Prime Minister Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting of the Government Presidium
15 march 2012
Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:
Vladimir Putin: Ladies and gentlemen, considering the issue of May holidays, and Victory Day – May 5 and 6 are days off, followed by two workdays, May 7 and 8, and then a day off, May 9, followed by two more workdays and then the weekend. I'm saying this because many people have expressed a desire to have more days off in early May, which they would like to spend at their dachas working in their vegetable gardens. So we propose making Saturday, May 5, a workday instead of Monday, May 7, and Saturday, May 12, a workday instead of Tuesday, May 8. As a result, we will have four days off, from May 6 to 9. I have signed a corresponding government resolution today and would like you to plan for work in the industries correspondingly.
Now, let’s move to our exchange of routine information. Mr Siluanov (Anton Siluanov, Minister of Finance), I have looked through the reports and see that our active budget deficit is growing. As I see it, this is a purely technical issue. Can you explain this situation, please?
Anton Siluanov: Yes, the execution of the federal budget in the first two months shows that we have a deficit of 245 billion roubles, which is considerable, given the macroeconomic stability and sustainable revenues. So what is the reason for this deficit? The reason is that our ministries and agencies have been using budget allocations stipulated for this year more actively than before. Here are the figures indicating that in the first two months we have used 16.7% of this year’s allocations, while the figure for the same period last year was 12.8%, and only 10.9% in 2009. In short, we have been using these allocations more actively than ever this year.
What is the reason for this? This is primarily due to the fact that we have adopted a new form of relations with budget-financed establishments, under which many ministries and agencies have transferred the subsidies for the entire quarter, as we have agreed to do. Moreover, this year the Defence Ministry has accelerated the signing of contracts. It is also transferring budget funds directly to the companies that will be executing these defence contracts. This means that the budget deficit can be explained by a more even spending of budget allocations.
Mr Putin, we would also like to consider our prior agreement to discuss in early April the issue of releasing those funds, in the amount of 200 billion roubles, which had not been transferred to the ministries and agencies due to the earlier deterioration in the macroeconomic situation. If the current positive trend persists, we could meet in early April to discuss unblocking a considerable part of these funds.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, provided the trend remains positive.
Anton Siluanov: Yes, if revenues come in regularly. I’d like to cite several figures regarding our revenues. Of course, it is mostly oil and gas revenues that are growing due to high oil prices. Under the budget, we expected oil and gas revenues to account for 9.5% of GDP, but the figure for the first two months is more than 12%.
Vladimir Putin: But the year has only begun.
Anton Siluanov: Yes, this is true. The non-commodities revenues roughly correspond to the target figure, which means that we are reporting higher revenues than planned thanks to high oil prices. This does not mean, in principle, that we should use surplus revenues to cover our expenses.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, this is what we decided, and I’d like to reaffirm that one of the government’s priorities is to act in accordance with macroeconomic indicators. I am asking you to proceed in line with this provision. I believe that we can use these revenues to cover the current deficit, bearing in mind that we will ultimately need to balance the budget correspondingly. Thank you.
Air traffic grew considerably last year. Mr Levitin (Igor Levitin, Minister of Transport) is here, correct? Can you comment on how much it has grown?
Igor Levitin: By 12.6%.
Vladimir Putin: By 12.6%?
Igor Levitin: Yes. Air traffic in Europe went up 9.5%. Last year Russian airlines carried 64 million passengers. It should be said that passenger turnover exceeded the figure for 1990, which means that Russia now ranks seventh in this area. January and February have always been bad months in terms of growth, yet passenger turnover increased by 18% in the first two months of this year. I would also like to point out an important element: you have signed a government resolution simplifying customs procedures for transit passengers. The issue concerns transit passengers.
Vladimir Putin: Within the Customs Union?
Igor Levitin: Yes… In other words, transit passengers will no longer have to take their luggage and have it inspected again. We have conducted an experiment of this kind in conjunction with the Federal Customs Service at Sheremetyevo Airport. It worked well, using the equipment that we already have at our airports. This resolution will be adopted within the next month, after which we will be able to increase the number of transit passengers at Russian airports.
Vladimir Putin: That’s good. That will make travel across the Customs Union less complicated. The United Nations is creating a ranking of electronic governments, and Russia has gone up from 59th place to 27th. Yes, go ahead Mr Shchyogolev.
Igor Shchyogolev: The UN, which is a trendsetter in the area of electronic governments, has been conducting these ratings since 2003. Russia has consistently been rated between 50th and 60th place. Experts say that Russia really took off this year in this area. We moved up 32 positions, from 59th to 27th place, in a matter of two short years, from 2010 to 2012.
