Mr Putin set out the objectives for improving social policy of the state in a series of programme articles during the presidential election campaign. The principles formulated in these articles became the basis of the presidential executive orders: On Measures to Implement State Social Policy; On Measures to Implement the Demographic Policy of the Russian Federation; and On Measures to Implement State Policy in Science and Education, all signed on the day of Mr Putin’s inauguration, May 7, 2012.
At the meeting, the President said that he has signed an executive order establishing a presidential Commission for Monitoring Progress towards the Socioeconomic Development Targets Set by the President of Russia.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, Colleagues,
I have invited you here to talk about the following issue. We have plans set out for our nation’s long-term development through 2020. The majority of the colleagues here today participated in preparing these plans which are consistently implemented.
No doubt, life necessitates adjustments at various stages. I am referring, for example, to the crisis we faced in 2008–2009, as well as most of 2010. But overall, we have been generally able to resolve current problems and give the necessary attention to prospects for development and addressing strategic challenges. Our current plans through 2020 and for certain sectors longer-term plans, through 2030 and even further, are not enough to address specific matter in the medium-term perspective. That is why we are adopting three-year budgets and preparing various suggestions for developing sectors in the short-term – over the course of two or three years.
Naturally, in our country as in any other, during major political processes or electoral campaigns the people who intend to run the country propose detailed plans to the people, to the voters. Such plans are not pure theories which are only comprehensible to specialists, but ones that are clear to the common citizen as well. Of course, first and foremost, these are plans for the social programmes, since the result of the efforts of any Government, any leadership of any nation, efforts in the economic sector should lead to corresponding results in the social programmes so that people could feel that life is changing for the better. In this sense, our country is no exception and during previous electoral campaigns, including the presidential campaign, we also prepared our medium-range and short-term plans for the economy, security, law enforcement and assurance of citizens’ safety, including in the social sphere. We showed what we will strive for and what results we will try to reach in the near future.
Let me point out that when people went to the polls, many factors are at play in making a decision: first and foremost, the factor of trust, as well as sympathy or antipathy, but there are also important substantive elements that citizens always pay attention to. And once the elections were held, government agencies were formed, including the Government of the Russian Federation (gathered at this table are mainly the heads of various ministries and agencies within the Government of Russia), it is certainly expected that we will fulfil the promises we made in the election campaigns.
As you know, I expounded on these short-term and medium-term challenges in my pre-election articles, and later, in the executive orders of the President of the Russian Federation of May 7, 2012. Today, we have come together specifically to discuss our work on the absolute fulfilment of the obligations we have taken on.
The work to implement these executive orders is already underway; it has begun. We have already held various of meetings where we engaged in a detailed analysis of our progress in fulfilling the state armament programme. I want to draw your attention again to the fact that all of those executive orders are in line with the programme to transform our nation, which was presented during the election campaign, as I have already said. The Government is given specific instructions which must be executed fully and within the deadlines specified in the executive orders. The efficiency of this work greatly depends on its organisation not at a federal level only, but at the regional and municipal level as well.
The regions and municipalities must design effective mechanisms for achieving the designated goals and providing the required funding. I am asking you to view these goals as priorities. I am speaking not just to members of the Government of the Russian Federation, but our colleagues in the regions and municipalities as well.
“Short-term and medium-term challenges were expounded on in my pre-election articles, and later in the executive orders of the President of the Russian Federation of May 7, 2012. Today, we have come together specifically to discuss our work on the absolute fulfilment of the obligations we have taken on.”
In order to strengthen cooperation and coordination between various authorities, a decision has been made to set a special commission to monitor the achievement of socioeconomic development targets indicated in the executive orders of May 7, 2012. I intend to direct the work of this commission myself, and there will be two deputies: Presidential Aide and former Economic Development Minister Elvira Nabiullina, who played a significant role in drafting these executive orders with her colleagues, and Deputy Prime Minister Vladislav Surkov, who is also Chief of Government Staff. Yesterday, Dmitry Medvedev and I discussed this matter. I think these are indeed the best official posts for carrying out these monitoring and supervisory functions.
How do I perceive the commission’s key goals? What are they?
First, this commission must have access to the full scope of information regarding all the stages, deadlines and mechanisms for achieving the targets outlined in the executive orders.
Second, it is under the commission’s jurisdiction to monitor the execution of the planned measures in practice and, as I already said, within the deadlines set in the executive orders.
And third, if the steps being taken are not helping to resolve the challenges at hand, additional measures must be taken for adjusting toward the intended trajectory.
Colleagues, here are the areas I believe require particular attention. The development points have been established, they have been outlined for the future, for years ahead, but this does not mean that we can now sit back and wait while these goals achieve themselves. Naturally, to reach any kind of goal, we must work every day to ensure that they are carried out. Every ministry and agency should develop timelines with clearly indicated deadlines for implementing specific measures within the framework of its competence. These documents must in the very near future be examined by the respective Deputy Prime Ministers and forwarded to the commission I have referred to, once it is set. I am asking for a work group to monitor the development of these timelines and report back.
Furthermore, switching gears now to the social sector, we have taken on the responsibility to increase salaries for teachers, scientists, doctors, medium- and lower-level medical staff, cultural employees and social services workers. That applies to approximately six million of our citizens, employees of federal and municipal organisations.
Beginning on September 1 of this year, we are to increase salaries for professors and lecturers at universities to fall in line with average wages in each region. This year, we must likewise increase salaries for school teachers (clearly, we have already reached this targeted level in many regions, almost everywhere, which means that they should be regularly increased to stay within the parameters set), and salaries for educators at nursery schools should be increased to the average income level within the general education sector for each region.
