Prime Minister Vladimir Putin chaired a meeting of the Government Presidium
12 january 2009
Transcript of the opening:
Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, dear colleagues!
I congratulate you on the start of the New Year once again, and present best regards from Mr Barroso, the President of the European Commission, with whom I have just had a telephone conversation.
You know that we have had complicated talks with our Ukrainian partners on resuming our natural gas transit to European users since the start of the year. Now, I want to offer you more information. We have agreed to establish gas export monitoring on the initiative of the German Chancellor, and signed a relevant protocol. Meanwhile, a proviso has been made without coordination with Russia which, according to our legal experts, thoroughly changes the very essence of the signed protocol. That is why we called our Ukrainian partners to sign it again without any declarations uncoordinated with us. That was done today. The Gazprom deputy chairman flew to Kiev to coordinate the document with our Ukrainian partners, and they have signed it. The document is now on its way to Brussels to be signed by European Commission functionaries. After that, independent observers will go to sites appointed by the protocol. As soon as they are on the spot and we see they are able to monitor our gas transit, Gazprom will resume supplies to Ukrainian pipelines for transit to Europe.
We once again express regret and solidarity with our European clients. Procrastinations that thwarted exports and boiled down to gas blockade of Europe by Ukraine, the transit party, are inadmissible, and we hope they will never repeat.
We also hope that the new monitoring system will effectively guarantee unbroken supplies of Russian natural gas to Europe.
Let us get back to our agenda now-in particular, grain interventions in our domestic market. How are they going on, Mr Zubkov?
Viktor Zubkov: Dear Mr Putin, dear colleagues! Stabilising the grain market is among the priorities the Government is permanently monitoring. As we know, last year brought bumper harvest, with a final yield of 108 million tonnes-enough for domestic consumption, which is 73 million tonnes, plus 12.1 million tonnes for export. All told, I expect our exports to amount to 15 million tonnes against 13 million tonnes last year.
It is essential, however, to support Russian farmers with government purchase interventions at no less than 18-20 million tonnes with grain prices plummeting in the domestic and foreign markets.
The first months of such purchases, which started late in August, revealed inadequacy of their arrangement-mainly due to organisation problems. Meetings in the regions, telephone conferences and consultations with agrarians have allowed us to elaborate a comprehensive set of economic and organisational measures. We have raised grain purchase prices by 500 roubles a tonne, on the average, increased the number of selling days from two to five a week, and extended the list of accredited grain elevators from 60 to 323. We have cut the auctioning guarantee deposit to 100 roubles a tonne for companies and 60 roubles a tonne for small entrepreneurs and private farmers. We have prolonged emergency railway tariffs for grain shipments to Siberia. All this currently allows involve agricultural producers from 35 constituent entities in interventions-which means all grain-growing parts of Russia-and increase the daily amount of purchases to 390,000 tonnes by December's end. 5,300,000 tonnes had been purchased by January 1, to an overall 25 billion roubles, as planned. 12 billion roubles has been transferred to agricultural producers for today. This money has come to the non-financial economic sector, I stress, and will bring agriculture financial stability.
At the same time, analyses of purchasing interventions have revealed two major problems. First, breadbasket parts of the Central and Southern federal districts have only a half of necessary granaries. We are redistributing grain to the Northwestern Federal District and the northern parts of the Central and Volga federal districts. We have also raised purchase prices of grain shipped to regions with vacant grain warehouses.
The other problem is bad wear and tear, and extreme backwardness of all Russian grain elevators. The problem demands the utmost attention even during a financial crisis. We have drafted a decree, submitted to the Presidential Executive Office today, on the establishment of a national company oriented on buttressing the Russian grain potential-in particular, through upgrading ports and improving grain storage, transportation and sale. The capital stock of the new company will include blocks in federal possession or held by grain storage companies. That will allow increase grain sales and purchases in the domestic market, make grain exports more effective and ensure the construction and modernisation of grain warehouses in port terminals. What matters most is stability of farmers' incomes and steady grain production.
The national company will act on Russia's behalf as a major grain exporter, contestant in transnational tenders, and grain and flour donor on international humanitarian programmes. It is duty bound to become a worthy contestant of many foreign companies present in the Russian market. It will be a competitive company.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.
We also have employment problems, so I want to ask Mr Fursenko about the organisation of personnel training and retraining in secondary vocational schools.
Andrei Fursenko: Dear Mr Putin, dear colleagues!
We had many meetings with our colleagues from the employment service in the first days of this year. We have the following duties: first, to pinpoint sectors which can be expected to have redundant workforce and which the falling labour market demand hits the least. We are ready with preliminary estimations.
Second, we have appointed schools guaranteeing effective training-not only under the Education Ministry but also subordinate to the Communications, Transport and other ministries. They, too, have supplied information about schools that can cope with the task and curricula available for today.
We are estimating the correspondence of those curricula to current standards of vocational training-I mean whether school leavers will not merely cope with current jobs but also remain basic experts till the time when the economy attains a new level. That is why we deem it necessary not only to arrange future-oriented training of people who might lose jobs but also to draw new curricula even now. We shall attract economists and businesspeople to teaching. At the same time, we are weighing the chances to employ teachers and instructors from countries with which we have good partner relations to train blue collars, that is, qualified workers and technical specialists.
