A Government meeting
13 september 2012
Issues discussed at the meeting included the implementation of the Accessible Environment state programme for 2011-2015 and amendments to the federal law on gas supply.
Dmitry Medvedev: Colleagues. As usual, today’s agenda is rather lengthy. Let’s assess the implementation of the highly important Accessible Environment for Disabled People state programme for 2011-2015. Before we do so, I would like to once again thank the Russian Paralympic Team for its magnificent performance in London. Athletes, coaches and doctors have made a major achievement. And, of course, this serious example highlights the potential of people with disabilities. Despite hardships and ordinary everyday problems, which, unfortunately, confront disabled people in Russia, the Paralympic athletes have achieved truly inspiring results thanks to their willpower and their diligence.
An assessment of the Russian team’s results shows that disabled people reportedly have all of the necessary opportunities for self-improvement in Russia. However, this is not actually so if we compare Russia with many states where disabled people do not feel isolated from the rest of the world. As a rule, the situation is completely different in Russia. To be honest, we must work a great deal at the federal and regional level to rectify this situation. I would like to remind you that about 13 million disabled people live in Russia. Many aspects of the healthcare sector, the social security system, and the educational and residential construction spheres, must change to drastically improve their living standards. And we must also change. This is probably the most important thing. We must create a barrier-free environment in all of Russia's cities and towns, so that disabled people will be able to move about freely on the streets, to ride public transit systems, visit theatres and museums, play sports and, of course, receive a top-quality education. They must have opportunities for self-realisation and for employment in line with their professions. In effect, they must lead a full-fledged life.
This is the goal of the Accessible Environment state programme. We started implementing the programme last year, and for the first time it offers system-wide solutions for the problems that face disabled people. The programme receives substantial funding exceeding 46 billion roubles. And, of course, I hope that these allocations will be spent effectively, and that the programme’s target parameters will be attained on time.
I would like to note that three territories – namely, the Tver Region, Tatarstan and the Saratov Region – are completing a pilot project. Sport facilities for the country’s first Winter Paralympic Games are being built in Sochi. This experience should form the foundation for our efforts to create an accessible environment for disabled people in other Russian regions. This experience should help us in drafting our programmes and, of course, it should serve as an example for the entire country.
And now I would like to say a few words about specific objectives, which must be accomplished by us. First of all, every region must draw maps and formulate a list of social sector, transport and communications facilities, which can be accessed by disabled people. This list must be updated regularly. At the same time, we need to inform people about the work of these facilities and institutions. And they must also be able to access them online.
Second, the relevant standards and regulations stipulating the introduction of various parameters during construction must contain tougher requirements for a more accessible environment. Although various measures were implemented over the past few years, we still have few buildings and public transit systems that have been adapted for the needs of disabled people. Still, one cannot say that we have not done anything at all. These facilities now account for about 16% of the transport and engineering infrastructure. I would like to remind you that their share should reach at least 45% by 2015. And, of course, it’s high time that we started designing new types of apartment buildings, which would be seen as convenient by disabled people and by families with disabled children.
Third, we must improve the quality of the rehabilitation equipment and create a mechanism that would eliminate queues among disabled people wishing to use such equipment. First of all, this concerns wheelchairs. We must also pay more attention to the individual specifics of every disabled person and enable all disabled people to independently choose various technical systems. At the same time, we must set up specialised websites for disabled people, reinstate translations for the deaf on TV channels and, naturally, provide translations at cultural institutions as well. This project is being implemented at five national TV channels, including within the programme’s format.
Fourth, disabled children must receive a top-quality and modern education together with all other children. They must also become involved in cultural, educational and even sport life to the greatest possible extent. This will help them to become part of society. This will unlock their potential, and, of course, this must, on the whole, change the attitude of people towards people with disabilities.
We have to upgrade correctional educational institutions for children and, at the same time, create a barrier-free environment at conventional schools. We must train more educators, including those specialising in the inclusion model.
In some cases, disabled children should have the opportunity to study at home.