Right now, it is important to develop the optimal algorithm for solving this challenge, assuring cooperation and coordination between federal, regional and municipal authorities. Increasing salaries for professors and lecturers at universities is certainly a federal challenge. I would like to request a report today on whether enough funding has been planned for these goals within the federal budget. Now is the very time to talk about it, since we are conducting our most active work on shaping the federal budget.
I want to draw special attention to two key issues.
First, salary increases should be correlated with the quality of work by specific specialists and the quality of granted state and municipal services. Indeed, we have been talking about this constantly over the last few years. This is one of our main goals. To do this, it is imperative that we transfer over to the so-called effective contract mechanism which means that a specialist’s salary will not depend on showing up to the job, but rather, the efficacy of his or her performance. This approach will allow us to maintain workforce capacity and attract qualified and talented specialists to work in education, healthcare, science and culture. An effective contract should form the basis of a programme for gradually improving salaries of the public sector employees, the programme to be adopted by December 1 of this year.
Second, it is unacceptable when low-quality services are paid for using state budgetary funds. We must ensure that the social services are offered only by those organisations that are performing services with the greatest level of benefit for citizens. We can no longer put off conducting so-called structural transformations, structural reforms in the social services sector. I stress again: additional funds we can get as a result of restructuring the network of state-funded organisations will be one of the planned sources for increasing salaries in the public sector. But if we are unable to do this fully and, most importantly, on time, if there still is a serious shortfall in funding after the structural changes involved, in resolving these social challenges, including increasing salaries, then we will need to find sufficient funds within the budget. We all understand this is a complicated issue. The last Cabinet tried to tackle it as well, and some progress was made. Not all of the efforts were successful, and I know that this is a difficult process, but it must certainly be completed.
We will need a certain increase in public funding. Then, of course, to abide by macroeconomic targets, and that is the most important thing we have in our public sector today, we will have to review spending accordingly. I would like the Government and the regions to note that this is your area of responsibility; people should not become hostages to inaction or sluggishness by the authorities or municipal governments. And it is up to you to decide on the sources for increasing salaries, but it must be done. All obligations must be fully secured financially. At the same time, I expect that non-public funding will also be used, but nevertheless, you will need to ensure that you maintain access to free social services stipulated by the law and by the Constitution.
Speaking of increasing the quality of the social services, I would like to talk about the education system in more detail. It also requires serious structural transformations and changes. We have higher education institutions, which provide students with services that very simply are not in demand on the labour market – very simply, low-quality education. We have spoken about this several times as well. Some of these so-called universities are often unable to even fill their student positions covered by the budget allocations. It is imperative to identify state universities that are working ineffectively by the end of this year. We must develop and approve a programme for restructuring them, in part by consolidating them with better schools, by May 2013 at the latest. If we are able to do it earlier, that would be even better.
Improving our higher education system will allow us to boost funding for the best universities and increase salaries for lecturers and professors. What’s most important is to ensure the necessary volume of free but high-quality higher education. Incidentally, this does not mean that we should only provide assistance to the best schools; I am not saying that at all. Rather, I urge the Government to help the promising and effective ones. They are not always the best even economically; there are some universities that have good capacities, good opportunities and great prospects, and we should help them in other areas, perhaps through financial support as well. But I am talking about restructuring the universities that are clearly functioning ineffectively and stand little chance of improvement, and perhaps even removing them from the market entirely.
It is the fact that we are also significantly increasing targeted support for students from low-income families. Beginning on September 1 of this year, stipends for well-performing second-year students should increase to 6,300 rubles [$200]. This is the minimum cost of living. First-year students who received the grades of “good” and “excellent” in their first semester will be granted such stipend as well.
I am asking the Finance Ministry and Education Ministry to do everything in their power so that these funds are provided to the students in a timely manner.
Let me stress that in the coming years, we will need to improve the quality of and access to all kinds of education, including through the creation of a modern legislative framework. By the end of July, the Government must submit a draft law on education to the State Duma. I am not exaggerating when I say that it concerns every Russian family. Thus, even during the revision phase for this draft law within the Government and during its discussion in parliament, we should take into account all constructive suggestions from educational and student organisations, as well as parents.
There is another important issue that we will examine today: the implementation of measures outlined in the executive orders to support families with many children. One such measure is to provide special payments beginning next year for families where a third or subsequent child is born, equal to the minimum living cost for that child. As you recall, we initially discussed supporting needy families and families in regions with unfavourable demographic trends over the last few years. The documents I have received indicate that 34 of Russia’s federal constituent entities have already adopted the decision to introduce special payments beginning next year. According to the Labour and Social Protection Ministry, corresponding decisions will soon be made in 27 more federal territories.
I believe that regional authorities can and should find funding to resolve priority demographic challenges. At the same time, we must provide assistance to regions that have unfavourable demographic situations and objectively lack their own resources, from the federal budget. Currently, 5.9 billion rubles [$185 million] are reserved in the federal budget for providing payments to multi-child families in 2013, 17.1 billion in 2014 and 26.9 billion in 2015. These are preliminary plans, and I am asking for them to be clarified and for corresponding decisions to be made.
I am also asking you to report on what has been done at the federal and regional levels to assure timely payments for families with many children.
In addition, I would like to hear about the envisaged practical implementation of the programme for the high-priority improvement of living conditions for families with three and more children. One key issue is providing infrastructure to land plots that are provided to these families for free. That decision was made earlier. Overall, people perceive this as a positive step, but the main problem encountered when receiving such land is the lack of infrastructure. Naturally, the availability of infrastructure would radically improve living conditions for families with many children.
This is a partial list of the issues that I would like to discuss with you today.
Let’s begin our work.