Meeting with deputy prime ministers


Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:

Dmitry Medvedev: Colleagues, we will begin our meeting today with a very important, even critical issue: waiting lists for kindergartens and the situation in preschool education as a whole. I talked about this recently in the State Duma and at a government meeting. I’d like to remind you that we need to create about 1.2 million places at preschools in 2013-2015 to ensure that preschool education is available to all children aged three to seven.

This is a difficult and costly issue, and hence, although the regions have their own funds, we will have to help them, as was agreed at the outset. In accordance with my instructions last year and this year, the Government has allocated 50 billion roubles for the implementation of the decisions that have recently been taken. Subsidies for creating more preschools will be provided to the regions under co-financing schemes. We recently discussed possible ways of spending them with Olga Golodets and Finance Minister Anton Siluanov. Ms Golodets will now provide details and will also talk about preschool childcare professionals, advanced training for them and also the development of federal standards for preschool education. Proceed, please.

Olga Golodets: Thank you, Mr Medvedev. Indeed, we are working on a comprehensive programme for the development of preschool education. Similar programmes have been adopted in all Russian regions and stipulate a number of areas to address and the relevant action to be taken. To begin with, we will change the standards of preschool education. The debates on the new standards are underway. The initial draft is being discussed with preschool professionals, the parenting community and civil society in general. We hope to be able to approve the standards and approaches that have been outlined in the new documents in June. This is a fundamentally new approach to preschool education, which has come to feature prominently in the education system because it will set the tune for the development of society and members of society for the next 20 years.

Our programmes provide advance training for preschool teachers, and this issue is closely connected with our goal to raise the salaries for preschool professionals and features in all our education roadmaps. We held a conference call this morning to sum up our work in the first quarter. The overwhelming majority of regions are coping with the task of raising salaries for preschool professionals and  the average salary at preschools across Russia exceeds 70% of the salaries of the general school staff. It is a solid figure, which shows that we are moving at the pace stipulated in the Government resolutions and the President’s executive orders.

The next important issue which you mentioned today is admission for preschool education. It is also the most complex issue. On September 1, 2012, there were 418,000 kids aged three to seven on the waiting list. It has decreased, but not by much –to 366,000. This is why we discussed and adopted the programme you proposed, and we have agreed with the regions that the roadmap on additional sites and additional places at kindergartens will be ready by the end of May.

At the same time, we are drawing up a Government resolution. We have dealt with all the issues, i.e. that preschools must be completed as turnkey projects, and that they must not be left uncompleted or put off until next year or the year after next. The governors, many of whom took part in the conference call today, have assured me that this programme will be developed very shortly and I will be able to report this to you personally.

Dmitry Medvedev: Good, we have agreed, then. But we should still monitor the spending of these funds. We believe that this will give the regions more freedom with their finances. But the main thing is, as we firmly believe, that the use of these funds should come with the creation of more places at preschools. I repeat that these funds must not be used to achieve some other, ephemeral targets or to ease bottlenecks in the education system, even if these are very important goals for a particular region, but to build and open new kindergartens and create more places at preschools. All right, we have agreed on this, and now I want to hear your reports.

There is one more important issue for our work, which is performance discipline. This is a crucial issue for all public officers. The Government has been working for nearly a year. The monitoring system has been seriously amended for all aspects of the Government’s operation. I have ordered that these control powers be assigned to one of the deputies at the ministries and agencies. This is how it should be, as this practical work must be assigned to concrete individuals. The goal is clear: to ensure the timely and comprehensive fulfilment of presidential executive orders and government resolutions. Considering the essence of this work, another major goal is to implement the tasks outlined in the executive orders that the President signed in May of last year. Mr Surkov (addressing Vladislav Surkov), you have been charged with this task as a Deputy Prime Minister and Chief of the Government Staff. I believe that many things have changed for the better in the controlling functions of the Government Staff. This is my opinion as Prime Minister and also as a person who has worked in the Government twice before, the first time as Deputy Chief of the Government Staff and the second time as a First Deputy Prime Minister. Tell me about your performance last year, how you are working with the instructions, especially since different sources offer different assessments of this work. I want to see an objective picture.

Vladislav Surkov: Mr Prime Minister, colleagues. I would assess the Government’s performance discipline as satisfactory, approaching good, and I will try to prove this now.

The operation of the Government Staff  has been streamlined during the past year, and I can assure you that there are hardly any instructions the fulfilment of which was delayed. We are sometimes a bit late delivering reports or making the necessary proposals, but we are only late by a few hours, not months or years, as before. Therefore, I believe that our work as seen from the formal, bureaucratic point of power can be considered successful. Of course, as you have correctly pointed out, we give priority attention to monitoring the fulfilment of your instructions, and we also cooperate with all of our colleagues in the Government to ensure the fulfilment of the President’s executive orders signed on May 7, 2012.

The issue concerns 11 orders of great political importance, because they are based on Vladimir Putin’s election platform. In fact, they outline the Government's tasks and goals for the short and medium terms, and some of them concern longer-term plans. They set out the goals that we must achieve in nearly all spheres of operation, from salaries for the publicly funded staff and standards of living to healthcare, defence, housing and innovative economy.

