Prime Minister Vladimir Putin chairs a Government Presidium meeting
Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:
Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues! In spring we typically have a difficult situation with floods and in some cases with fires. I have spoken with Acting Minister of Civil Defence, Emergencies and Disaster Relief, Vladimir Puchkov, the regional heads and the Minister of Regional Development. Please, brief me on the situation in the Amur Region – almost one hundred houses have been destroyed by fire there. How is the restoration work proceeding? How are you helping people? What is happening there right now with the fires? What is happening in Mordovia, and in other regions?
Let's start with the Amur Region. Mr Kozhemyako (addressing Oleg Kozhemyako, Amur Region Governor), go ahead please.
Oleg Kozhemyako: Good afternoon, Mr Putin, colleagues. As you know, on April 20, a fire broke out in the village of Tygda in the Magdagachinsky District. The fire was caused by sawdust that had been stored at a local sawmill for a long period of time. The fire destroyed 84 houses (125 households) out of 1,149 houses in this village. As a result, 282 people, including 59 children, lost their homes; among the 3,300 total villagers, there are 791 children. The fire killed two women who were born in 1935 and 1937 and a man born in 1949. People saved the petroleum depot that was located in the path of the advancing fire, as well as social facilities, the school, two day-care centres and the hospital. The school caught fire, along with some houses at a distance of several hundred metres. That very evening, a headquarters was established, under my leadership. We provided evacuation buses and deployed camps for people. The majority of people, on the first night, stayed at their friends' and relatives' homes in the village.
On Saturday, a meeting of the villagers was held; they were briefed on the operation of the evacuation camps and on the organisation of meals. By the morning Russian Railways supplied five compartment type carriages, and later a restaurant carriage arrived. We set up an evacuation gathering point to accommodate the people who had lost their homes. Some people stayed at their relatives' homes. We organised a supply of three meals a day in the school and in the restaurant carriage. We organised some living conditions for those people, where they can shower, wash their clothes, and where schoolchildren can do their homework, and TV sets are installed there.
This was done. Immediately on Sunday people in distress were issued material assistance, because they had lost all of their property. Under the regional law, the compensation is up to 10,000 roubles per person, but the maximum compensation for a family is 30,000 roubles. To date, 101 families have received this assistance, that is, the first 10,000 rouble sum, now we are adding 20,000 roubles to each family. In addition, as of April 23, people who lost their homes began to receive lump-sum payments of 10,000 roubles per person and 50,000 roubles per family under the regional law. A commission began its work on Sunday; it works with villagers whose documents were lost in the fire. A migration service commission began working; traffic police started its work on replacing lost drivers licenses; a social assistance service started its work, raising and distributing humanitarian aid as well as food. A second meeting of villagers was held on Monday, where villagers were briefed on the procedure for obtaining compensation for lost property, and on assistance in establishing legal rights. On Tuesday, the Magdagachinsky District Court started its field work establishing the legal rights of citizens who had lost all their documents, because there arise very many disputable points in establishing housing ownership rights. As of Saturday, 34 units of equipment started work on the fire sites; they removed the ruins, damaged chimneys, rubble that had been left by the fire. To date, they have removed 5,000 cubic metres of rubble. They are working on eliminating the hot spot – the sawdust. They drilled to a depth of four metres, carried out a land survey – there is 1.9 million cubic metres of sawdust – and developed a method of elimination: they remove the sawdust layer down to the frozen layer, conduct watering and cover the ground with a sand-gravel mixture. We plan for them to accomplish this work on the hot spot within twelve days, thereby eliminating the hot spot that used to catch fire periodically because of the massive accumulation of sawdust. The first builders team arrived today, other engineering work also began. Villagers will receive assistance in choosing and building new housing based on submitted documents. The Government’s Reserve Fund will extend 100,000 roubles to each family that has lost a home. They will start to erect new houses on May 5, and plan to complete them by September 15, the beginning of the heating season. We need to build 125 homes with a variety of interior layouts, one of them will have two flats. We have chosen contractors as well as the designer in charge. Now they are preparing the site development under the general layout based on the demographic information [list of tenants]. The rescue work and evacuation will require some 76 million roubles, according to our calculations. We have some five certificates from villagers wishing to move out, others want to remain in place. New housing construction will require some 285 million roubles.