Fifth, I would like to note that we must annually create at least 14,000 specialised workstations for disabled persons. The regions have received the relevant subsidies for these purposes. Public organisations representing the interests of disabled people also provide real employment assistance. Of course, they strive to ensure the maximum possible protection of disabled people's rights and interests, as well as their socio-psychological adaptation. They also attract additional funding. We have to support their programmes. I would like to say once again that all of the parameters of the programme must be fulfilled effectively and on time.
And, of course, we need to rely on the assessments of disabled people themselves. Naturally, they should tell us what is wrong, and they should also help us to focus on specific priorities.
The next issue that I’d like to speak about in my opening remarks concerns linking new subscribers to gas grids. It's clear that energy infrastructure accessibility, understandable and transparent rules for connecting customers to the grid, and a reasonable connection fee all directly impact the business conditions in the country and the quality of people’s lives. Our efforts are focused on linking rural customers to the gas distribution network, which I recently spoke about in the Saratov Region.
Not long ago, I approved a road map on the electricity grid to simplify this process. Today, we will speak about amendments to the gas supply law prepared by the Federal Tariff Service. In accordance with today's procedure, the fee for linking capital construction projects to infrastructure, including gas supply systems, is calculated using tariffs approved by local governments. This is why tariffs at times differ radically between municipal entities within the same region. In fact, we do not share a common attitude towards regulating relations in this field. It is difficult to explain to people why this is so.
The draft law provides for transferring the [pricing] authority to the regions, so that the fee for linking customers to the gas network will be established by the authorised regional bodies. The Government will approve common regulations in this sphere, and the Federal Tariff Service will take a decision about the methods for calculating the fee. The service’s authority should also be expanded, so that it will be able to invalidate the decisions of regional tariff agencies taken in violation of existing rules and relevant legislation. I think this law will help us standardise and regiment relations in this sphere, and make them more understandable and predictable for investors. These are likely the major issues that we need to address. One more thing that I’d like to say is that several other issues on our agenda concern relations with Kyrgyzstan. In particular, we will discuss the draft agreement on the settlement of Kyrgyzstan’s debts under previous loans. This document provides for changing the conditions for repaying these debts to Russia. I hope that as a result of executing these decisions we will have more opportunities to develop mutually beneficial cooperation, but only on the condition that our Kyrgyz partners fulfil the approved decisions. Unfortunately, this is not always guaranteed. This should create conditions for mutually beneficial cooperation and, I hope, for the active operation of our companies in Kyrgyzstan.
Let’s begin discussing the first issue – the implementation of the Government's Accessible Environment programme. Minister of Labour and Social Security Maxim Topilin will report on the matter.
Maxim Topilin: Mr Medvedev, members of the Government. The Accessible Environment programme was drafted in 2008 after the Government signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was ratified on May 3, 2012. I’d like to say that Russia will submit the ratification documents in the framework of the 67th UN General Assembly in New York barely a week from now.
In accordance with the Convention, “persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which, in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.”
We drafted the programme in this regard. In this context, although earlier we had various targeted federal assistance programmes for people with disabilities, they first of all concerned various privileges and allowances, as well as one-time purchases for certain organisations. But issues such as the creation of a barrier-free environment, the accessibility of infrastructure for persons with disabilities, and the quality of services provided to them were not addressed until we drafted and approved the Accessible Environment programme. According to available information, polls show that people with disabilities have problems with the accessibility of information and communication services (40%) and healthcare (47%). According to public organisations representing the interests of people with disabilities, they encounter even larger accessibility problems in transport (61%) and housing (80%). To address this, by 2016 the programme will provide unfettered access to top priority areas and facilities. Certainly, we won’t be able to resolve the accessibility problem entirely by 2016, but we should be able to make significant progress in terms of establishing priority areas, including health care, culture, transport, information and communication, education, social protection, physical education and housing. As Mr Medvedev mentioned, the total integral index of accessibility to facilities in these areas should be 45% by 2016 according to the programme.
