to support federal rural pharmaceutical and healthcare institutions some time last autumn, and cover their utilities bills. We are allocating a total of 2.5 billion roubles towards these purposes. How is this work being organised, how is it going?
Tatyana Golikova: As per your instructions, jointly with the Finance Ministry, we have issued an order on the procedure of transferring this money to the relevant federal agencies as early as December last year so that work could begin as of January 1. I have to remind you that two monthly payments were envisaged: a monthly payment of 1,200 roubles for those who are working today and a lump sum equivalent to a maximum of 63,700 roubles in the event that the benefits were cancelled while the individual was still employed from January 1, 2005 until January 1, 2012 (it is reduced in proportion to the length of time the person spent working).
Nine federal executive bodies at whose medical institutions these specialists are working or had worked in the past have been included in this plan. The money was distributed among these federal agencies at the budget formation stage. The number of eligible citizens was estimated at 30,000, but that figure is currently being reviewed because some citizens have lost their connection with the medical and pharmaceutical institutions or have moved on to take up jobs in other locations. So naturally, payments were made in January and February above all to those who are working, which is the 1,200 roubles I mentioned. This is being done at all federal agencies and we think that the review will be completed by the end of the first quarter. Why do I say this with such confidence? Because we have already completed such a check within our system. With us, 1,188 people are eligible for monthly payments and they have all received it in January-February. But we have also conducted a review of those who are supposed to receive this payment. Lump sum payments within our ministry’s jurisdiction are due to 720 people, of whom 197 have already received these payments. So, because we, along with our colleagues from the Finance Ministry, have managed to accomplish this as early as December, this work got underway in the first quarter. I repeat, I hope that our colleagues from the military and security agencies, where most of these institutions are concentrated, will also carry out this work.
Vladimir Putin: We have another programme, which concerns relocation allowances to young medical professionals who go to work in rural areas. I think we have earmarked 14 billion roubles for that, correct?
Tatyana Golikova: Yes.
Vladimir Putin: What is happening with that money?
Tatyana Golikova: Things picked up after the meeting that you held at Naberezhnye Chelny. In December we were collecting applications (we collect them on a quarterly basis) and in December we had applications from 5,984 people who claim subsidies in the amount of 1 million roubles. As of today 56 regions have filed applications for 1,064 doctors. These documents and recipients are currently being verified, and we have already transferred money for 932 doctors to 45 regions. That’s practically 1 billion roubles, a considerable sum. I should point out that there are five Russian regions that are working most actively on this: in the Krasnodar Territory 41 doctors, in the Republic of Bashkortostan 215 doctors, in the Tyumen Region 69 doctors, in the Republic of Altai, although it is small, there are already 40 doctors and in the Altai Territory 63 doctors. Applications are registered every evening and money is transferred practically every day.
We do have one problem. I was in Arkhangelsk on Monday to meet with representatives of the medical community and students at medical schools under our ministry’s jurisdiction. Many of them would like to go to work in rural areas, but a problem cropped up which we discussed with you at the time, and you told the regions that they should step up their work in this area. Some regions have made the relevant decisions but others have not. The administrative division based on which the Russian regions make their decisions is such that we support rural professionals, and they should provide support to specialists who work in regional hospitals. One frequently asked question is whether the federal budget can render support to regional hospitals as well. But we inform the regions that this is within their jurisdiction, and I should say that many of them have made these decisions, in addition to federal support.
Vladimir Putin: Okay. You know that yesterday afternoon, as part of the election campaign, I met with my authorised campaign representatives and I was surprised when they asked me about the payment of salaries in the armed forces; they said there were delays in the payment of the new, increased salaries. After all, we had a meeting with you here and we invited your representative who reported to us that everything was ready and that there would be no delays. Anatoly Serdyukov (addressing the Minister of Defence), please fill us in.
Anatoly Serdyukov: Mr Putin, actually we started paying new salaries to about a million servicemen as of January 1. These occurrences are purely technical, such as when there is a mistake with a banking card or an individual serviceman identification number. There are not many such cases, we are sorting it out and checking out the data base and all the money that is due has been paid as of today. There are no other causes for delay, just purely technical malfunctions.
Vladimir Putin: Take it under personal review, take another look at the situation. And of course, that work should be carried through to eliminate any technical problems. The people who did not receive their new salaries in January must receive back pay for the whole period starting from the date when their salaries were raised.
Anatoly Serdyukov: We have corrected everything.
Vladimir Putin: Very well. And now, a small question for you about compensation that people with disabilities, people who are in wheelchairs, were supposed to receive.
Tatyana Golikova: That’s if they buy these wheelchairs themselves?
Vladimir Putin: No, it’s part of the cash-for-benefits switch. A participant in yesterday’s meeting told me that there is a category of people who were neglected and who did not receive the payments that were due to them.
Tatyana Golikova: We will look at the specific case, but…
Vladimir Putin: No, it is not about one individual, it is about a whole group of people.
Tatyana Golikova: Then we should identify which group of people this concerns, because we do not divide people into categories when giving them lump sum payments based on who needs a wheelchair or who has bad eyesight. Our categories are: groups I, II and III, and disabled children, and they all receive strictly defined amounts…
Vladimir Putin: It was monetary compensation for a vehicle or a wheelchair and so on.