What does this mean for us? It means that we are leaders in Eastern Europe and we are far ahead of the other BRICS countries as well. The ratings have a separate subgroup that compares large countries with a population of over 100 million. Clearly, it takes more money and effort to do this kind of work in a large country. We rank third in this subgroup after Japan and the United States.
This is a good figure, especially since these ratings were compiled based on data from early 2011. Considering that we have put in a great deal of effort since then – this year we expect to begin a new phase, whereby we will spread the electronic government to regions and municipalities – we can expect to move up to the top 20 in the new ratings, which will be compiled two years from now. As a matter of fact, this was among our goals under the 2015 and 2020 strategies.
Vladimir Putin: Good. Just make sure you don’t lose momentum, and keep up the good work. Ms Golikova, we allocated 1 billion roubles this year for improving the material and technical base of social service institutions. However, another billion roubles were allocated for the same purpose last year as well. How was this money spent in 2011?
Tatyana Golikova: Mr Putin, we have looked into how this one billion was spent. We are using this money to improve the material and technical base of social service institutions. In accordance with your instructions, in 2011, we focused specifically on a new separate area, that of mobile teams. We bought specially equipped motor vehicles that can bring our personnel to remote rural areas so that they can render help to war veterans and senior citizens. As a result, we spent 762.4 million roubles on improving our material and technical base, and the remaining amount was used to provide targeted social assistance to retired workers. Major renovations were carried out at 2,016 social service institutions, and seven new institutions of this kind were built. We have also acquired 628 vehicles for 606 social service institutions specifically for providing help to people residing in remote locations. This money was used to improve the quality of social services provided by our institutions to 50,000 recipients. We have also created 1,003 beds at …
Vladimir Putin: Are you talking about people who go there to obtain certain services?
Tatyana Golikova: Yes. We have created 1,003 new beds at social institutions as a result of repairs and commissioning of new facilities. These are the results.
Vladimir Putin: I expect that the one billion roubles that were allocated for 2012 will…
Tatyana Golikova: Yes, we are in the process of planning our work in this area. The regions are waiting for us to do so.
Vladimir Putin: Good.
Mr Fursenko, you reported earlier about the need to set up a procedure for recognising diplomas and academic degrees issued by foreign educational institutions, so that these specialists could be employed by our institutions. Where do we currently stand with regard to this work?
Andrei Fursenko: The law was adopted, and three resolutions have been prepared and submitted to the government in pursuance of this law. One of the resolutions deals with the criteria that we should use in identifying the universities whose diplomas we will recognise without any additional procedures involved. We have come up with such a system. There are three international rating systems that are the most popular. If we take 300 higher educational institutions from each rating, we’ll have about 180 institutions that feature in each one of them. We propose cancelling any and all special procedures with regard to them. People who hold these papers, in order to have them recognised, will need to produce their diplomas or certificates of degree issued by such universities and attach a notarised translation of them. In addition, we have significantly simplified the procedure for recognising other higher education and academic degree documents. Previously, there was a lengthy procedure involving a comparison of specific courses. Conversely, they are now looking only at the academic results and qualifications of diploma holders. If the qualifications are approved by experts, we propose recognising such diplomas as well. The applications will be filed electronically which will significantly simplify the process. On the one hand, this will help us hire top professionals and, on the other hand, all our compatriots with diplomas from such universities will find it easier to obtain employment in Russia.
Vladimir Putin: Good. We have amended the Academic and Teaching Staff federal targeted programme in order to improve the degree to which Federal Law No.94 is enforceable. What is that all about?
Andrei Fursenko: Together with the Ministry of Economic Development, we have re-assigned a significant portion of projects included in this programme into the category of grants. This means that contests conducted in this area will be based on expert assessments rather than Federal Law No. 94. The total amount of funding for existing projects is about 5 billion roubles this year alone. In addition to renowned researchers, over 8,000 students, postgraduate students and entry-level specialists will take part in this work. Assessment of this work will be based on the participants’ qualifications and specific proposals, i.e., on expert appraisals, which will help us focus on the value of the work rather than the monetary value. This is essential for scientific research, and we hope that we’ll be successful. This will help us expand the grant-based financing of research.
Vladimir Putin: This practice needs to be built so as to be effective.
There’s one more issue. As you are aware, we will need to raise school teachers’ salaries to match the average salaries across the country this year. In general, things are moving in the right direction. I’m confident that we will be able to achieve this. A corresponding decision has been made. I’m waiting for you to come up with proposals regarding technical aspects of salary increases for the faculty of higher educational institutions. We have forgotten about technical and vocational schools, and people are asking me about it. They are saying this to me exactly: “We know school teachers will have their salaries raised. We’ve heard that something along the same lines is being done for faculty at universities, but what about us, teachers of technical colleges? You have forgotten about us.” I have asked you to give this issue some thought. Any suggestions?
