31 march 2010

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting of the Government Presidium

“As you know, another crime has been committed, this time in Dagestan … For us, it does not matter in what part of the country such crimes are committed, or the nationality, or religion of the victims. We regard them all as crimes committed against Russia.”

Transcript of the beginning of the meeting

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues.

I will begin with the news that everyone here is no doubt aware of. Another crime has been committed, this time in Dagestan. It was a terrorist attack, people have been injured. It cannot be ruled out that one and the same group is responsible for both attacks [in Moscow and in Dagestan]. I will not offer my opinion because there is nothing left to say. Everything has been said following the tragic events in the Moscow metro.

I will only add that it does not matter to us in which part of the country such crimes are committed, or the nationality, or religion of the victims. We regard them all as crimes committed against Russia.

Security and law-enforcement services are working to solve these crimes. Today we must draft a resolution on assistance to the victims and their families. This should be done in accordance with the parameters formulated in the previous resolution on assistance to the victims of the terrorist attack in the Moscow metro.

Let's go around and share the latest information we have on current issues. Ms Golikova (Tatyana Golikova, Minister of Healthcare and Social Development), the resolution on state regulation of essential medicines will come into force on April 1. It creates a mechanism for restraining the growth of medicine prices - at least I hope that your ministry will fulfil this task. In other words, we should have clearly defined sale prices and a fixed markup.

How do you propose to achieve this goal?

Tatyana Golikova: Mr Putin, colleagues.

Acting in accordance with the government resolution on the need to register the prices of medicines on the list of essential drugs, we have almost completed the work outlined for the first quarter of 2010.

This does not mean that we will stop registering medicine prices if producers request such registration. As of March 30, that is yesterday evening, producers had requested state registration for 6,018 medicines. We have registered 5,526, are preparing to register another 248, and have refused to register 638. Of those 638, requests for 588 medicines have been resubmitted.

The list of essential medicines, which came into force on January 1, 2010, includes 500 international unpatented medicines.

As it stands we have registered 98% of these medicines, which is very close to 100%.

This means that after April 1 - when the sale of essential medicines with unregistered prices will be prohibited - we should have no shortage of such drugs.

However, I would like to draw your attention to the following: the federal government represented by the Healthcare Ministry has the right to register producers' sale prices. In fact, I have just reported on this. In accordance with the government decision, the Federal Tariff Service (FTS) has established the methods how regions are to determine wholesale and retail markups on the producer prices we register.

Unfortunately, in accordance with the FTS monitoring, one of Russia's regions, Ingushetia, has not adopted a regulatory act on markups. We have appealed to the republic's leadership and the relevant department more than once [to comply with our requests], but so far in vain.

We don't know yet how these markups will operate in the regions because this is the first time we have undertaken such a challenging task. In fact, we plan to join forces with the FTS in April to monitor the operation of this new system in all Russian regions.

We have instructed the regions, which are to submit their reports on April 10, to post rules for pricing and the prices from the list of essential medicines sold in each respective region on the Internet and to make this information available in drugstores.

We have developed a special programme, which is quite simple, and posted in on the Internet. It is the same for all regions. Any region can use it to inform their people.

However, as we have recently said during a meeting with Mr Sobyanin (Sergei Sobyanin, Chief of the Government's Executive Office), we will not have any federal bodies in the regions with the power to control prices and markups until September 1, when the law on the marketing of medicines comes into force. We can only monitor prices; nothing else. We discussed with Mr Sobyanin the possibility of granting an authorised agency, the Federal Tariff Service, the power to control producer prices and markups until the law comes into force. We would like to ask you to take this decision, if this is possible.

And lastly, some market analysts forecast a rise in medicine prices and are adding fuel to the fire in the market segment of medicines with unregulated prices that are not on the essential drugs list. We are doing our best to prevent this, to continue to control this segment. However, I would like to take this opportunity to tell all market participants that such expert opinions are just that - an opinion.