So the villagers will receive new homes within the established period. Carriages are currently arriving. They extended some 15 carriages to us that accommodate 100 people. We are preparing this base, working on site. The social situation continues to be difficult but it is manageable and there is nothing unforeseen there.
Vladimir Putin: That was not the first fire there?
Oleg Kozhemyako: You know, the sawdust has been catching fire for many years. It stopped burning in winter, it did not burn after rain, then it could remain dormant for quite some time, but following a strong wind and because of some negligence (they conducted some economic activity there too) would catch fire once again. There is a thick layer of sawdust with a depth of between 4 and 5 metres.
Vladimir Putin: Mr Nurgaliyev (addressing Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev), you should look into this situation jointly with the Prosecutor’s Office and the Investigative Committee and provide a legal assessment of the actions of officials and the situation in general.
Oleg Kozhemyako: There was an operating economic entity there, so now they are looking into this matter.
Vladimir Putin: An operating entity or a derelict one – that’s guesswork as to how they were working when their facility repeatedly caught fire and threatened the village. In the end, it resulted in deaths. How could that happen? They had known about the danger, which means they did not prevent it in time, that’s the long and the short of it. A legal assessment is required.
I hope that the region’s leaders will help the victims of the fire and will promptly rebuild their homes together with the concerned departments and ministries. You have just mentioned the relevant statistics …
Oleg Kozhemyako: Yes, 125 households and 285 million.
Vladimir Putin: 285 million. Have you submitted any documents on this issue?
Oleg Kozhemyako: We have submitted a letter here and to the Ministry of Civil Defence, Emergencies and Disaster Relief reflecting our calculations.
Vladimir Putin: How much will one square metre cost there?
Oleg Kozhemyako: One square metre will cost about 39,000 roubles including the infrastructure. This price includes the required infrastructure.
Viktor Basargin: Mr Putin, we have a standard figure of just over 31,000 per square metre. As for the infrastructure... we will allocate an additional sum for the infrastructure…
Vladimir Putin: But this would cost 31,000 in European Russia, and this area is located further away…
Viktor Basargin: Construction materials are not readily available there… They have to be delivered over a distance of 400 kilometres or even 800 km. Regional delivery costs are high. We have decided to build framework/panel homes covered with metal siding.
Vladimir Putin: Will this project involve local construction companies?
Oleg Kozhemyako: Yes, local construction companies from Khabarovsk.
Viktor Basargin: We plan to commission all facilities by September 15.
Vladimir Putin: Will you manage?
Viktor Basargin: Yes, we will.
Oleg Kozhemyako: We will work hard.
Vladimir Putin: Where are the people now staying?
Oleg Kozhemyako: Some are staying with their relatives, and others are staying inside passenger carriage compartments. A train was dispatched this morning.
Vladimir Putin: In passenger carriage compartments… Will they continue to live in such carriages? It will be hot in there in the summer. How will they live there?
Oleg Kozhemyako: For the time being. The carriages will be used. The Mechel Group has provided the first ten carriages, as well as modular trailers. We are now siting them and establishing a base.
Vladimir Putin: You must keep an eye on the sanitary situation. Please establish waste disposal systems, keep an eye on the sanitary situation and please provide food supplies, etc.
Oleg Kozhemyako: We are keeping an eye on the situation. People eat at the restaurant carriage. And children eat at a local school. A camp will function round the clock starting June 6.
Vladimir Putin: You must accommodate the children during the summer so they can have normal living conditions and normal leisure opportunities.
Oleg Kozhemyako: We are establishing such a camp at a local school. Those staying at the camp will also eat there.