Andrei Fursenko: First, vocational and technical schools were formally transferred to regional balances last year. A small number of technical schools have been merged with universities in cases where it was appropriate to do so based on economic and technical considerations. However, most technical schools were transferred to regional balances. At the same time, we have launched several programmes to support comprehensive career advancement programmes in the regions. We have provided federal support based on co-financing arrangements. Among other things, these programmes have such requirements as salary increases for technical college employees. However, these are pilot projects, and the general situation in the sphere of technical training is not good. Teachers and vocational instructors are paid less than school teachers. We are looking into things that can be improved now while we are in the process of elaborating a state education improvement programme. We discussed it with the Ministry of Economic Development and the Finance Ministry last week. We propose following the same path we did with school teachers, that is identify performance indicators that need to be achieved and determine target salaries. Our goal is to make the salaries of teachers and vocational instructors at technical colleges even slightly higher than average ones across Russia. However, regions should be the ones to strive to achieve this goal in the first place, and we could help them get there by using the same arrangements we used with respect to school teachers, i.e invest in the material and technical base of vocational schools, provided that the bulk of the financing comes from employers, thus allowing regional officials to free up certain amounts of funds and use them for pay raises.
Vladimir Putin: Well, go ahead and do so… I want this to be available in the form of agreed proposals…
Tatyana Golikova: We still have many such institutions that are being financed from the federal budget.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, I agree about federal institutions. Please work these proposals out with the Finance Ministry, the Ministry of Economic Development, the Ministry of Healthcare and come up with comprehensive blueprints. How much time do you need?
Andrei Fursenko: Well, it took them two weeks to agree the first proposal. We shall work it with the Ministry of Economic Development. Perhaps, our new proposals will need some additional work, but I believe that we can be ready with the first proposal by mid-April …
Vladimir Putin: Good. Ms Golikova, please go ahead.
Tatyana Golikova: I think that all salary issues are covered by your instruction based on the article. We had a meeting at the Finance Ministry yesterday, and Mr Fursenko was present there as well. We discussed ways to prevent large gaps between salaries of higher education faculty, since their salaries should be equal to average salaries available in respective regions by September 1, and the situation at vocational schools. We have achieved certain results in our work with the Finance Ministry, and we believe that we’ll be able to show them not as comprehensive documents, but as...
Vladimir Putin: Good.
Tatyana Golikova: ...but as preliminary results.
Vladimir Putin: When?
Tatyana Golikova: Anton, how much? (addressing Anton Siluanov).
Vladimir Putin: Anton, when? (addressing Anton Siluanov).
Anton Siluanov: Mr Putin, I believe we need to discuss all these proposals with you at some point in the future...
Vladimir Putin: You are welcome to do so.
Anton Siluanov: We could provide our proposals next week.
Vladimir Putin: Good. What about next Wednesday? Is that enough time for you?
Anton Siluanov: Yes, that’s good.
Tatyana Golikova: That’s quite enough.
Vladimir Putin: Good.
Dmitry Rogozin: There are many technical and vocational schools at defence enterprises. I believe that the Military-Industrial Commission should also be part of this taskforce.
Vladimir Putin: Please join our colleagues. Please go ahead.
Vladislav Surkov: I’m sorry to interrupt, but we have also discussed programmes for raising salaries of preschool educators and staff. Can this issue be included in discussions as well, since we have it in our plans, too?
Vladimir Putin: Yes, it can and it should, as I have said on many occasions. We have talked about the need to raise salaries of preschool employees many times. Just make sure that you approach it in a consistent manner, without mixing things up and eventually forgetting about them. So, please come if you are ready by Wednesday.
There’s one more fairly delicate issue which was extensively discussed during the election campaign. I’m referring to defrauded equity investors. Things are moving very slowly here. I’d like to hear Mr Basargin update us on this matter.
Viktor Basargin: Mr Putin, in accordance with your instruction, we took up the issue of defrauded equity investors less than two years ago. As you are aware, we have recreated the commission that worked on this issue before. We have drawn up a federal register of all the facilities falling under this category. Together with regional authorities, we have developed network schedules and we now have initial results. We have charts for different regions that clearly show that most instances of fraud occurred in regions with the greatest volume of construction, such as Moscow, the Moscow Region, the Krasnodar Territory and Samara. This issue is being effectively addressed in most of these regions, such as the Moscow Region, Samara, the Nizhny Novgorod Region, Khanty-Mansiysk and the Krasnodar Territory. Last year alone, we commissioned 180 buildings out of a total of almost 800 that we had initially. We have completed and commissioned another 50 buildings over the course of the first two months of 2012, which means another 3,200 satisfied equity investors. Work is underway on the remaining 650 buildings with slightly over 62,000 defrauded investors.