Vladimir Putin: First, every region must submit a report on what has been done to prepare for this stage in the process. These reports can be sent via fax or the Internet. We need to know how they will determine markups, what information will be displayed and where, how they will regulate prices, how they will keep people informed, and what it all will look like. This is the first point I'd make.

Second, please prepare a draft resolution empowering the Federal Tariff Service to oversee the situation. Do this without delay, please.

Incidentally, how is the treatment going for the injured in Moscow hospitals?

Tatyana Golikova: As you know, 36 people were killed immediately in the terrorist attacks, and three more died in hospitals. This number remains unchanged. A total of 19 people were treated outpatient, and 82 people are being treated in hospitals. As we've said, some people are discharged from hospitals and some come to get medical help. They come by themselves or are taken to the hospital by ambulance.

As for the logistics, I would like to repeat that Moscow clinics and federal clinics, where the victims of the tragedy are being treated, have enough drugs, supplies and blood products. We welcome voluntary blood donations, but we can manage without them in this situation. The blood donated now will be used in the future since it will have to be quarantined for up to six months.

Regarding today's events, we have been in contact with the government of Dagestan. They didn't make any requests to transfer victims of this terrorist attack to Moscow hospitals. We are considering sending our medical workers to that region to provide expert assistance. We are in touch with the government of Dagestan and will keep you updated on our efforts.

And I also have a request. We provided federal funds to Russian regions for emergencies. We will check to see if any of this money is left, and, if so, I request that you authorise that it be used now for these recent emergencies.

Vladimir Putin: Clearly these funds must be used now. If they are not enough, we will provide more.

Mr Nurgaliyev, several police officers were killed and injured in Dagestan. They performed their duty with honour. Please attend to this issue, and see what can be done for their families.

Rashid Nurgaliyev: Mr Putin, today I held a videoconference with Dagestan. Seven police officers were killed, including the head of the Kizlyar police. Our primary concern was to help the families of those killed. Directives were issued to this effect.

Several police units from Rostov arrived in Kizlyar to help local police with the investigation. We set up headquarters, as is always done in such situations, to oversee the rescue operations and medical treatment. If necessary, we could transport badly injured people to Moscow by plane.

Vladimir Putin: We must strengthen police departments in North Caucasian republics, including Dagestan.

Rashid Nurgaliyev: Yes, sir.

Vladimir Putin: See what additional measures are required and please submit your proposals.

Rashid Nurgaliyev: Yes, sir.

Vladimir Putin: Ms Nabiullina, regarding Russky Island. I have signed a government resolution on setting up a special economic zone there. How do you intend to carry out this work?

Elvira Nabiullina: I want to thank you for this decision because Russky Island has a lot of potential as a tourist attraction. The location is amazing.

Naturally, we must take advantage of the fact that we are currently preparing to hold an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum there and investing heavily in infrastructure construction. In our opinion, this tourist-recreation zone will have a number of advantages because roads, a bridge and a power infrastructure are being built there.

Consequently, it is possible to set up a tourist cluster there and to attract tourists. According to preliminary estimates, the zone can accommodate up to 500,000 tourists. This is quite good.

Pursuant to this resolution, we will now have to draft an agreement between the Ministry of Economic Development, the Administration of the Primorye Territory and the Vladivostok Municipal Administration in order to define the zone's boundaries.

Of course, our priority is cooperation with future investors because we expect private investment in the hotels and the recreation infrastructure. Investors will be offered rather attractive terms, including all the main economic terms that will remain unchanged for 20 years. We believe this zone will bring in a fair amount of investment. We'll get to work.

Vladimir Putin: When do you expect to create it?

Elvira Nabiullina: Although the relevant agreement will be signed in the upcoming month, we estimate that it will take up to three months to determine the land plot's boundaries and area.

Vladimir Putin: Good. You have attended a conference of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs on the Customs Union between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. What was discussed at the conference?

Elvira Nabiullina: A conference organised by the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs involving 350 representatives of Russian and foreign companies operating in Russia is taking place today.

The establishment of the Customs Union and the consequences of this for the business community is the main topic on the agenda. We have discussed the advantages of the Customs Union, issues related to customs legislation and, most importantly, work to facilitate the creation of a common economic space. These were the key issues.