Vladimir Putin: I don’t know whether it’s appropriate to establish a camp at a school... It would probably be better to suggest that the children go to other camps, which, thank God, are plenty in our country. They could go to the Orlyonok (Little Eagle) camp on the Black Sea coast, to the ocean coast in Russia’s Far East and to other places. Please, think about this with the minister.
Ms Golikova (addressing Minister of Healthcare Tatyana Golikova), please ask the concerned parties to monitor the sanitary situation.
Tatyana Golikova: All right.
Viktor Basargin: Mr Putin, may I add some more on this issue?
Vladimir Putin: Please.
Viktor Basargin: Mr Kozhemyako has noted that each household will receive 100,000 roubles in compensation for the loss of property. In late 2010, we made an amendment under resolution No. 750. That document stipulates 100,000 per one household member. The 282 affected people will receive 100,000 each.
Vladimir Putin: 100,000 roubles per person?
Viktor Basargin: Yes, 100,000 per person.
Vladimir Putin: That’s correct. That’s the way it should be done. The Ministry of Finance should check all these calculations and allocate the required resources. If necessary, simply make the required advance payments.
Viktor Basargin: All right.
Vladimir Putin: I’m talking about overall expenses, so that the work can get started.
Mr Puchkov (addressing Vladimir Puchkov, Acting Emergencies Minister), can you confirm all this? What’s the situation like there?
Vladimir Puchkov: Mr Putin, colleagues, we can confirm all this. We work in conjunction with the administration of the Amur Region. We have implemented additional measures to reinstate rescue and fire-prevention units. For instance, four special trains were involved in fire-fighting operations. We have drafted a government resolution on providing material assistance. I hope that the Ministry of Finance will coordinate everything tomorrow and will submit the resolution to the government under the established procedure.
Vladimir Putin: All right, good.
And now let’s discuss the situation in Mordovia.
Viktor Basargin: Mr Putin, we and representatives of the Emergencies Ministry have visited Mordovia. The situation with the spring floods in Mordovia, as well as in the Volga and Northwestern federal districts, is extremely complicated and tense. But Mordovia is hit the hardest. A total of 18 districts have been inundated.
Vladimir Putin: How many homes are affected there? About 4,000?
Viktor Basargin: More than 4,000 homes have been inundated, and 89 communities have been affected by the floods. Some of these communities have been cut off from the rest of Russia. As for the infrastructure, 11 bridges have been damaged. One bridge has been washed away completely. In all, 79 road infrastructure facilities have been damaged. Motor roads have been partially washed away. Five km of roads have been completely destroyed. In effect, the road infrastructure has been badly damaged. The total losses exceed 500 million roubles.
Vladimir Putin: Are these regional roads?
Viktor Basargin: We are now assessing the state of inter-municipal and regional roads. It is still hard to assess the state of district roads.
Vladimir Putin: Have you assessed the damage to the road infrastructure in any way (addressing Transport Minister Igor Levitin)?
Igor Levitin: We would like to confirm that mostly regional roads were damaged there…
Viktor Basargin: Officials from the Ministry of Transport and we have visited the region and have assessed the state of local bridges. The number of hydro-technical facilities there is more than 70. The region should assess the situation with hydro-technical facilities because all of them should have been insured according to the law. But, unfortunately, their owners still don’t want to assume responsibility. We should look into the matter more closely.
As for housing, more than 4,000 homes have been inundated, and 12,157 people have been affected. We had to evacuate 884 people. We are now issuing 10,000 roubles in compensation. This requires 121.5 million roubles from the Reserve Fund. And we have formulated the proposals together with the Emergencies Ministry. Also, we propose allocating 665 million roubles in order to compensate partial and complete loss of property. In all, this concerns 12,000 people.
In addition, infrastructure facilities have been badly damaged. The housing utilities sector has been seriously hit. Sewage collectors have been destroyed. Ruzayevka town with a population of 70,000 has suffered the most. The water has virtually destroyed the local sewers.