Vladimir Putin: So, about 17,000 people moved in last year?
Viktor Basargin: Yes. This is our first breakthrough. First and foremost, we’re considering economy-class construction and cases where people invested in their primary residences, because there are also investors who bought flats for rental purposes. We are very serious about dealing with this issue; therefore, we believe that we will settle the problem of defrauded equity investors in full this year, as indicated in your instruction.
One thing, though: we’d like law-enforcement agencies to be more active than they are now. Perpetrators of such schemes still go unpunished, with only seven criminal cases brought to a conclusion.
Vladimir Putin: Is that overseen mostly by the Interior Ministry?
Viktor Basargin: Yes.
Vladimir Putin: Mr Nurgaliyev? (addressing Rashid Nurgaliyev).
Rashid Nurgaliyev: I hear you, Mr Putin.
Viktor Basargin: According to our estimates, it’ll cost 90 to 120 billion roubles in order to resolve problems facing 62,000 people.
Vladimir Putin: Regional authorities should…
Viktor Basargin: Someone has pocketed this money.
Vladimir Putin: Listen, regional authorities should be directly involved in this work. We discussed this issue early in 2011 or late in 2010, and the regions produced charts saying that this work can be completed within certain deadlines.
Viktor Basargin: We are monitoring all these charts, and we have network schedules for each building. We are aware of the commissioning dates and we see when there are delays.
Vladimir Putin: In other words, you believe that this problem can be largely resolved this year?
Viktor Basargin: This problem has been largely resolved already. We have two or three regions left.
Vladimir Putin: Look, 17,000 people moved in last year; there are 62,000 more people left. Are you planning to make a leap of such proportions?
Viktor Basargin: We’re working on it. We started from scratch, when all construction was halted. Today work is underway at all construction sites.
Vladimir Putin: In other words, you believe that work is underway and all buildings will be commissioned this year?
Viktor Basargin: Of course. We have removed all their infrastructure commitments and encumbrance.
Vladimir Putin: Good. All right. I have one more question on social issues for the Defence Ministry. I’ve told you recently that there’s information that leads us to believe that not everywhere servicemen are receiving increased pay. Where do we currently stand with regard to this situation in the Armed Forces?
Anatoly Serdyukov: Mr Putin, we committed ourselves to pay for January in January. As a matter of fact, there’s an order by the defence minister whereby we normally make payments between the 10th and the 20th day of the following month. Therefore, we should pay for February on or before March 20. We have no concerns about this, since we’ll be able to do so on time.
Vladimir Putin: Will you pay in full?
Anatoly Serdyukov: There are technical problems. As I said before, some servicemen make mistakes in their personal numbers or bank details. However, there are not so many of them, and this is not really a problem.
Vladimir Putin: Good, keep it in check so that it doesn’t spread.
Today, we will need to sum up the implementation of the federal targeted programmes and the Federal Targeted Investment Programme for 2011. We made good progress here, but problems remain.
As you are aware, 927 billion roubles have been budgeted for the implementation of the federal targeted programmes, and another 372 billion roubles were allocated for the construction of capital facilities outside of these programmes. In all, there were 54 targeted and two state-run programmes in 2011. The number of construction sites in such key areas as high technology and infrastructure, demography, education, health care and national security that are being implemented under the Federal Targeted Investment Programme doubled to a current total of 3,650 facilities. This number includes regional and municipal facilities. This is an unprecedented amount of work that calls for increased attention and coordinated efforts on behalf of the authorities at all levels. Let me point it out again: there are many problems left. Primarily, they have to do with the financial discipline. I hope that what we heard from the finance minister earlier in our conversation today – that the ministries and departments disburse funds in greater amounts than before – is a sign that financing will be provided in a regular and timely manner.
There’s one more issue concerning the approval of the document that will underlie the activities of the Federal Service for Intellectual Property. Allow me to emphasise that in addition to contractors hired under government R&D contracts, the service will supervise and oversee government customers in order to avoid a situation where funds intended for research and design activities are being disbursed just for the sake of being disbursed without much to show for it in terms of actual intellectual products.
There are other issues as well, but I wanted to call your attention to these two at the beginning of our conversation. Let’s get to work.