I would like to note that in this past year we have partnered with the Russian business community to organise numerous joint events while the Customs Union was being established. Of course, the business community prioritises customs-clearance proceedings and customs administration, which you and I have discussed repeatedly as it relates to the investment climate.

The new draft Customs Code takes into consideration numerous proposals of legal entities. Our Belarusian and Kazakh colleagues also agree with this. This involves simplified procedures for the export of high-tech products and engineering products and a reduction in the number of required documents and the deadlines for their review. We hope this will provide a boost to business activity and trading.

Our companies have noted that not all problems are being addressed within the framework of the Customs Union. For instance, a manufacturer of heating equipment is having trouble entering the Belarusian market because our laws are different. The business community would like to see joint regulations regarding access, subsidies, state contracts and state purchases. We are examining all these aspects working on the creation of the common economic space.

Vladimir Putin: Okay.

Elvira Nabiullina: Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Ms Skrynnik (Yelena Skrynnik, Minister of Agriculture), on March 19 we held a meeting regarding preparations for spring sowing. We have created a sizable loan package totaling 150 billion roubles. As I understand, you have already received 40 billion roubles. This is a subsidized loan - two thirds of the Central Bank's refinancing rate is subsidized. In other words, we will send you these funds from the state budget to subsidize these loans. How is work going in general?

Yelena Skrynnik: Mr Putin, following your instructions, on a weekly basis the Ministry of Agriculture has been monitoring interest rates on loans issued by our major banks working with agricultural organisations, notably Rosselkhozbank and Sberbank, during the spring season.

The average interest rate is 12% on short-term loans. We have checked this figure in a number of regions and they've all confirmed it. Loans granted for seasonal work, including harvesting, will total 217 billion roubles, including 150 million roubles for the spring season. The banks have already transferred 40 billion roubles to the regions that are already sowing - the South Federal District and the Northern Caucasus.

Agricultural companies have received these funds at an interest rate of 12% per annum. This is the minimum rate. This rate was decided on after we spoke to the banks. As you mentioned, we are subsidizing two thirds of the interest rate and four billion roubles have already been transferred to the regions. Co-financing allows agricultural companies to receive loans on better terms.

Our agricultural companies have received the full amount of fuel and lubricants and mineral fertilizer under these preferential terns. Spring sowing is going according to schedule.

Vladimir Putin: Have they started work in the south?

Yelena Skrynnik: Yes, the weather is better there, so they have started work.

Vladimir Putin: Okay. Thanks. Please monitor their work. If there are any disruptions, please let me know.

Yelena Skrynnik: Okay.

Vladimir Putin: What about fuel and lubricants? Have there been any disruptions?

Yelena Skrynnik: No, no disruptions. They have received the planned amount at a discount. We are continuously monitoring this.

Vladimir Putin: Okay. Thank you.

Yesterday I signed an executive order allocating 34.5 billion roubles to provide housing to war veterans in honour of the 65th anniversary of our victory in the Great Patriotic War. What are you doing toward this end, Mr Basargin? (Viktor Basargin, Minister of Regional Development)

Viktor Basargin: Mr Putin, colleagues, let me start by saying that the regions have been anxiously awaiting this decision. Our task now is to keep up the pace on providing housing to the veterans of the Great Patriotic War. In the last three months alone we awarded more than 20,000 flats to our war veterans. We have to provide flats before May 1 for just under 1,900 people that registered before March 1, 2005. All regions confirm that this goal will be reached. There will be no disruptions here.

We are actively working with those who registered after March 1, 2005. We are helping them prepare the necessary documents. We have 59,000 such war veterans. Local authorities are working diligently on this. This category of veterans have already received a thousand flats. Mr Putin, we will do our best to provide veterans of this category with housing this year, according to schedules provided by regions. We hope that local authorities will meet their targets. We will let you know if we need additional funds after we check the queue.

Vladimir Putin: Okay, but keep a close eye on the rates at which housing is being provided and the number of people receiving flats.

