Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev holds a meeting with his deputies


The meeting participants discussed seeking out and helping talented children and young people, support for domestic producers in relation to Russia’s WTO accession and a draft law on housing and utilities.

Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:

Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon, colleagues. We have begun a new working week, and as you know, the end of last week marked the beginning of summer. I have held a meeting on organising children’s holidays. This is a truly important issue which the government should monitor constantly. I would also like to tell you that last Friday I signed a decision on adding the Orlyonok, Okean and Smena children’s holiday centres to the list of protected facilities. This will allow us to maximally improve children’s safety while maintaining these camps’ unique modern conditions for leisure and sport.

Another issue concerns assistance to talented children and young people; this is a strategic task. Just to remind you, we have an approved draft of a national system for finding and supporting talented young people. I had initiated that document, which the Council of State discussed. The government has put forward a long list of events, such as curricula and retraining programmes for teachers, which will be implemented with assistance from pubic organisations. In short, we have ambitious plans. Ms Golodets (Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets), would you say a few words on this issue, please?

Olga Golodets: Indeed, a list of measures has been drafted and approved for implementing a national concept for finding and assisting talented young people. Currently, over 8,000 Russian organisations provide additional education aimed at seeking out talented children and helping them develop their talents. However, this concept offers a new approach to each and every child in Russia. We proceed based on the idea that all children are talented. So the task is to create new methods of encouraging their talents out at the initial development stage. I am talking about four- and five-year-olds. This can be done as part of pre-school education programmes at childcare centres, and later these children will receive additional attention at general schools. Our task is to give talented children additional education in a modern way that will make training interesting and effective. This programme also has an additional goal: we not only need to provide additional, modern education, but also special assistance to child prodigies. About 15% of children have these special talents.

Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, according to statistics. But I'm aware of the precise figure.

Olga Golodets: … Yes, we should create special conditions for them so as to nurture every such talent and help them develop. The document stipulates a new legislation, a new educational basis for drafting and implementing new programmes, providing training and advanced training to teachers, raising their salaries and developing the [educational] infrastructure across Russia.

Dmitry Medvedev: Good. I hope this document will be concrete, because we need practical plans to implement such concepts. Concepts are sometimes criticised for being too watered-down, so I hope our documents will be precise and comprehensive.

Another important issue concerns Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organisation. The protocol is to be ratified by July 23, if memory serves.

Arkady Dvorkovich: Yes.

Dmitry Medvedev: We must not draw this process out. The experience of other countries shows that any procrastination in this area would reduce all our previous efforts to naught, as we would have to begin coordinating everything anew but in worse (negotiating) conditions. So we must complete the coordination of all the support measures for our key industries and the rules of access to the Russian market as soon as possible.

Mr Dvorkovich, you and I have recently met with farmers, who shared their concerns with us. Some of their fears are justified and can be allayed by clarifying legislation, but other fears are an emotional reaction (to the upcoming change). Still, I’d like you to discuss these issues with farmers and representatives of other (related) industries.

Of course, we must do our best to protect domestic producers from unfair business practices and to use the best experience of other countries in the area of creating comfortable conditions for domestic companies. But we must move on and act firmly. I would like the government to discuss this issue on Thursday, which means that it should be put on the agenda. I want it to be ready to be forwarded to the State Duma for ratification by the end of the week. Are there any proposals?

Arkady Dvorkovich: Yes, today all documents subject to ratification will be submitted to the government. They may be reviewed at the meeting on Thursday and everything will be ready.

At the same time, we are completing a package of measures on adapting individual industries that are most sensitive to our WTO accession. This document will be published and fully prepared in the next few years, by the time of the voting in the Duma. I’ve started a series of meetings with industrial associations and business representatives. I’ve already conducted a meeting on agriculture. I will hold the next one on agricultural equipment – it requires a separate meeting because it is in the worst position. But there are measures that we can take and it is possible to redress this situation and prevent this industry from collapsing.

At the government meeting on June 7 we will also discuss a draft law on supporting the automobile industry in the context of Russia’s accession to the WTO. Thus, we will make decisions on all industries in the next two months.

Dmitry Medvedev: Okay. I’d like to remind you that we have agreed to discuss key issues both in the format of Open Government and with the Expert Council. I’m referring to the most important issues, of course.