Tatyana Golikova: If it’s compensation for a vehicle I do not rule out that it was about cars.
Vladimir Putin: Maybe, but wheelchairs were also mentioned.
Tatyana Golikova: I will look into that… But in such cases…
Vladimir Putin: Take another look at this matter. And the next question: where on the territory of the Russian Federation are these wheelchairs produced? (You were telling me earlier.)
Tatyana Golikova: AvtoVAZ, the Otto Bokk enterprise and an enterprise that has existed for a long time, Katarzhina, which produces wheelchairs of a quality that meets the standards set by the Society of People with Disabilities. As you know, Otto Bokk was launched last year together with the Germans, and they will reach their design capacity sometime in the next few years. But to meet the demand for quality wheelchairs we have put forward a proposal, and that document is pending before the government and will land on your desk within days for your signature. Under the document, the Social Insurance Fund will have to buy practically the entire amount produced this year by Otto Bokk and the Katarzhina enterprise in order to meet the demand for quality wheelchairs.
But unfortunately these two enterprises so far meet just 40% of the demand. The remaining 60% will be procured in accordance with the law on purchases. But to solve the problem of the quality of rehabilitation equipment being procured, we prepared model requirements for tender documentation for wheelchairs, as per your instructions. We secured approval from the relevant federal executive bodies and agreed to with the representatives of the manufacturers, and we sent the appropriate recommendations to those regions of the Russian Federation that exercise these powers themselves and to the Social Insurance Fund which also procures rehabilitation equipment. We expect that the situation in this area will change dramatically. You also issued an instruction to the regions of the Russian Federation, and the Social Insurance Fund to provide wheelchairs and rehabilitation equipment to all those who were on the waiting list by the end of the first quarter. They are all working on this.
Vladimir Putin: But we should help these enterprises to expand production, because what we currently import is of poor quality (these are cheap products and I know where they are bought), people are not happy with the quality of these goods.
Tatyana Golikova: That is why we drastically altered the entire scheme this year.
Vladimir Putin: We should help our domestic producers to reach the planned capacity as quickly as possible. There is one more question. I would like you, the Transport Ministry and the Finance Ministry to see about the possibility of introducing reduced air fares for disables people in remote regions, above all in the Far East, so that people with disabilities be eligible for these reduced fares.
Tatyana Golikova: Amendments are being introduced to the Air Code by the Transport Ministry to eliminate any restrictions on flights and travel around the country for people with disabilities.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, I remember that. This question was not raised at the meeting, but the request to include people with disabilities in the programme of reduced air fares from the Far East and other remote parts of Russia to the European part – that request is on the table and I think it is justified. We should act on it. Please do so and report back.
Last year, with the active participation of non-governmental organisations, we adopted the Accessible Environment programme until 2015. Under the Programme the share of schools with a barrier-free environment will be raised to 20%, the number of public transport vehicles with special equipment will double, the work of medical social certification institutions will be improved, incentives will be provided for enterprises and organisations that create jobs for people with disabilities. Incidentally, how much is the compensation, the subsidy that we pay for every such workplace they create?
Tatyana Golikova: It depends on the category, but it's somewhere between 30,000 and 58,000 roubles, depending on the category.
Vladimir Putin: We should take a look at how this is all working out and then, of course, the programme should be expanded.
Tatyana Golikova: That programme has remained at the federal level, Mr Putin, and now as part of our measures to relieve tensions in the labour market, this is the responsibility of the federal authorities. And as I reported to you at the previous meeting of the Government Presidium, we have signed relevant agreements with practically all the regions.
Vladimir Putin: Very good. These projects that have to do with producing high-quality and affordable rehabilitation equipment need to be supported, as we have just been saying.
Today we must make decisions that are required in order to apply the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the Russian Federation. Russia signed that convention on September 24, 2008. At present 110 countries have joined the convention. The ratification of that international document is long overdue and this is an important step. In this way we confirm our willingness to conform with the highest international standards in ensuring the rights of persons with disabilities. For the convention to come into force a concerted effort is required on the part of a whole number of ministries and agencies. We should fill in the gaps in legislation, and create the necessary legal, financial and organisational mechanisms to enforce the provisions of that convention. That work must be done quickly and, also very important, in close coordination with non-governmental organisations that represent the interests of citizens with disabilities.
Today we are launching a special Internet portal which will act as a universal outlet where every Russian citizen can directly express his/her opinion on fundamental legislative initiatives that are important for them, their family, region or the whole country.
Every proposal must be considered, all the constructive remarks and ideas must be taken into account. Experts refer to this mechanism as crowd-sourcing. Sberbank uses and promotes it extensively. Essentially, what it amounts to is a combined search for the best solutions, fine-tuning of the state mechanism, of legislation, to meet the interests of citizens. The system is working successfully in several countries. So, without using that newfangled term, we have already been doing this in practice, as I said, for example, in preparing and adopting the law on the basic principles of healthcare in our country. It was a complicated process, but we have applied this method, and by and large, have arrived at balanced decisions.
In 2012, 30 of the most important draft laws proposed by the Government of the Russian Federation will be put up for public discussion. The first two of them will be published on the Internet site today.
Let us move on to our agenda of the day.