President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon colleagues.
We are here to discuss the Government’s plans for this year, but I would like to start with several current matters.
As you may know, some of the laws and decisions recently passed by the State Duma, in particular the amendments to counterterrorism laws, have been the subject of much discussion. I would like to ask Mr Nikiforov [Minister of Communications and Mass Media] to comment on these decisions, including the instructions I gave the Government following consultations with you and with market players. You have the floor.
Minister of Communications and Mass Media Nikolai Nikiforov: Mr President,
True, some of the Government’s proposals were taken into account during the law’s passage through parliament. Some issues concerning the implementation of the amendments are still open. If further amendments to the law are needed, they will be drafted, examined by the Government, and submitted to the State Duma during the autumn session. However, we do not share the various emotional assessments of those who have not fully understood the whole issue. I say this because, first of all, the most controversial new provision, on storing users’ data, does not come into force until 2018, and we therefore do not see any risk of growing costs now, in 2016.
Second, on your instructions, the Government immediately received the relevant instructions. The agencies concerned are now studying all of the details involved in implementing this law and will set out procedures for who has to store what, and how much time we will need to implement these antiterrorist measures. This will determine the requirements in terms of equipment and the obligations for telecommunications providers, and only then will we really be able to make an evaluation.
Pursuant to the instructions, data will be stored using Russian equipment and Russian software. Our colleagues from the Industry and Trade Ministry also support these proposals. We are working together with the telecommunications industry to draft the relevant terms of reference and will study these proposals together. As I have said, if further clarifications are needed in terms of implementing specific provisions, we will draft appropriate amendments and submit them for the autumn session. Let me add that Russia can be proud today of having some of the lowest telecommunications rates in the world thanks to high competition in this sector, and we will maintain and support the leadership we have here.
Vladimir Putin: Good. How do you plan to implement the instructions I mentioned?
Nikolai Nikiforov: The instructions concern specific details and matters concerned with the law’s application. In other words, the law is one thing and the rest is a matter of bylaws.
Vladimir Putin: But in practical terms, how will you carry out the instructions?
Nikolai Nikiforov: First of all, we are working on the specific volume of data that has to be stored, what has to be collected and stored and how this will be done. The second issue is what equipment will be used to store it. We are going to rely on Russia’s own industry here and will work out the optimal solution.
Vladimir Putin: Does our industry produce the necessary equipment?
Nikolai Nikiforov: Not yet in most cases, but together with our colleagues from the Industry and Trade Ministry, we are drawing up the terms of reference now to match as closely as possible the industry’s needs following this law’s adoption, and the companies’ capabilities. We are in full contact with our colleagues here.
Vladimir Putin: This needs to be done quickly. Companies need to be able to get to work on what is a good and guaranteed state contract.
Nikolai Nikiforov: This will be done.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.
Over the past years, we have been actively developing the professional qualifications system. A new law and amendments to the Labour Code were recently adopted with the passage of the federal law regulating the new qualifications evaluation system. I would like to ask Mr Topilin to say a few words about this matter.
You have the floor.
Minister of Labour and Social Protection Maxim Topilin: Mr President, colleagues,
One of the key tasks we have been working on over these past years is to give people greater access to information on the labour market situation, on developing professions and employers’ demands regarding these professions. We are doing this to send the right signals to the education system and to the people when it comes to choosing a career, developing individual careers, and becoming more competitive on the labour market.
Our work involves several aspects. First, we are continuing our work on drawing up professional standards. We have more than 800 professional standards ready to date. We will continue this. We have reached agreements with employers’ associations and plan to draft around 200 more professional standards this year.
The most important task now with regard to the law that was passed is to implement the professional standards and make sure they are used. The law came into force as of July 1 and the Government has issued the relevant resolution. All public sector organisations, state corporations, and state-owned companies will have a transition period through to 2020. The main task will be to ensure that people can get retrained in order to develop their skills and knowledge.