Moreover, some power supply facilities have been destroyed, and a number of substations have stopped operating. We have contacted the Federal Grid Company and the Interregional Distribution Grid Company, which are also actively involved in post-flood clean-up operations.
Unfortunately, 60,500 hectares of farmland have been destroyed. The Ministry of Agriculture and we have also discussed this issue. If possible, they will assess the situation and will also try to compensate agricultural producers for their losses.
Apart from paying compensations to the people, we, on the whole, suggest assisting the republic and allocate funds for the reconstruction of the road infrastructure. The latter will require about 270 million roubles. And we would like to request 158 million for the restoration of the utilities infrastructure.
Vladimir Putin: When will you be able to submit the relevant documents?
Viktor Basargin: The documents regarding all these facilities have virtually been drafted. We will complete this process today or tomorrow, at most.
Vladimir Putin: Please don’t delay this process, so we can adopt a decision early next week.
Viktor Basargin: Mr Putin, I would like to tell you that we have met with the people. Many of them live in inundated areas and realise that they have to insure their property. This is a positive fact. In all, 30% of the homes in the flooded area were insured. But, unfortunately, when they started talking about paying claims, it turned out that the insurance companies do not consider this to be an insurable risk. This is somewhat strange. We asked them about their opinion of an insurable risk. And they replied that fires amount to insurable risks. How can this be explained? Does this mean they insure against a fire in an inundated area and against a flood in a fire-risk area?
Vladimir Putin: We need to sort things out. The relevant supervisory agencies must check this.
Viktor Basargin: Yes, because they are taking advantage of this legal loophole. Generally, the situation is complicated, and we really must help people.
Vladimir Putin: Please submit the documents, and we will adopt the relevant decision next week. All right, thank you. You mentioned agriculture. How is the spring sowing campaign proceeding, which began two weeks later and even three weeks later than usual in some regions?
Yelena Skrynnik: Mr Putin, all regions of the Russian Federation, except several areas in the Siberian Federal District, have launched their spring sowing campaign. Despite the delayed onset of spring, as you already noted, I would like to tell you that spring-time crops have been sown on more than five million hectares. This is two million hectares more than in the same period in 2011.
This is a positive trend. The total planned area for spring croplands is 51 million hectares, including 30 million hectares under spring crops. As for winter crops, they have been sawn on the area of 16.5 million hectares, and 7.5% of them have perished. This is less than in 2009 and 2010. We are having some problems with winter rape crops. In all, such crops have perished in a total area of about 118,000 hectares, but we are tackling this issue, these crops are insured, and we support such regions as the Stavropol and Krasnodar territories.
Our forecasts show that total harvest volumes should match the previous period – 94 million tonnes. We have implemented all the required measures based on our decisions. This concerns fuel, oil and lubricants, mineral fertilisers and other items. We are working very quickly.
With your permission, Mr Putin, I’ll be brief. We have summed up the results of the state programme in the first quarter. I would like to report that the trend is positive: a 3.3% increase in milk production, and, most importantly, we recorded an increase in the cattle population, especially cows, of 223,000 head for the first time in 22 years. The same is true of beef production. So, the trend is positive. I estimate that the gross agricultural output by the end of the year will reach 3.6 trillion roubles.
Vladimir Putin: Good. Thank you. Andrei Fursenko, as previously agreed, this year we decided to introduce competitive admission to all higher education institutions so private institutions, non-government institutions could also have students with grant support. Has the tender been completed?
Andrei Fursenko: No, it has been announced and is underway. All the higher education institutions which have state accreditation, i.e. meet state requirements, are eligible to take part, and they can be both state-owned and non-commercial.
Vladimir Putin: You mean commercial.
