Vladimir Putin chaired a meeting on the economy
5 december 2008
Vladimir Putin's opening address:
Good afternoon, colleagues,
Let us start with yesterday's televised question-and-answer session when I talked to the public in a live broadcast. Many of you saw at least snatches of it and know the people's primary concerns - economic and social developments, employment and chances for government support of those who lose job or cannot afford housing loan payments.
I think anyone understands those concerns. I want to stress this: we surely concentrate not on the economic situation as a whole but on people when we take anti-crisis measures. When we support the banking system, we protect millions of depositors. When we give loans to industry and cut taxes, we guarantee jobs.
I think this is the only proper approach, and we shall certainly proceed from that in the future, too.
Whatever we do should concentrate on man. We must focus attention on helping honest workers who coped with their housing and other problems as best they could but are now in dire straits through no fault of theirs. I outlined those acute issues and additional steps to settle them yesterday. Now, I want to analyse them in greater detail and describe proposed practical patterns to implement everything I mentioned yesterday.
First, we would step up labour policies that would necessitate considerable allocations and demand target programmes. We should law away up to 50 billion roubles for the purpose. These, I stress, should be extra allocations apart from those already made to fund employment services in Russia's constituent entities. Such extra funding demands amending the law On Employment and the federal budget.
These additional allocations will be channelled to such regions and employers as have the worst problems and have to dismiss the greatest number of employees. Such personnel should be helped with new jobs, with changing residence when necessary, or with starting private businesses. Other affordable help should also be offered. People should train in new specialities or improve available qualifications in advance. In that, regions and companies should draw their own employment programmes.
Second, we should protect the Russian personnel by cutting regional employment quotas for guest workers.
It will be a temporary measure, considering Russia's long-term interest in workforce inflow. Today, however, we cannot offer foreigners as many jobs as before. This measure requires urgently drafting a relevant Government resolution.
Mortgaging problems come third. As I have said on many occasions, Russia does not have too many bad credits - unlike some other countries. That is really so.
Banks were circumspect enough in loaning. Russian mortgages were sufficiently secured thanks to creditors' solvency. An overwhelming majority of creditors have been coping with payments to this day. Some, however, have lost jobs or their wages have been cut. They need payment suspension to find other income sources lest they lose homes for which they have paid much already.
In this situation, we ask banks to reschedule private clients' mortgage payments for next year. This is all the more practicable as bankers know what their clients can afford. In compensation, bankers should be entitled to rescheduled payment guarantees from the Housing Mortgage Agency.
What will it mean for private creditors? People who have lost jobs and are registered with employment agencies, or whose incomes have shrunk because their employers reduced activities should have next year's principal debt and interest payments put off.
To support liquidity, the Central Bank will give other banks an opportunity to refinance mortgage obligations guaranteed by the Housing Mortgage Agency, which boils down to government guarantees, as I said yesterday. That will enhance economic liquidity. More than that, the Housing Mortgage Agency will extend its practice of redeeming standard mortgage credits in direct support of banks active in mortgage loaning. That means private creditors will receive support, as well.
Even at the start of next year, private persons will be able to use maternity capital for interest and mortgage payments. This requires legal and budgetary amendments - a measure that takes time but shall be urgently implemented. The population needs it no later than January 2009. For that, I repeat, the acting legislation and the budget will be amended.
We shall also talk today about initiatives for extra aid to essential industrial companies. We have already discussed some of them, in particular, earmarking extra credit resources up to 175 billion roubles, and temporary acquisition of a share of backbone companies' capital by the state. I mentioned it all during yesterday's question-and-answer session.
This meeting should also carry on the discussion of next year's priorities.
In this connection, I want to say this: a majority of companies - and practically all private companies - are adjusting expenses and determining investments vitally important for development and retaining market positions, with non-effective expenses cut.
As I see it, the state should not merely accept this line of action but also set an example of using resources in the most effective way.
We should streamline federal programmes and those of government companies and infrastructure monopolies. We should channel resources to where they will have the greatest effect as economic incentives and levers of social stability. In doing that, we cannot - and we shall not - reconsider our obligations to the population and plans of developing the pension system and socially oriented production and services.
It is our duty to stay good on our international pledges and enhance Russia's security and defence. We shall surely implement major investment projects without which the national economy would clash with developmental problems in the post-crisis time.
We should reconsider and calculate our resources in all the other fields and make difficult but indispensable decisions to streamline our expenditures.
Last but not least come tariff problems. They were discussed as I met with governors two days ago and at the call-in session yesterday. Housing and utilities and essential monopoly fees came under debate. Today, we should discuss opportunities to make policies in that sphere more flexible so that tariff rises drop pace. At the same time, we should find the best way to promote leading companies' investment programmes.
Let's get down to business.