Another important draft law concerns housing and utilities, a very sensitive issue for our people. I’m talking about amendments to the Housing Code and some other laws. The Duma has passed this draft in the first reading. We are working quite actively in this area. The regions have gained useful experience in comprehensive land development. We are working to remove administration barriers in housing construction. Regrettably, progress is slow because… The situation is different in the market and in the regions. Some make decisions quickly and some are slow. We must monitor this. There have been some changes, though. The rent market is taking shape and a number of mortgage programmes are being carried out. However, we must think not only about new construction projects but also about appropriate repairs and upkeep of housing. Our people are largely displeased with our performance.

We must develop a transparent and effective system of funding all repairs. The law that is currently being discussed concerns millions of people. All details of this draft must be subject to scrutiny. Mr Kozak (addressing Dmitry Kozak), I know you are currently coordinating this work. Please, say a few words.

Dmitry Kozak: Yes, I’d like to remind you that we made a relevant decision at the government meeting and in the first reading, the State Duma reviewed the draft federal law on extending the operation of the fund on housing and utilities reform in accordance with the decisions that had been tentatively made for the next three years. We are planning to allocate about 217 billion roubles in 2013-2015 for resettlement from dilapidated and hazardous housing.

In a package with this draft that is now passing through the Duma, we are reviewing additional amendments to the Housing Code to regulate procedures for basic repairs of housing, both with and without budget funds. Since 2004 the Housing Code makes owners of blocks of flats responsible for basic repairs. The costs of repairs are specified in some places but not everywhere. According to preliminary estimates, flats’ owners donate about 50 billion roubles for basic repairs in different regions.

Dmitry Medvedev: No, this is the total for all regions.

Dmitry Kozak: Yes, this is the total amount. However, since there are no clear requirements concerning the upkeep of buildings by the residents or city halls – in the case of municipal buildings – the money is often spent inefficiently, and various regions spend it in different ways. Therefore, a decision was made to create regulations to manage these funds, mainly to ensure that the money is safe and is being spent for the designated purposes. Since the situation varies greatly between Russia’s regions, due to the historical conditions in which the existing housing was built and variations in the degree of wear, the different types of residential buildings and the different numbers of blocks of flats across the regions, a decision was made to delegate the issue to regional authorities. Regional legislatures will draw up legal regulations for the collection, management and spending of funds contributed by residents, city halls and regional governments.

At this stage, there is a fund for housing and utilities reform, in addition to federal allocations for this purpose. It is obvious that the issue is of a complex and sensitive nature, and that the majority of residents will not be able to pay for capital repairs of their buildings. Therefore, the plan is to draw up bills to regulate this issue, which would take into account the building’s state of repair, as well as the municipal and regional resources that can be spared for this purpose. I must say that this should be done as soon as possible because the amount of dilapidated and dangerous housing is constantly growing due to a lack of proper maintenance. Allow me to cite some figures. As much as 7.7 million square metres of housing was deemed to be dilapidated and dangerous as of January 1, 2007. Since its inception, the Housing and Utilities Reform Fund helped overhaul 5 million square metres, with contributions also from the regional and federal budgets. And yet, the volume of dangerous housing has not been reduced. If anything, it has grown, to 10.6 million square metres as of January 1, 2011.

Dmitry Medvedev: Mr Kozak, we both understand that both of these figures – 7.7 million or 10.6 million – are not very accurate. You and I visit the regions fairly often. As I drive by I often see a building registered as “dilapidated and dangerous,” and another one next door which is as worn down, but is not registered as such. But the number of such buildings is growing, objectively, because the average quality of construction is poor, so more funds should be found for that.

Dmitry Kozak: That is why this bill will set clear rules and criteria for registering buildings as dilapidated and dangerous and prioritising them for overhaul.

Dmitry Medvedev: …as well as the direct legal implications from registering a building as dilapidated or dangerous, and so forth. But you were right to describe the issue as sensitive. We should act very carefully here, so as not to create a situation in which buildings will not be repaired at all, while residents will be required to pay additional duties. Therefore this bill needs to be improved and finalised, and we need to discuss with the regions how it will be applied, so that the available housing will not deteriorate entirely but will be restored and repaired wherever necessary. Thank you.

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