President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Sobyanin, naturally I want to ask you about the socioeconomic situation in Moscow.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin: Mr President, despite the bleak forecasts at the end of last year, the situation at the start of this year was quite…
Vladimir Putin: You should be more careful in your choice of words. It would be more accurate to call the forecasts worrying.
Sergei Sobyanin: Yes, they were worrying. There were various tones. Some people seemed inclined in general to say that life on our planet had stopped. But nothing has happened, the city continues to function in stable fashion. There is some tension of course, and there are some concerns among investors and in the construction sector, especially with regard to construction of retail space, offices and so on. But I think that Moscow has seen such periods before, and these sorts of situations always end up evening out again.
We do not see any serious problems on the labour market. The number of unemployed has increased by only a hundredth of a percentage point over the last months. The total number of registered unemployed in Moscow comes to less than 0.5 percent. We should remember that unemployment levels in some developed countries reach as high as 12, 15 or 17 percent.
VladimirPutin: Even 25 percent.
Sergei Sobyanin: Yes, that is a particularly spectacular result.
As far as the budget goes, we have carried out a serious revision of budget spending. Overall, we have blocked around 7 percent of budget allocations that we do not think are priority spending. This has enabled us to balance the budget and to preserve intact the economy’s foundation – the investment programme, our targeted investment programme. We have achieved this through more active work at the price evaluation stage and improved tender procedures. Overall, we have managed to save around 28 percent on the starting conditions.
This is a good base to work from because it enables us to reduce financing while still maintaining the physical volumes at the previous level. This includes our plans for metro and road construction and for building social facilities and so on. All of this gives us the opportunities we need to continue developing the city and attract investment.
We have not cut social spending and benefit payments by a single ruble. What’s more, we have carried out additional surveys of the population and have allocated more than 1.7 billion rubles in the form of targeted assistance: one-off payments and money for food, additional medical checkups and so forth.
Overall, the situation is stable, as I see it, although much work is certainly needed. We are meeting more often now with the business community, with companies, with representatives of the defence industry, the construction sector and so on, in order to get a clearer picture of the issues we need to address.
Vladimir Putin: Mr Sobyanin, I see that things are calm in Moscow and the city is taking the current economic difficulties in its stride and continuing to develop actively. This is clear from a number of completely objective indicators.