As part of the plans for implementing these orders, the Government has been given over 200 instructions, two-thirds of which were to be implemented last year or this year. In other words, we must fulfil two-thirds of these tasks by the end of this year. At this point we believe that we have fulfilled over 70% of the instructions, both those that have been removed from the control list and those we expect to complete within a few weeks or months. Since there is still a long time until the end of 2013, I believe that we are proceeding apace. Formally, the situation is quite satisfactory.

This is a very difficult project, and the entire Government is involved in its implementation. We have adopted 29 federal laws to ensure the implementation of the presidential orders, including such highly important ones as the law on education or the law banning smoking in public places. But we will need to adopt 25 more laws.

The work to implement some orders has begun. For example, salaries have been raised, and we are proceeding in accordance with the schedule stipulated in the orders. You have said recently, citing concrete figures, that salaries in the education and healthcare sectors were raised by 18% to 20% last year, which means that we are working in accordance with the orders. The delicate issue of compensating housing and utility payments for single pensioners has been resolved and relevant legal measures have been taken. The Government has approved 14 priority programmes outlined in the orders. Moreover, all the necessary state programmes have been approved.

I believe that we are proceeding according to plan. At the same time, it should be said, and I want to stress it, that the issue only concerns formal aspects, and that we are continuing to monitor the fulfilment of several instructions for two reasons. One of the reasons is that the targets of some orders and instructions have been set for the future – 2015, 2016 or 2018, which is why we are still monitoring them. This is a perfectly logical, substantiated and inevitable extension of the deadline.

However, some instructions have not been implemented in full or on a satisfactory level. And this is not only the view of the Government Executive Office. We are working under the Commission for Monitoring Target Indicators headed by the President jointly with the Presidential Executive Office. Together with the Presidential Executive Office, we have created working groups in all areas, and it is our common opinion that we are delayed in some areas.

I’ll mention only a few subjects to save time. For example, we have not resolved  such a sensitive issue as improving the living conditions of families with three or more children. We have not found a solution to such an important economic issue as creating a mechanism of state guarantees for investment in the non- materials sector – this is also an important aspect of these executive orders.

Interaction with regions is also a difficult issue. According to presidential envoys and partially based on our information, many regions fail to fully understand how some tasks should be implemented. They are not to blame; they simply do not receive procedure recommendations or detailed clarifications from ministries. The executive orders contain some terms which need only to be introduced in the official language, because they had not been used in the past. For example, “families needing support,” or “low-income citizens” – these terms need clarification. Regions also want to clarify what they should do with the programmes for development of housing that is rented out, what they should do with the policy concerning obsolete and dilapidated housing and so on. Some additional efforts will be needed here, we know this, we are working jointly with the Executive Office and our colleagues. I want to thank all our colleagues – deputy prime ministers, all ministers, because they have an understanding, and I repeat, I believe that despite reservations and some difficult issues – and the executive orders do not deal with simple issues… In my view, the Government is working actively, and ultimately we will cope with our tasks. I also want to recall your instruction of November 19, 2012, when you instructed us to look into the legal framework that should follow the  laws, and when you instructed us to look into the implementation of the rulings of the Constitutional Court.  Russia often adopts very good laws but they fail to work without a supporting legal framework.

Dmitry Medvedev: This is a delicate remark.

Vladislav Surkov: Naturally, the regulatory acts are not just some papers which only concern the Government Staff. They directly concern the implementation of draft laws for people’s benefit. These are socially important issues, like determining the size of benefits for the disabled, housing issues, and others. We have accumulated over 200 unimplemented laws. As of today, over 60% of those “debts” have been settled. My colleagues and I have settled them together. We committed to settle them all and we will do so by the end of the year. We have implemented about 90% of decisions made by the Constitutional Court, which did not have corresponding regulatory acts. I think we will finish this up in the next two months.

It is important to note that since November 19, due to the activity of the ministers and the Government Staff, no new violations have been detected. All regulatory acts are submitted on time. Honestly, we have not had such impressive results in years.

Dmitry Medvedev: Thanks. I’d like to remind everyone here that control remains the most essential part of your activity. Speaking of legislative acts, this is a very complicated and important issue for the country. It is clear that everything should be done within the limits set by the same acts, but with regard to the actual situation. We will speak more of that. In any case, we must keep the pace and tighten control over corresponding executive orders and their articles.

As for the other aspects of control which Mr Surkov spoke about, I think that a lot has been done here. The unadopted legislative acts and unimplemented decisions of the Constitutional Court have been accumulating for over 20 years. Unfortunately, the previous governments did not pay enough attention to them. I’m glad we can manage these issues now, because the Government cannot and must not ignore the decisions made by the supreme courts, or ignore documents and laws proceeding from the laws adopted before. If we feel that those laws proved to be ineffective, then we need to suggest changing them. But as long as the law is in effect, we need to develop regulatory acts related to it. We need to carry on working on this. Thank you.

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