The next goal designated in the programme is to improve the government system of medical and social expert analysis to integrate people with disabilities into society. In this regard, the main objectives of the programme include assessing the accessibility of facilities and services in the priority areas, increasing the accessibility of the priority facilities, eliminating attitudinal barriers and the modernisation of the state system for medical and social expert analysis. Before the programme’s launching, the executive authorities and the All-Russia Society of People with Disabilities had no accurate or even general idea about our starting position, so it was quite a problem. The assessment of accessibility is the key goal of the programme for us to be able to begin the assessment process based on a single format and guidelines. As Mr Medvedev mentioned earlier, 26.9 billion roubles have been allocated from the federal budget for this programme, and the total amount of funding will be about 46 billion roubles.
During the first phase conducted last year, all federal agencies, including the Ministry of Communications, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Sport and several other ministries, have drafted appropriate documents and recommendations that make it possible to use the same approach to assess the status of accessibility and approaches to this work. These guidelines have been developed and posted on the Living Together website, which was also created under the programme. Next year, we expect these guidelines across various industries to be approved by the appropriate orders. We are preparing a change to the programme, which will provide for such measures.
Accordingly, the Ministry of Labour has developed certification and classification guidelines for service facilities that will allow each region and the federal executive authorities to organise information about each facility regarding the accessibility of facilities and services for people with disabilities or limited mobility in different areas. We have prepared such guidelines and they will soon be approved by the relevant ministerial order. Based on certification, each Russian region will develop interactive accessibility maps, and information about the accessibility of priority facilities will be shown on these maps. The website developed by the Ministry of Labour will soon have maps that will show the progress of the programme in Russia.
The key issue that was addressed during the first phase, although it was of a somewhat practical nature, was to prepare and update the set of construction rules known as Complex 35 based on the order issued by the Ministry of Regional Development in conjunction with public organisations for people with disabilities. Public organisations of people with disabilities are directly involved in the approval of all of the work and evaluation of the results. The Ministry (and other ministries) has coordinating councils, and we only review the plans and actual work in conjunction with various All-Russian societies for people with disabilities at the federal level. In order to clarify the provisions of this code, which was organised to develop design solutions for various types of buildings, we added requirements for curb ramps and minimum requirements for the size of residential premises. We have also included recommendations regarding the accessibility of buildings during reconstruction and major repairs and have added requirements for placing media for the visually impaired and some other provisions that were not provided for in the Code. We assume that these regulations will be complied with by all companies when new facilities are built.
In 2011, the Tver and Saratov regions and the Republic of Tatarstan launched pilot projects with co-financing and are scheduled for completion in 2011 and 2012. These pilot projects allow us to identify our weaknesses and perhaps even to adjust the government programme, which we plan to amend soon.
What approach has the region taken? First, in these three regions, we are certifying and classifying facilities and services based on all types of disabilities. The problem is that those who deal with accessibility are easily satisfied with small things. For example, they build a wheelchair ramp and think the case is closed. But people with disabilities who come to public and social services buildings are not necessarily the ones who have mobility restrictions. Therefore, we should build ramps, handrails, low curbs, nonslip floors and lifts for wheelchair-bound people and tactile tables, audio and video information screens, signs and tickers for the visually impaired. People with hearing disabilities need subtitles, information stands and corresponding tickers. All of that is being done as part of the pilot projects in these regions.
I would like to say that outside the Accessible Environment programme, we in the Ministry of Labour have created an environment of accessibility for people with different disabilities. We have outfitted lifts, signs, tables and office door plates with Braille. Lifts have floor number audio recordings and so on. This work is almost completed in the Government Building. We did this work last year together with the Government Executive Office and the Ministry of Labour and Social Development.
Different requirements are necessary when creating an accessible environment. Slide five shows what is being done in the regions. In the Tver region, we have focused on developing accessibility in vocational training. In the Republic of Tatarstan, we focused on transport. Seven metro stations have been made fully accessible for people with disabilities over the past two years. In the Saratov region, we focused on cultural sites. As soon as we are done with these pilot projects, we will draft guidelines for other regions. For 2013 and on, we have financing in the amount of 340 million roubles, and 4.2 and 4.5 billion roubles in 2014 and 2015, respectively. We are now beginning to hold competitions for the regions. The pilot projects will end, and the regions with programmes will be able to claim financial support in the form of subsidies and co-financing under the government programme. This is now underway. About 60 regions have already come up with projects for public programmes.