Viktor Basargin: We are now working throughout Russia at the local level. If we see problems in certain locations, we travel there and work with our colleagues from other ministries to help local authorities cope with the task.

Vladimir Putin: Okay. I hope and expect everything to be carried out.

Mr Shchegolev (Igor Shchegolev, Minister of Communications), it would be good if we could not only award flats but also install telephones there. Please find a way to do this free of charge and reimburse those veterans who paid to have their telephones installed, even at a discount. Let this be yet another small gift to them for the 65th anniversary of our victory in the Great Patriotic War.

Igor Shchogolev: Okay, Mr Putin. We are working on that. We are keeping lists and we have all the names. These lists keep changing. They are getting bigger as new flat recipients appear. We expect that we will be able to provide flats and free telephones to disabled people and war veterans by May 1 and all the rest by the end of the year. Of course, we will take your wish into consideration.

In addition, our ministry has prepared more anniversary presents for the veterans. I am referring to subscription at a discount and discounted or free calls to their fellow soldiers and family. We will reserve special seats for free calls in public call centres during the May 9 holidays.

The media are also actively preparing for the celebration. New television and radio programmes, documentaries and movies are being produced and contests are being held.

This year the Internet is being widely used in preparation for the holiday. Special sites are being created, and not only by professionals. They are giving young people an opportunity to talk about their family history and post old photos and letters. There is a great demand for that.

This year we have launched a new promotion with mobile phone providers called "Hurrah for Victory!" It is primarily meant for younger people. If you dial 1945, you can hear songs and newsreels from the war years for free as well as great number of additional services. We introduced this after Defender of the Motherland Day. A month has passed and more than three million people have used this service since then.

I'm referring to major providers. Now smaller companies and our colleagues from the other CIS countries want to join. We hope that this service will be launched in the CIS countries in April.

Vladimir Putin: Okay, let's turn to today's agenda.

A host of new initiatives were announced at the small business forum recently. We have prepared an entire package of support measures for small and medium-sized enterprises. We will, of course, continue to create favourable conditions for business, for private entrepreneurship.

Today we need to discuss a draft law on microfinance organisations. This special term stands for things that are extremely important for the normal development of small businesses. It means a system of accessible small loans that businesses and people can get quickly and with a minimum of red tape and paperwork.

Muhammad Yunus, a businessman from Bangladesh, received a Nobel Prize for his work on microfinance. Our finance ministry has developed a microfinance programme and believes that it is possible and even necessary to implement it in Russia. This programme may prove a serious step toward developing entrepreneurship in Russia.

This service is not always available at traditional commercial banks that have more sophisticated loan application procedures. This problem is particularly urgent for businesses that are just starting out, which need money for the first step, for the promotion.

There is already huge demand for micro loans. According to expert estimates, about 400,000 fledgeling businessmen are taking advantage of them. In the last few years their number has increased more than five-fold.

Once the law is adopted, both funds supporting small businesses set up by the government and municipal authorities as well as commercial organisations can operate as microfinance organisations. We will establish clear and transparent rules of the road in this market, protect the interests of borrowers and create a real alternative to going hat in hand to dubious money lenders.

I'd like to emphasize that, regardless of their institutional and legal form, all microfinance organisations will be part of the support infrastructure for small and medium-sized business and, therefore, will be able to participate in federal and regional programmes aimed at developing small business in this country.

I'd like to say a few words now about one more draft law on radio and television. We are planning to develop modern formats of broadcasting, cable networks, the Internet and digital television. But at the same time we must give people access to basic information resources regardless of their income and place of residence.

A list of universally accessible television and radio networks has already been approved. All Russian citizens must be allowed to use them for free. These include Channel One, Rossiya, NTV, Channel Five-St Petersburg, as well as the Mayak, Radio Rossii and Vesti FM radio stations.

Amendments to the law On Communications, which we will discuss today, will require that all providers carry these free channels. This requirement will be closely linked with the granting of licenses to broadcast television and radio programmes.

Let's get to work. Mr Shchegolev, the minister of communications, the floor is yours.