Andrei Fursenko: And commercial, yes, private institutions. The tender has been announced, the results will be reviewed on May 25, all the applications have been filed and reviewed. Taking part in the tender announced by the Ministry of Education and Science are 399 institutions. Non-government, private institutions, from our information, have applied only for the tender announced by our ministry. Although all the ministries are holding tenders, most institutions have come to us. We have 313 institutions under our jurisdiction and 85 private institutions, mostly in the fields of the humanities and economics. They include such prominent institutions as the Russian Economic School and, for example, the St Tikhon Orthodox Humanitarian University and the Russian Islamic University. These are accredited higher education institutions and they are allowed to teach secular specializations and take part in these tenders. A total of 290,000 places in day departments and about 65,000 in evening and correspondence departments are on offer. There are 30% more applications than the number of places on offer, and in about 20% of the subject areas there are about twice as many applications from the institutions than there are budget-financed openings. The areas most in demand are economics, management and jurisprudence. Interestingly, this year there is very high demand for pedagogical education; the competition is tough. We evaluate the tender bids. At present experts are examining them for two things. First, the institution’s rating in each field of training. The relevant government resolution included eight indicators. We use all of them and in addition we introduced the criterion of the extent to which the institution’s applications match regional and sectoral needs. We demand that each application have the approval of the territorial employment centres and regional councils of university rectors, so that there should be more clarity as to whether these specialities are needed and whether they meet the needs of the region. That helps involve the regional authorities and make them more responsible for the process of distributing budget subsidised places. Depending on the results the of higher education institution evaluations the application will be met fully or partially or in some cases turned down. We already have complaints about some institutions because their applications do not conform to the needs of the regions, so we believe that about 20-25 applications will be turned down. We will be able to present the results of the tender based on these terms for the first time, by May 25.
Vladimir Putin: Very well, thank you. Igor Shchegolev, your Ministry is exploring ways of cutting international roaming tariffs through market procedures. Can you tell us what’s happening? The holiday season is approaching and it is an important issue.
Igor Shchegolev: Our operators have responded to the government’s call to start this work and it is already yielding fruit. This winter all the major operators phased in easy tariffs for international roaming. Tariffs have been cut several times over, in some areas by 10-15 times. Of course, this is only possible thanks to the ongoing negotiations, including talks between countries under the auspices of the European Union. The EU is the flagship. It was the first to introduce roaming tariff regulation, but so far only for the European Union member countries. We have expressed our desire to join this model. The Europeans say that until they have completed their reform it will be hard to expand it, but they recommended that we start bilateral consultations anyway. We signed a bilateral memorandum with Finland and Poland and yesterday, just on the eve of this meeting, with Latvia. We are negotiating with a number of European Union states – with Sweden, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovenia and Italy. In addition, we started negotiations with some countries that receive a lot of Russian tourists, such as Turkey as Israel, and we expect that once we come to terms with the Europeans, and there is a chance that we will, it will be easier to work with these third markets where their citizens face the same problems as ours. We are even planning to create an international model that could then be used to regulate roaming during international travel.
Vladimir Putin: Very well. Tatyana Golikova, I asked you… We started doing it back in 2010, actually on the Ministry’s initiative and on the initiative of some non-governmental organisations including the Podari Zhizn (Give Life) Foundation. Back in 2010 they raised the issue of so-called rare diseases or rather of the people who suffer from these rare (orphan) diseases. It was a complicated process involving many approvals. As far as I know, it has now been nearly completed. What is the current state of affairs? At what stage are we?