Mr Medvedev said that the accessibility of educational institutions is an issue of paramount importance. The government programme emphasises primarily educational institutions and by 2016, 20% of schools (not schools for children with special needs but regular schools) must be made accessible for people with disabilities. At the beginning of the programme, this figure stood at only 2.5%, and we believe that a ten-fold increase is a very good number, although in the future all schools should become accessible. The Ministry of Education and we oversee this work in the regions. As I mentioned earlier, we are building ramps, handrails, tactile strips and nonslip floors at schools. Schools are being equipped with special training rehabilitation computer equipment and vehicles for intervention programmes and training those with various disabilities. We finished the work in 2011 and 2012: 300 educational institutions in 35 regions in 2011 and already 54 regions are involved in this work this year. In all, we will have 450 educational institutions covered by this programme. Funds for this purpose were disbursed last year and we guarantee that this year all funds will be used for the intended purpose in full as well.
Recently, at a Government meeting we discussed the draft law on granting Russian sign language the status of a national language of interpersonal communication. We have already started a programme to train sign language interpreters in Russian sign language. We have a major unmet demand for such specialists, about 7,000 interpreters.
About one thousand employees should be trained under the programme. This work has almost been completed this year: contracts have been signed and we trained even more employees this year than we planned, since we saved on holding the related contests.
The Ministry of Communications is also installing subtitling equipment at the main TV channels Rossiya 1, Rossiya K (Culture), Channel One, NTV and Karusel. The target for this year is 8,000 hours, or 25% of air time. The figure for the first six months of 2012 was 5,200 hours, and the ultimate goal is to provide subtitles for 40% of all shows. The Ministry of Communications is working on hardware that will provide subtitles for live news and other shows. Subtitles would be no longer added before a broadcast but during the broadcast in real time. This is a fundamental task we must fulfil by 2015. After that, licences should only be renewed for companies that commit to subtitling for an agreed on portion; we are discussing this issue with the Ministry of Communications. Subtitling should eventually become an obligatory condition for all channels and networks in Russia.
As for the part of the programme that concerns employment, we are taking all the planned steps. However, most disabled employment is provided through regional employment programmes. In accordance with a presidential executive order, we are to create 14,200 jobs for the disabled annually in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Of course, this is not enough. And now we are drafting requirements to provide jobs for people with disabilities (we had no such requirements before); it should be standard practice to be strictly adhered to.
A few words about the programme’s focus on the accessibility of physical fitness and sport for the disabled. In my opinion, we have been working quite efficiently in this area, in cooperation with the Ministry of Sport, Tourism and Youth Policy. Last year we provided assistance to 15 sport schools for the disabled in 15 regions. This year we will help 22 such schools. The Ministry of Sport is monitoring the transfer of funds to the recipients.
I would also like to say that we have increased our attention to information campaigns. Slide 9 shows how we do this. We have a strategy based on the idea that human value is far above any physical impairment. The core idea is that all people are equal, and the slogan is, “People should not be divided by this.” We show different spots on several channels. They cover sport, employment and especially children. According to the public organisations representing the interests of people with disabilities, they have quite a positive attitude towards this campaign. We have also created a ministry website within this programme, which is regularly updated.
And the last element of the programme, which we consider to be of fundamental importance, is a reform of the system of medical and social assessment. Everyone knows about the numerous complaints regarding this system, because the assessment procedure is very difficult. We are implementing three pilot projects in Khakassia, Udmurtia and Tyumen which stipulate a new approach to medical and social assessment, with new disability categories and new assessment criteria. At present, medical and social assessment is based on very general documents which are inadequate for recommending the necessary procedure or for clearly assessing the degree of disability. This is why the current statistical data of medical and social assessment do not provide information about… They only divide people into disability groups I, II or III… We have no rules for evaluating people for sight, hearing or any other disability. This is why we are proposing common standard protocols and standard medical and social assessment forms within the framework of this reform, which provides for introducing letter codes to designate the type of disability and hence the types of assistance needed depending on their situation and the type of disability. If we do this, we will be able to convert to the international classification of functionality, disability and health by 2015.
