Remarks at the State Council Presidium meeting
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues,
Just like one year ago, we have a meeting here, in the capital of the Primorye Territory, to discuss socioeconomic development of Russia’s Far East. We will review the progress made on earlier decisions and identify new tasks that we can work on together.
I will not go into details on the results we have achieved since 2013 when we started paying special attention to the promotion of the development of Russia’s Far East.
You know that we have done quite a bit. I would like to thank all of our colleagues who were in charge of these efforts over the past years. Let me emphasise that our achievements provide a foundation for moving forward and doing even more.
We held a meeting with Government members in July to identify the main short- and mid-term initiatives. It is now time that we review the key matters with the heads of all the Far Eastern regions.
Colleagues, I expect you to give a clear and detailed account of the problems and state your position as regards the creation of the national projects envisaged by the May Executive Order. This work is not yet completed, therefore it is especially important to discuss today those specific issues that are top priority for the Far East.
In addition to this, I would like to hear from you about the scope of the initiatives to promote priority development in the Far East as part of these projects, whether there are plans to take special measures to reduce the development gap, the funding allocated to this effect, how long it will take to achieve these objectives, and whether there are any lingering problems and why they exist, so that we can understand what causes them.
We must do everything in order to create an enabling environment for people in the Far East, so that they can make use of their talents, achieve their life goals, feel that they matter, receive adequate pay, enjoy a people-friendly environment, are able to access quality services and do not consider long distances as an obstacle.
Resolving demographic problems, stabilising and then increasing the population in the Far East is a top priority.
We all know that people are still leaving the region, even if there are now fewer of them willing to do so. Last year, the migration outflow exceeded the inflow by 17,000.
The fact that 70 percent of those who leave are working-age people is a matter of special concern. All this is taking place against the backdrop of economic growth in the macro region and high demand for labour in the Far East.
The conclusion is obvious: people are not satisfied with the current living conditions. The Far East still falls behind and has yet to resolve many problems, including poor availability of housing, quality services in healthcare, education, communications, lack of modern culture and sports facilities, poor transport accessibility. Cities and towns have taken a back seat in terms of urban development.
Taking into consideration the ongoing plans to build new industrial plants, by the middle of the next decade the demand in the region for skilled professionals is set to improve.
It is obvious that the time has come for us to address this matter, and we need an integrated solution. We need to promote vocational training, offer preferences to those willing to move to the Far East, and of course create a people-friendly environment for all people who live here.
Let us discuss what additional measures could be taken, and this includes supporting employers who create jobs in the Far East and invest in training workers.
In this regard, let me note that the life expectancy in the Far East is slightly above 70 years of age, which is below the national average. The high mortality rate among working-age people is a very alarming indicator.
Reducing the mortality rate is a major priority, and I ask the Healthcare Ministry and the Government in general to act with more resolve and effectiveness, especially when it comes to improving the healthcare infrastructure and providing medicines.
What else would I like to draw your attention to? Right now the birth rate in the Far East is slightly higher than the nationwide average and this is, undoubtedly, a plus point. But this is not enough. The Far Eastern regions need to reach a stable natural demographic growth level.
The Government has already been instructed to develop special measures to help raise the birth rate. We are talking about increasing the first child allowance and the second child allowance as well as reducing mortgage rates for families with children.
All these proposals need to be taken into account when developing the national projects with the implementation scheduled already next year.
In the Far Eastern regions we have identified economic growth centres where additional social infrastructure will be created. These include almost all key cities in the region, major industrial and research platforms.
We are allocating over 50 billion rubles from the federal budget for the social development plans in these centres through to 2020. These funds must be used with the utmost care so as to enable the most cost effective new schools, hospitals, cultural and sports facilities.
This is a huge construction project where it is necessary to relieve the bureaucratic burden as much as possible, create incentives for companies that are able to solve national tasks of high responsibility.
Let me remind you that the next Winter Olympic Games will take place in 2022 in Beijing and the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. Our Olympic teams must successfully prepare for these major competitions. The Government and the regional officials need to address the issues of construction and renovation of sports facilities in the macro region and present their proposals.
I would like to emphasise once again: not only individual regions, but the entire Russian Far East needs to be proactive in terms of growth rates in the economy, the social sphere, and demographic development.
At a meeting in July, it was proposed that up to 5.5 percent of the total investment expenditure under our state programmes be channelled into Far Eastern projects.
We must certainly begin implementing this decision, we need to do this, to reach this level, but it is important that industry-specific federal bodies support these projects and that proper design and estimate documentation is in place.
And, most importantly, the regions and municipalities should be in a position to afford the maintenance of the new facilities.
Another important goal, vital for the residents of the Far East, is to increase the region’s transport accessibility. Over the last few years, we have been working on a system of inexpensive subsidised flights to the Far East. Not all problems have been resolved, but many people have already noticed the changes. It is necessary to continue working on the systemic organisation of available air transportation and other passenger routes to the Far East.
The same systematic approach should be taken in regulating the most important electricity, heat, gas, and water rates. Here we need to introduce a long-term price regulation model so that businesses can make their investment plans – everyone understands this – and the regions and municipalities can plan their budgets based on the cost of using social and other facilities.
Faster development of the Far East is a nationwide goal, I have repeatedly said this. Everyone should work intensively, actively, with full dedication, without delay, and without reviewing the substance of decisions already made.
I ask you to report to me today on how these instructions are being implemented, not only those issued following the State Council presidium from a year ago, but all instructions concerning the development of the Far East.
Let's move on to discussion.
I would like to thank everyone. I would like to say that we will have to complete a list of instructions and finalise it. And once again I would like to draw everyone’s attention to the significance of the ongoing work to stabilise the situation in the Far East, to promote development in the Far East, efforts that will create new industries and well-paid jobs. I will not repeat everything my colleagues have said here, but I would like to thank the regional leaders, those who worked on today's document. We will consider all the comments and move forward.
Now, much will depend on you – and when I say you, I mean my colleagues from the regions. Now that the election campaign is over, I also would like to thank the Russian voters on your behalf for their involvement, for showing their civic stance. In some regions, including here, in the Far East, there will be a second round, which is normal and common. I am confident that this stage will be completed soon.
On the whole, the election went smoothly, with good voter turnout, in an organised manner and with a minimum of violations. No serious violations have been recorded so far. There certainly have been some rough edges; we definitely need to deal with this, and we will do it. But as we always say in such cases to the newly elected regional leaders and people’s deputies – and I will say this with good reason today – this is a serious step in your life and career. This is certainly a resource of our citizens’ trust for the development of their regions, cities and the entire country.
I wish you all good luck. Thank you.