24 december 2008

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin held a meeting with Minister of Communications and Mass Media Igor Shchyogolev

The meeting focused on the information and communication technologies, as well as the state of affairs in the industry during the world financial crisis.

Transcript of the beginning of the meeting: 

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon. What's new?

Igor Shchyogolev: Now that the year is coming to an end, I would like to report on its results. The information and communication technology industry has been developing dynamically. This year's revenues have amounted to about 2 billion roubles, which is 22% higher than last year. Communication operators' revenues have totaled 1,245 billion roubles, which is 20% more than last year.

The industry's investment volume is 262 billion roubles, which is quite low compared to the economy in general; however, it also exceeds last year's results by 13%. So, the industry is developing steadily. We have been carefully monitoring the trends of the fourth quarter; we clarify the economic stabilisation measures the Government adopted. We have been watching out for what the Ministry can do on its part and consulting with market participants.

In particular, we have been working on measures to eliminate the red tape, for example, by reducing the amount of permissions a business has to obtain and by cutting the time it takes to get them. It is a matter of issuing, registering and extending licences, as well as replacing permission procedures with notification. That will allow us to make investments quickly and easily, and, accordingly, to receive returns for stimulating the industry's development. Market participants fully support this initiative. And if any decisions are required on the part of the Government, we will turn to you for help.

We have been conducting a dialogue with our foreign partners in the same vein. Despite all odds, they have not lost interest in the Russian market; they say they are ready to invest up to a billion dollars in production development in this country. And we have been assuring everyone that we will back projects which create jobs, launch production in Russia and share technologies. Businesses understand our position. They share our aspiration to increase employment rate. We also believe that our industry can contribute to solving this problem. In particular, we believe that in the short run we will be able to launch a network of computer awareness centres founded by the state and private companies, with market participants having a larger share in these projects. In such centres, people who are looking for jobs could learn computer skills and have access to the Internet. In addition, these centres could serve as a basis for creating a social network, which would allow people to share information about vacancies, ensuring population mobility, including between various regions. When the draft of this project is ready, I would like to report on it.

Vladimir Putin: What is your position at present, now that all industries have to confront the crisis?

Igor Shchyogolev: We are revising our investment plans. We have been conducting a dialogue with various companies, especially those partly owned by the state. Human resource issues should be addressed with particular attention; it is crucial to avoid significant redundancies. State-controlled companies have already adjusted their personnel optimisation plans to the current situation in the economy, including those which were drafted before the economic situation deteriorated. The main aim is now to minimise the number of possible redundancies. We undertake every possible measure so that the number of redundancies remains within reasonable limits.

Vladimir Putin: What about services? What do you plan to do with tariffs?

Igor Shchyogolev: We have planned a slight tariff increase, but it is scheduled for March, not for January 1. Perhaps, depending on the dynamics in the industry, we will be able to adjust tariff increase schedule. Tariffs will be raised by 8%, but the percentage differs from region to region. Naturally, it depends on tariff growth with other natural monopolies, first of all, electric energy tariffs.

Vladimir Putin: So you are not going to raise tariffs early next year?

Igor Shchyogolev: No, we are not.

Vladimir Putin: That's good.