Regarding the programme budget and the assessment of expense efficiency, we implemented 96% of the budget plan. The figure for the first six months of this year is 51%. We are proceeding according to plan. It was mentioned at a Government meeting that we are lagging behind a bit, but according to our estimates and the Ministry of Economic Development, we are proceeding at the planned pace and will maintain it, with no delays.
In conclusion I’d like to say that we are not planning to turn the programme into a long-term mechanism. In Russia, we tend to adopt a programme and then extend it several times. We believe that the required enactments will be drafted within the framework of this programme to stipulate requirements for the work of the regions and various organisations, so that in the future all federal agencies will rely on these enactments to ensure accessibility in their field of authority. Hence, these indicators will be assessed by public organisations of disabled people. Thank you.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you, Mr Topilin. Take your seat, please. Esteemed colleagues, do you have any comments on the report on the implementation of the state programme? Any questions to the speaker? Any ideas? Everything’s okay? All right, good. If you don’t have any comments, let’s continue our work. This is a very important programme and it is necessary to monitor its implementation, including spending. The funds must be spent efficiently, not carelessly. Okay, that’s agreed.
Let’s switch to the next item on the agenda – the draft federal law on introducing amendments to the law on gas supplies. Mr Novikov, take the floor please.
Sergei Novikov (Head of the Federal Tariff Service): Mr Medvedev, you have already noted the main point of the draft federal law on introducing amendments to the law on gas supplies. I will just speak about a number of key tasks. First, we must determine a common approach to tariff regulations for connecting permanent buildings to gas distribution networks. Second, it is necessary to fill in the gap in the law on the use of regulated prices on gas used during transportation as well as incident response and repairs. The current legislation does not regulate these issues. Third, it is necessary to upgrade state regulation and control of retail prices and gas supply tariffs, primarily at the regional level. Thus, we could introduce procedures for cancelling the decisions of regional executive bodies if they violate existing law. Relevant regulations will be determined by the Government of the Russian Federation. This redistribution of powers by transferring some functions to the federal level can only be made through the introduction of relevant amendments to federal laws, as this draft suggests.
The draft has been duly approved and backed by the Institute of Law and Comparative Legislation at the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government Commission on Law Drafting.
I’d like to ask you to support this draft.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you, Mr Novikov. Any questions to the speaker? Mr Dvorkovich, have you looked at the draft? Is everything okay?
Arkady Dvorkovich (Deputy Prime Minister): Yes, we did. We have looked at it attentively. Indeed, the main problem is to regulate tariffs on connection, the so-called last mile in this segment of the market. During all the meetings to consider consumers’ petitions this issue was the focus of attention. We are working with these requests. This is a really urgent issue, and if we resolve it everything will be easier.
Dmitry Medvedev: I hope that the relevant bodies will at least eliminate these paradoxical imbalances where different municipalities adopt different documents even within a single district in a region. As a result, people who live in neighbouring villages have to make completely different payments.
Arkady Dvorkovich: It so happens that even in one and the same village absolutely different decisions are being taken during various stages of the installation of gas service, and tariffs are poles apart.
Sergei Novikov: We hope that once things are put in order in this sphere, the cost of connecting to the gas grid will go down not by some percent or several dozen percent but many times over, tens of times over. Statistics on gas supply to regions shows this is possible.
Dmitry Medvedev: We’ll have to wait. If these costs are reduced dozens of times over, this would be a truly outstanding result. Please keep me posted on what happens there.
Okay, Mr Novikov, please take your seat.
Do you object to the amendments to this law? Okay, then we’ll pass the decision. I hope it will be helpful. Thank you.