Tatyana Golikova: Yes, this work has been going on since 2010. Various initiatives have been proposed concerning the adoption of a separate law on this matter. The issue of patients suffering from rare diseases has not been regulated in the Russian Federation although the countries of Europe and the world passed legislation on rare orphan diseases in the 1980s. Different states use different criteria. We chose to use 10 patients per 100,000 people, that is, the incidence of such diseases. The key thing was that we had to pass corresponding legislation and not just establish the criterion, but determine how we identify and register these patients, what assistance we render, at what level the financing of medications for these categories of patients is done. Eventually the issue was settled, with the participation of patients and charitable organizations, in the law on the protection of the health of the citizens of the Russian Federation. Under this law the Government of the Russian Federation is supposed to issue two documents. Both have been prepared and submitted to you for endorsement. The essence of these documents is as follows: the first decision is that we establish a list of such diseases at the federal level. At present there are 24 such diseases identified by the criteria I have mentioned. Plus the criteria that these diseases are life-threatening, chronically progressing and if not treated, lead either to death or total disability. From the data provided by specialists from across the country, there are 12,700 such patients in the Russian Federation. I have to say that the relevance of this issue stems from the heavy economic and social burden that these diseases represent, because for some diseases a single course of treatment costs up to 30 million roubles. Of course, families cannot afford that. It should be mentioned, though, that in various countries between 10% and 60% of the cost is paid by non-governmental and charitable organisations, but we have regulated the financial aspect under the law. As before, it is the mandate of the regions, although many of them would like to see financial assistance from the federal budget. But it is too early to talk about that because the second document that is attached to the resolution that you will sign is the federal register of the patients suffering from these diseases and the procedure of keeping that register. After both documents have been approved by the patients and the charitable organisations… the fact of the matter is that this is a two-step operation: the regions form the regional segment of the federal register and all the necessary information is included in the statement on the patient. It is then sent to the federal level in order to determine the most frequent diseases, what amount of financial resources the region or the federal government would need to treat these patients and accordingly, whether the regions will really need additional assistance because so far the geographical distribution is unclear. It could happen that there will be several costly patients in one subsidised region and that region will of course have financial problems in addressing this issue. But in terms of additional cost I think there will be no problem for the federal budget because the available resources will make it possible even to help the regions. The main thing is to build the system as described in the resolutions.
Moreover, the leading specialists on these diseases have developed draft standards for orphan diseases so that quality assistance can be rendered. It’s important to note that in order to treat these patients, it will be necessary to train corresponding specialists at higher education institutions because institutions and specialists that are capable of providing such medical assistance are few and far between. And of course, one must put in place a system of social assistance and rehabilitation after a course of treatment or after stationary treatment. In short, we are completing the first and most critical stage of this work. By July 1 we will have, together with the regions, to compile the federal register to determine whether the figure really is 12,700, or whether it is higher or lower, in order to know the exact amount of resources the regions will need and whether they’ll need subsidies from the federal budget. But all the patients’ organisations, all the charitable organisations really want these documents to be adopted because they will solve the problem that Russia still faces.
Vladimir Putin: Where are these documents? Are they ready? Good.
Now a few words about the agenda. Yesterday at the meeting of the Commission on Budget Planning we already discussed the issues that should form the foundation of the budget for 2013 and the following two years, 2014 and 2015. Today we should finalise the issues connected with the scenarios of development for this period, of the social and economic development of our country. We will also discuss the forecast for social and economic development until 2030. We must see the entire perspective, because it is no secret that strategic forecasting is an important element in the strategy for developing our economy and the country as a whole. This is not idle thinking, or crystal-ball gazing, we must proceed from expert assessments of the development of the world and the Russian economy and take a careful and professional look at the more remote perspective. There are some down-to-earth current issues. We discussed them too. This year almost certainly we will get additional revenue. The non-oil and gas revenues – and I stress, non-oil and gas additional revenues – will amount to 88.7 billion roubles. And about 46.9 billion roubles (approximately 47 billion roubles) could be saved in other areas. Thus we will be able to add about 135 billion roubles to our spending. Basically we know how to spend that money. These are above all social issues, housing for war veterans and benefits for service personnel, the personnel of Interior Ministry agencies and the financing of discount fares for air travel to the Far East. We will also contribute extra to our research funds. We will add 5.3 billion roubles to raise stipends for academically advanced or needy first and second-year students at state higher education institutions and almost 15 billion roubles will be used for federal financing of some construction projects and major repairs of facilities in various regions. For example, the Tovstonogov Drama Theatre in St Peterseburg, Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg, the Tsentralny airport terminal in Saratov, the bridge across the Ob River in Novosibirsk as well as the reconstruction and building of new premises at Oryol, Vladivostok and St Petersburg universities. The agenda also includes other items.