19 april 2012

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin holds working meeting with Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin

The Moscow Mayor told Mr Putin that Moscow’s economy was showing signs of recovery. Investment has increased by 40%; unemployment is down significantly, and the demographic situation is improving. On the other hand, the cost of housing in Moscow remains too high. The Mayor placed special emphasis on the upgrading of the city’s transport infrastructure and on issues related to the healthcare system.

Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: Mr Sobyanin, my first question, predictably enough, is about the city’s economic performance in the first quarter of the year.

Sergei Sobyanin: We made substantial progress both last year and in the first quarter of this year, Mr Putin. The quarterly Gross Regional Product figures aren’t available yet, but some indicators show that this year is also looking fairly positive. For instance, investment in the city is up by 40% quarter-on-quarter. That’s pretty good growth. There may or may not be growth in the first quarter. But we have reversed the downward trend of last year, investment growth has continued into the first quarter of this year.

If we take housing construction, in previous years it was falling, but we stabilized it last year, as you know. This year, we’re seeing an increase of about 35% against the first quarter of 2011. So we’ve made progress here too and I hope we’ll build somewhere around 0.5 million square metres more residential housing this year.

Vladimir Putin: How much does one square metre cost these days? Economy class.

Sergei Sobyanin: About 3,500-4,000.

Vladimir Putin: In what currency?

Sergei Sobyanin: In dollars.

Vladimir Putin: But we live in Russia, don’t we?

Sergei Sobyanin: Around 100,000 roubles then; 100,000 to 140,000.

Vladimir Putin: That’s quite expensive, isn’t it?

Sergei Sobyanin: Yes, it is. We cannot build on a large scale now, and the housing market is shrinking. To expand housing construction, we’ll need to seriously upgrade our transport infrastructure. You see, even some newly built residential areas have no modern transport links so house prices in these neighbourhoods are falling, people just don’t want to move there.

To solve this problem, we’ve adopted a rather ambitious construction programme for the metro system. We spent 25 billion roubles as part of this programme in 2010; last year, we doubled the figure to 50 billion; and this year, we’re planning to spend more than 100 billion. We’ve brought in construction workers not just from Moscow, but from all across Russia and the CIS. We’ve already hired builders from Belarus, and are now negotiating with Ukrainians.

The idea is to mobilise all our resources and make a breakthrough in the next five years, by building 75 kilometres. This way another 15% of Moscow’s territory will be covered by the metro. That will let us advance housing construction, including in converted industrial zones. With this in mind, we’ve held negotiations with the Industry and Trade Ministry and Russian Technologies Inc [a state-owned corporation]; and we are currently in talks with the Russian Academy of Sciences. The idea is to convert some of the industrial zones under their control into residential areas. But high-tech enterprises should be preserved, of course. Industrial zones offer us an important reserve; they occupy about 20% of Moscow’s area.

The situation is looking good in other sectors, too. Unemployment is at a record low. The jobless rate has fallen by 25% in the last year, and currently stands at 0.6%, so we have virtually no unemployment. The structure of employment is another matter, though. We have to create more high-tech jobs.

That’s how things stand, by and large.

The demographic situation is also improving. You remember, don’t you, all that skepticism about the population growth, birth rate? People argued the trend would be short-lived.

Vladimir Putin: But the trend is continuing.

Sergei Sobyanin: Yes. Last year the birth rate increased by 12%, exceeding the rate of mortality. For the first time in 20 years, we witnessed a natural population growth. This year, too, the birth rate is going up. That’s great news, of course. But more kindergartens will have to be provided. 

Vladimir Putin: We worked together on healthcare issues, including specific healthcare institutions. We have one big programme for modernising the sector and upgrading a number of healthcare facilities. How is the work progressing here?

Sergei Sobyanin: Mr Putin, the total amount of funding for this programme is 107 billion roubles. One third of that money goes towards financing children’s healthcare, building and refurbishing outpatient clinics and hospitals, fitting them out with modern equipment, staff training, introducing new standards, and IT technologies. Just yesterday, I discussed these issues at a conference with the head doctors of all the children’s clinics and hospitals.

As well as making substantial investments, we are also trying to upgrade the entire healthcare network. The plan is to create clinics with a full range of specialists on their staff, so that they are able to provide more comprehensive outpatient treatment than first aid centres do.

Also as part of the modernisation programme, we’re going to replace the outdated equipment in all clinics and hospitals, but in children’s first of all. Hopefully, we’ll see the quality of children’s healthcare improve dramatically by the end of this year.

Vladimir Putin: Good