The President announced at the meeting that the law ratifying the Treaty on the Eurasian Economic Union has been signed.
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President of Russia VLADIMIR PUTIN: Good afternoon colleagues.
Today, we will continue discussing the matters we have given quite a lot of time to lately, namely, plans for facilitating import replacement in industry and agriculture in 2014–2015.
A lot of work has been accomplished. Let’s update each other on what has been done and what we need to do now to make sure that everything works smoothly and we do not have disruptions in any sectors.
Before we start work though, I want to inform you that I signed today the federal law ratifying the Treaty on the Eurasian Economic Union. This marks a big step forward in our integration work with our close partners and allies, and this really is a major event and welcome piece of news.
I remember when we started this work. Igor Shuvalov was one of those who was specifically involved in it from the start. Let’s ask him to comment on this event now.
Please, go ahead.
Igor Shuvalov: Mr President, you signed the Treaty on May 29 in Astana, together with the presidents of Belarus and Kazakhstan. The Treaty was then submitted for ratification.
Thank you for signing this law. This makes the Russian Federation the first to complete the ratification procedure.
Kazakhstan’s lower house parliament has also approved the Treaty and we expect that Kazakhstan will complete the procedure soon, just before your meeting at the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council in Minsk on October 10.
Belarus is also preparing for the ratification but its parliament has not met yet. The required preparatory procedures have been completed and we expect that they too will soon ratify the Treaty.
At the same time, the treaty on Armenia’s accession to the Eurasian Economic Union will also be ready by October 10. Under the terms of the treaty currently in the process of ratification, it will enter into force on January 1 , but we have decided not to wait until this date and have drafted the treaty for Armenia’s accession. If the treaty is signed in Minsk, Armenia will thus become a full-fledged participant in the union as from January 1 next year.
We are also working with Kyrgyzstan. A special working group was established on the instruction from you and the other presidents. We have the roadmap, which we are using to prepare the required international agreement on Kyrgyzstan’s accession, though this work still requires some time.
As you know, we keep you regularly updated on this work and will not be stopping now that the Treaty has been signed and ratified. Implementing the Agreement requires the Eurasian Economic Commission’s Council and Board and the three countries’ governments to approve many legal acts, and this work is underway.
This is complicated work. We first have to get everything approved at national level and get the necessary Government decisions before approving it at the inter-state level.
Vladimir Putin: Good, thank you.
The work has not been completed yet and we need to see it through. But we already know the next steps, the practical issues involved, and there are still quite a few matters to settle, things like the numerous exceptions. We must work on removing all of these exceptions.
This is a complicated and even quite sensitive issue, but it is completely justified and makes perfect sense economically. Thank you.
It would probably be impolite not to ask [Finance Minister] Mr Siluanov how work is going on the budget in the parliament.
Let me note in this respect that the Government has succeeded in putting together a balanced budget despite the difficult situation, has not had to resort to raising the tax burden, and has managed to optimise spending while at the same time not cutting back on social spending and funding earmarked for development needs. They have succeeded in resolving some difficult and at first glance impossible problems.
But there is still a lot of work to do. We know that there is always a lot of debate in the parliament when the budget is examined. How is the work going?
Anton Siluanov: Yes, Mr President, the budget is currently before the parliament. We drafted it based on our budget rules’ principles.
The budget runs a deficit of 0.6 percent of GDP over the three-year period. We think that this is quite a normal situation and not a big deficit. Spending was increased by approximately 11 percent, despite the fact that we are indeed facing some tough times.
We have included a number of priority tasks in the draft budget. They include full funding for support programmes for Crimea and Sevastopol, measures for supporting these regions’ budgets, and additional resources for the Far East and Trans-Baikal programme. We have allocated the needed funding for resolving serious infrastructure problems such as the Moscow transport hub. We have settled the matter of support for exports and have earmarked additional money for encouraging exporters to sell their goods on markets abroad. We have also earmarked funds for military personnel’s housing, import replacement, and a number of other issues that we discussed.
Yes, we do see that the situation on foreign markets, especially on raw materials markets, is not in keeping with our forecasts and is worsening. As for what response we will take in this situation, we have a reserve for next year and have so far left 70 billion rubles unallocated in the draft budget. We hope at the end of the year to be able to top up this reserve and bring it up to around 100 billion-150 billion rubles. This would be the primary funds that we would draw on.
Mr President, working through the Government Commission for Assessing the Effectiveness of Budget Spending, which Igor Shuvalov heads, we will analyse all current state programmes’ spending to see how justified they actually are in the current situation and whether they are having an impact on economic growth. We will propose to either redistribute part of the state programmes’ resources or end the programmes and perhaps put the money instead into the anti-crisis fund.
Mr President, we have the necessary resources and the possibilities to make sure that we can fulfil all of our obligations next year. All social obligations, infrastructure and investment commitments will be financed and carried out.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, I agree that we do have sufficient reserves to be able to deal with any problems that arise as a result of changes on global or European markets, all the more so as the Government has managed to produce a balanced budget without abandoning the budget rule. Thank you.
Now Alexander Surinov will say a few words about the planned population census to be carried out in the Crimean Federal District. Please, go ahead.
Alexander Surinov: Thank you, Mr Putin.
Indeed, following the Government decision, we will be holding a census of the population in Crimea on October 14 through 25 of this year. We will begin at midnight on October 14.
