Sergei Sobyanin briefed the President on the capital’s social and economic affairs and transport infrastructure development, and made an in-depth report on the situation in Moscow amid the new wave of the coronavirus caused by the new Omicron strain. The Moscow Mayor reported on the city’s healthcare system performance and the measures taken to prepare for peak loads.
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Vladimir Putin: Mr Sobyanin, we remain in touch and always work together, both on the phone and in person during meetings. I suggest that we discuss the overall situation in the capital. What is your assessment? What are the short-term objectives?
Sergei Sobyanin: Mr Putin, as you may be aware, there have been quite a few pessimistic forecasts regarding the pandemic alleging that the economy would fail to cope with these challenges, leading to serious socioeconomic problems, etc.
However, judging by preliminary annual performance data, the economy has been coping with these challenges rather well and adapted to the new environment we have to work in. In fact, we have improved our results not only compared to 2020 with all its challenges, but even compared to 2019 as the reference year.
There was quite a substantial increase in several indicators: investment was up 12 percent, construction added 23 percent, and industrial output increased by 28 percent. It is obvious that these are not mere fluctuations but real growth of the city’s economy.
Of course, the situation becomes more complicated once we turn to public catering, trade, and services. Trade increased dramatically, including the retail sector. Experts tell us that this may be due, in part, to the fact that many Russians did not travel to Europe and had to shop at shopping centres and shops at home, generating substantial revenue here, while they used to spend this money in Europe.
This can be viewed as a positive development. Even the hotel business gained momentum. In 2020, we feared that it would not be able to withstand this blow, but already in 2021, this sector recovered to the level of 2019. Domestic tourism recovered as more people came from other regions, which offset losses, to an extent.
We carried out the census. The preliminary data we have indicate that over the past 10 years Moscow’s population grew by 1,5 million people, approaching 13 million or even more. The count has yet to be finalised, but it is already clear that the final figure will be around 13 million.
One and a half million people is a big number. It was not our intention to attract more people, but for several decades now Moscow’s population has been growing by about a million people every ten years. This is a real trend, and all major cities experience this. New Moscow territories contributed another 500,000 people to the total population, which gives us the figure of 1,5 million.
Of course, this creates new challenges for Moscow in terms of its social infrastructure: kindergartens, schools, hospitals, and clinics, without forgetting transport. Transport is essential, of course.
Thank you very much for your decision to approve an infrastructure loan. We are using the money to buy new metro carriages and new trains for the suburban service, for Moscow Central Diameters (MCD). Pursuant to your decision, the National Wealth Fund has allocated additional resources to Russian Railways for them to invest in the Central Transportation Hub. This has made it possible to develop it dynamically. Apart from the Moscow Central Diameters that we have launched, we are continuing with the construction of MCD-3 and MCD-4. Hopefully, these projects will be launched in 2023–2024.
You and I opened 10 metro stations, a unique occurrence in Moscow’s history. Never before have so many stations been launched at once. We hope to link up this ring in 2022 and the world’s biggest metro ring will become fully functional in late 2023 to early 2024.
These projects should, of course, solve many transport problems, although we are still building nearly 100 kilometres of roads and transport junctions. Between 2020 and 2021, without reducing the pace of our construction, we built about 100 kilometres of roads, junctions, tunnels, overhead roads, and so on. This is a lot of work.
I would like to thank you for your trust, Mr Putin, in supporting our bid to host the Expo 2030. It was a complicated decision, because our country has long been involved in this exhibition movement, but…
Vladimir Putin: We have never hosted a single exhibition of this scale.
Sergei Sobyanin: We have never won a bid. There is much rivalry from Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Italy with Rome, and even Ukraine.
But we will fight. We have a lot of experience in preparing for the Olympic Games, and the World Cup, which was held in Moscow and other cities. The feedback has been highly positive. Moscow’s infrastructure is ready. My colleagues and I have determined the approximate location of the future Expo grounds. This is in the vicinity of Vnukovo Airport. We decided against holding it in the city.
Firstly, the city lacks free space of the required size.
Secondly, holding exhibitions of this kind is always stressful for residents. We have located it as close as possible to Vnukovo. In Vnukovo, we have a metro service, the Moscow metro service, and the Moscow Central Diameter, and Kiev Highway.
Vladimir Putin: And the airport.
Sergei Sobyanin: Yes, the airport is within reach. It will be the most comfortable arrangement in terms of infrastructure.
Apart from that, it will create a powerful job cluster to help the development of the entire area. So, we intend to fight for it.