The President instructed the Governor to pay more attention to promptly restoring infrastructure and providing help to the people whose property was damaged in the flood.
Vladimir Putin also noted that he would give instructions to study the expertise of the Volgograd Region, where a regional Social Code has been developed.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, Mr Bocharov. There are many issues.
As far as I know, you run an interesting and effective system to support people who need support from the state. I will ask you to tell me more about it.
Still, I propose starting with the flooding. What is happening and what kind of help do you need?
Volgograd Region Governor Andrei Bocharov: Mr President, a state of emergency was introduced in the Volgograd Region on April 4.
The floodwater levels in the upper reaches of the Volgograd Region rivers Medveditsa, Tersa and Buzuluk went up anywhere from one and a half metres to three metres, which is a lot.
We put government bodies on high alert in late March, and on April 2 we resolved to put all municipal entities and authorities on high alert as well. On April 4, we declared an emergency. All of that minimised losses resulting from high waters.
Vladimir Putin: How many people live in this area?
Andrei Bocharov: About 360,000.
Of the 12 municipalities exposed to the flood, six remain flooded. Of the 81 settlements, 21 remain flooded.
Of the 868 people relocated from the flooded areas, 111 have not yet returned home, of whom 27 people, including seven children, remain in temporary housing. They have all the necessary supplies, and we are in touch with them at all times.
The flood levels have stabilised, and the situation is improving. We have begun inspecting municipalities, settlements and households to assess the damage and provide aid to the people.
Vladimir Putin: We need to take a look at the infrastructure and see what needs to be done to restore it and provide targeted assistance to the people affected by the flooding.
Andrei Bocharov: Mr President, just recently, on Thursday, we had a situation which was basically an emergency; a critical situation in one of the municipalities – I am talking about Alexeyevsky District, the Cossack village of Alexeyevskaya. There was a shift in wind direction towards the dam.
We have a dam there, which is 1.7 kilometres long. It completely encloses the village. The shift in the wind direction towards the dam and gusts with speeds of 16 to 20 metres per second put essentially the entire local community at risk.
The Volgograd Region has not seen a flood like this since 1964. At night, we had to take response measures, deployed forces and allocated money, and together with the local residents, employees of the Emergencies Ministry and other authorities we managed to protect the village, and prevent the water from entering it.
Back in 1964, 80 percent of this village wound up under water. In fact, we must praise the coordinated work of the people, local residents, who were directly involved, the Cossacks, and officers of law enforcement agencies – together, we managed to do that.
Now, the situation is stable and improving. Your order will be carried out, but, Mr President, I simply have to take this opportunity to also thank you for the help you provided to the Volgograd Region residents during the fires of August and September of 2017.
I would like to report that the goals that you set for us have been met: 26 families were provided with housing certificates. Some of these families already purchased new housing, while others are going to obtain it in the near future.
Vladimir Putin: Good. Make sure this goal is fully met. But life sets new goals, creates new problems, and they have to be solved, too. So, I ask you to get personally, actively involved this process, to find out what can be done for the people in order to support them in this difficult situation.
Let us move on to the second question.
Andrei Bocharov: The task that you set forth within the framework of the 2018 Presidential Address is, in fact, very important and very complicated. One of the tasks, which, in my opinion, is the most complicated, is to continue fighting poverty. This is a problem with a lot of factors and angles.
Today, measures are being adopted and part of the problem has been tackled directly by federal and regional structures and local governments. But it is, indeed, a fairly large problem, so as the saying goes, it has to be all hands on deck.
Today, naturally, steps are being taken to create jobs, open new production facilities, create highly paid jobs. All this is absolutely as it should be, it must continue. We are working on it, and my colleagues are working on it.
But one of the most important tools, in our view, is government support for people who have found themselves in a difficult situation, in tough living conditions. Mr President, in your 2014 Presidential Address you placed special emphasis on social assistance to every person who needs it. On a fair basis.
This is the point at issue. The same message featured in the 2016 Presidential Address. Starting from 2014, we began implementing this approach. We thoroughly studied the laws of all entities of the Russian Federation, studied the principle of approaching this problem and here is what we concluded. Let us suppose that we had 150 laws regulating social welfare, plus around 40 related regulations. If we try to imagine it, this would be a big table heaped with papers. Even a specialist would find it hard to get through it, while for an ordinary citizen it would be much harder.
And so, in 2015, following the principles of targeting and need, we put to a nationwide debate issues connected with social assistance to people of those very categories. Over a year, we conducted hearings through the Civic Chamber. It is not a matter of one day or one month. It is a complicated process.
We brought to one table representatives of the public, recipients of benefits, representatives of political parties, representatives of labour collectives and entrepreneurs, and discussed these issues.
A decision was adopted in the wake of discussion, and at the end of 2015, the regional duma passed a law on assistance. We called it the Social Code of the Volgograd Region, which consolidated some 100–150 laws and regulations into a single almost direct assistance system. Every resident of the Volgograd Region can independently study the Code to figure out which category they belong to and what kind of government assistance they can expect depending on the circumstances.
Now we have in place criteria to determine need, targeting and fairness. This was not easy, but it proved effective. True, there has been much debate, and disputes, especially in 2015–2016, and they are still going on.
We are still making adjustments. It is not an ideal law, but works as a basis for specialists to do their job and for people to figure out which laws and regulatory acts they can count on for additional assistance. A very important issue.
In fact, it was a serious step for the Volgograd Region. We understood the risks, but public discussion of this law, of this issue, gives us a very good opportunity to continue our work.
Vladimir Putin: Right. It will have to be studied. I will ask my colleagues in the Executive Office to look at this positive practice, with a view to replicating it.
Andrei Bocharov: Using that experience, we plan to discuss another important issue this year that concerns every citizen of Russia and residents of the Volgograd Region – pricing in the utilities sector.
We constantly have questions about why these bills go up, not down. This year we received support, including from the parliament. We will also discuss this issue at the Civic Chamber, so that people understand how prices are formed. We will all sit down at a table, so that everyone can look each other straight in the eyes: the authorities, and those who allocate resources, and the customers of various utilities services.
Vladimir Putin: I agree, this is important. This will need to be studied.