We will conduct a census of all permanent residents, who ordinarily reside on the peninsula’s territory, including Russian and foreign citizens, as well as stateless persons who arrived in Crimea and in Sevastopol from abroad for permanent residency or who are seeking asylum, including those who have not been registered yet.
The event will follow the programme of the last census of 2010: not only will there be an identical questionnaire, but all of the census questions will correspond fully to the United Nations’ recommendations. We have already printed the census forms, everything has been delivered to the peninsula along with the tools to allow for the collection of data about the population. Currently, we are completing work to prepare servers so that we can process the census materials.
During the census, questions will be asked about people’s date of birth, gender, marital status, education, training, sources of income, ethnicity, native language, citizenship, employment, migration and housing conditions. We are certain that this information will be useful for developing large-scale programmes for Crimea’s socioeconomic development.
As of today, we have recruited over 9,000 temporary census personnel. Over 7,000 are census takers, and they will begin training next week. Instructors in charge of census areas are all trained already, and all premises have been selected.
As for remuneration, we are very grateful to the Finance Ministry and the Government that we were able to increase remuneration for census takers to over 13,000 rubles. If we compare this to the average wage in Crimea, it makes up 82–86 percent.
I want to remind everyone: when we conducted a census in Russia, the remuneration for labour, which was 5,500 rubles, amounted to 25 percent of Russia’s average salary. We have every reason to believe that we will employ the best, and will receive adequate census results.
We have begun conducting promotional work: we are broadcasting radio and television advertisements, and now we are beginning to place billboards and distribute leaflets. All this is being done in three languages: in Russian, Crimean-Tatar and Ukrainian. So we are prepared in this regard as well.
The authorities in the republic and the city are helping us fully. Commissions have been set up, and there is ongoing assistance in recruiting people and selecting premises.
We are working with the law enforcement ministries that have a so-called special contingent, and with the Federal Penitentiary Service. In this case, the census will be conducted by the appropriate ministries and departments.
The Interior Ministry has approved a plan for ensuring public order during the census period. This was done throughout Russia’s entire territory. The census stations will be guarded. In Sevastopol, local militia and Cossacks will also be recruited for this. That is what the local authorities decided; we, of course, did not object. So on October 14, the census takers will go to all the towns and villages in the Republic of Crimea.
We will obtain the first results of the census in November; this will include information about the population size, broken down by gender, in every town and city. All the census forms will be processed by May 1, and we will have the full information: the same as we had from all of Russia’s other federal constituent entities following the 2010 census.
The money has been delivered, and typical, routine work is underway as scheduled, with everything going according to plan. So I would like to assure you that we will hold the census at a high level and the work will be of excellent quality and carried out on time.
Vladimir Putin: Colleagues, we understand that the census is not just a formality. This data must and will be used later in the Crimean Federal District’s development plans for the economy and the social sector. So I ask all of you to treat this accordingly and provide all the necessary help and support to the census in the Crimean Federal District.
The final issue I would like to touch on in this setting is a happy event that has to do with the first ever Formula One Grand Prix race in Russia.
Dmitry Kozak has been working on it from the beginning. How prepared is the infrastructure for holding these events?
Dmitry Kozak: Mr Putin, colleagues,
Indeed, this is one of the important, long-term elements in our Olympic legacy. As you recall, we signed the contract to hold the Formula One race through 2020, and the annual Grand Prix in Russia will be held in October in Sochi.
Currently, all the infrastructure is fully prepared. On September 29, a final visit was made by the race director from the International Automobile Federation, the 100 percent readiness of all infrastructure was confirmed, and beginning that same date, September 29, the arrival of goods and teams participating in Formula 1 began.
All the teams that traditionally participate in Formula One, without exception, will be taking part in this event. Currently, all previously confirmed plans to prepare the event itself have been implemented – this includes the healthcare plan, and plans to provide security, food and visa support.
As of today, over three thousand 90-day visas have been issued to foreign Formula One participants – the Foreign Ministry has been working hard. We have every confidence that the entire event will be held at the same high level.
The people involved in preparing and conducting this competition are the same as those who worked on the Olympic Games; this is also extremely important. These are trained individuals for whom it was significantly easier to prepare and organise this entire event at the highest level.
As of today, over 80 percent of tickets have been sold. As you recall, the capacity in the stands is 45,000. This will help further attract tourists and make motor sports more popular.
I also want to note that in the post-Olympic period, the tourist flow to Sochi has grown significantly – by 42 percent compared to last summer: in the summer holiday season alone, the area received over two million tourists. At the same time, one million people visited the Olympic Park this past summer: the Olympic facilities are a priority destination for every other tourist in Sochi. People want to see where the Olympic Games were held.
As for Formula One, we do not have any doubts: Formula One and the two accompanying races will be held on October 12 and 14, there is high demand, and it is very popular.
We welcome everyone to what is truly the first such event in our country. We sought to host it for over 30 years, first in the Soviet Union and later in Russia.
Vladimir Putin: We did the right thing initially when planning the entire Olympic Park: we took into account the use of surrounding infrastructure for holding such large-scale events. This, of course, is a good legacy of the Olympic Games, filling hotels in Sochi, using the infrastructure, and in general, this has become a part of life for post-Olympic Sochi. Good, thank you very much.
And now, Mr Nikolai Fedorov, the main question on import substitution, please.