All these draft curricula have come through preliminary coordination, and we intend to post them on relevant websites within the next four to six weeks to make them available to companies and schools, and to promote personnel and curriculum exchange so as to open the training market to all who wish.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you. You have mentioned websites. Ms Golikova, we have agreed about improving public information about the labour market situation and its opportunities.
Tatyana Golikova: Dear Mr Putin, dear colleagues! On January 16, we are opening an official information portal of the Federal Labour and Employment Service under the name "Jobs in Russia". It will offer the acting legislation, employment services, publications, the most frequent questions and job and worker search-which matters most today. The portal will collect official information from 85 regional and 2,450 municipal employment services.
The Job Hunt rubric database will carry the following information from employers: trade or profession, region and minimum and medium wages. If one does not find a suitable job at once, one can male a CV to be answered sooner or later.
At present, the national vacancy database comprises 740,734 jobs in offer. It surely cannot cancel all problems but, anyway, we have envisaged everything for applications and CVs to find response as soon as possible.
The database is presently updated twice a month. This schedule will remain as we are launching the information portal-but we shall soon switch to daily updating, so the public will receive the latest information every day.
I can make presentation even now, and the portal will officially open on January 16 for everyone to see jobs in offer.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you. I hope the plan will come true and the portal will work since January 16.
Mr Kozak, please say a few words about the implementation of projects financed on investment programmes.
Dmitry Kozak: Dear Mr Putin, dear colleagues! In compliance with the Government resolution of November and with your instruction, Mr Putin, the Government Commission on Investment Project Implementation at the Expense of Investment Funds took stock of all projects approved by the Government on the Regional Development Ministry's order, from the point of the opportunity and expediency of their implementing in 2009. Out of the 21 projects approved by the federal Government, 15 have been selected for implementing within the year. These are projects on which construction has started already, and on which investors have confirmed obligations to fund them from their own purse. As the result, the sum earmarked for financing from the investment fund has shrunken from the initial 113 billion roubles to less than 64 billion. The implementation of these 15 projects will allow create up to 20,000 new jobs while their construction is on. Ten of those projects base in regions with employment problems, so they will account for a majority of these new jobs.
More than that, the same Government Commission meeting of December 25 considered constituent entities' applications for the implementation of projects of regional purport. We have selected 19 projects to a total 82 billion roubles, with mere 11 billion coming from the investment fund and the rest from regional budgets and private investments. The budget/private money ratio is 5.4 private roubles to every rouble from the investment fund and regional budgets. On these projects, too, the constituent entities have confirmed that private investors pledge to fund them. The projects will offer 18,500 new jobs in the 11 involved regions, which have bad employment problems-Dagestan and the Kemerovo, Vologda, Voronezh, Kaluga and Ulyanovsk regions. They will receive the majority of the 18,500 jobs while construction lasts. These are projects easier to implement-three years, at the longest, and there are even shorter terms. When construction finishes, the regions will receive 10,500 new jobs. That is essential.
In compliance with the acting legislation, we will set the year's limits of obligations on regional projects, and limits for spending investment fund money. Otherwise, regional governors will not cope with assignments appointed them by the Government Commission for Regional Policies in Yaroslavl on December 2. Its order is to urgently take stock of projects of a regional scope, formalize them and appoint private investors-all this before January 15.
I think this instrument of encouraging regional authorities to attract private investment is vitally important, especially with the present shrinkage of investment activities. The Regional Development Ministry has already submitted blueprints of investment fund budget obligation limits for 2009. We appeal to the federal executive to approve them as soon as possible lest we prevent regional governors from fulfilling Government orders.
Vladimir Putin: Mr Kozak is right. It is an urgent matter. The investment fund should arrange its further work proceeding from the present economic and social situation, so our commission for promoting competitiveness and responding to the crisis should take stock of all those problems, and relevant decisions should be made as investment programme work is on.
Dear colleagues, before we proceed to today's agenda, I would like to remind you that essential amendments to the Tax Code and some other laws entered into force on January 1 to build up the promotion of investment in human capital and extending public welfare during the global financial crisis.
First, the tax credit on estate purchase and construction has increased to two million roubles. This law is retroactive, so families who bought housing in 2008 may also benefit from it.
Second, maternity capital spending on mortgage payments has been authorised since the second child's birth, while we had previously planned to appoint the start since the child is three years old. Maternity capital is presently close on 300,000 roubles with the indexation we have promised-to be precise, it is 299,731 roubles and 25 kopecks.
Third, children's grants have risen by 8.5%.
Last but not least, we have exempted from taxes the greatest possible amount of employers' expenditures on personnel training, health care and housing. The Government points out other opportunities to the public. Persons entitled to grants and soft taxation are welcome to use their benefits, while employers should retain corporate social programmes whenever possible and so not merely help their employees in these lean years but also to invest in the future by creating a basis for post-crisis development.
Tax inspections, the Pension Fund and other state agencies, in their turn, should be as quick as possible with considering relevant applications and help the population in every way.
We have on our agenda today a draft schedule of Government meetings for the first half-year. We shall regularly analyse work at key economic and social developmental projects included in the Guidelines for Government Activities up to 2012.
To be sure, the present situation demands the utmost attention to anti-crisis measures and monitoring the effect of decisions made. We will pay the greatest attention to monitoring employment, as we have said today. These issues are also to be found in the draft schedule.
Let us get over to our agenda.