The second aspect is the work on a reference book of professions. We have put quite a lot of time into this. We put together this reference book jointly with the Agency for Strategic Initiatives and with employers’ associations in different sectors. The task now is to make it accessible to all and ensure it is regularly updated, so that people can really use it as a reference tool. We have already drawn up a draft law that the Government will examine soon, and we hope it will be passed in autumn.
The third aspect is the new qualification evaluation system. The law was signed on July 3rd. What issues and tasks do we face in this respect? The law will require the Government to approve a large number of government regulations before the end of the year. People currently encounter the problem that as they move from one company to another they are required to prove their knowledge and skills: employers do not have enough trust in what is written in people’s record of professional employment alone.
The other problem is that people often have skills and experience simply by virtue of having worked somewhere, but do not have documents confirming education in that area, documents issued by the education system. The new law resolves this problem because under its terms, employers, working through their sector-based associations, will establish councils (this is already happening now) and set up qualification evaluation centres. Employers will be able to send their employees there, retaining their social protection guarantees and wages, and the employers will be able to include these expenses in the cost price. We have amended the Labour Code accordingly to ensure that this system is of interest to all sides. Employees will benefit from it in that they will be able to obtain all the confirmations of their skills they need, should they take this decision, and they will have broad possibilities for using this independent organisation.
As I said, we still need to adopt a large number of regulations, together with the employers and trade unions. We hope to have this system operating from January 1, though parts of it are already working now in trial mode. We think this system will give a new boost to raising qualifications, developing new skills and meeting new demand on the labour market.
Vladimir Putin: It is very important to establish a qualifications system and approve standards, but we also need to use this qualifications system to train people, young people. This is why we decided to establish a network of training centres for the working professions most in demand. The first seven centres will open in Tyumen, Moscow, Ulyanovsk and Sverdlovsk regions, and the republics of Tatar Stan and Chuvashia. We have agreed to allocate substantial funding – 900 million rubles – from the federal budget for this purpose. The regions will add another billion, and the business community will invest 300 million into the project.
I now ask Mr Livanov to tell us more about this project.
Education and Science Minister Dmitry Livanov: Mr President, we started setting up this network early this year. It is very important primarily as a platform for training our national team in professional skills as part of the Young Professionals movement.
Each interregional skills centre will have specialised training centres and practice facilities. They will have modern equipment with the latest education technology from Russia and abroad. This is the equipment used at the international WorldSkills competitions and is essential for ensuring we meet international standards in all working professions with good prospects, without exception.
As you said, there are seven centres working in professional fields such as machine-building and materials processing (Sverdlovsk Region), automation, radio technology and electronics (Chuvashia), information technology (Tatarstan), service, transport and logistics (Ulyanovsk Region), construction (Moscow Region), the service sector (Tyumen Region), and engineering and industrial technologies (Komsomolsk-on-Amur in Khabarovsk Territory).
Apart from ensuring our team’s rapid and effective training, these centres will also function as support points for spreading the latest practice and will become effectively operating internship centres for the entire vocational education system, thus helping to spread these standards throughout the system.
Let me add that at the Smena children’s centre in Krasnodar Territory, we are setting up a national professional skills training centre to train people in special skills such as personal efficiency, time management, foreign language or teamwork skills, creative abilities, psychological and physical training and so on. This is also where the expanded national team will hold its training sessions and where the team selection will be made. This is also a very important part of getting our team ready for international competitions, including the world championship that will take place in Kazan in 2019.
Vladimir Putin: This is good.
An excellent big project is underway now: work began on building Russia’s collider in Dubna in July. It will be ready for operation in 2020, is that right?
Dmitry Livanov: That is right.
Vladimir Putin: As far as I know, 26 countries are taking part in this work.
Dmitry Livanov: First of all, I would like to say that it was back in 2011 that you chaired a meeting of the Government Commission on Innovation and High Technology that examined the several dozen Russian projects for establishing mega-level scientific facilities here, that is to say, large-scale scientific research platforms. This project, known as NICA, was one of the projects selected. It is a heavy ions collider. This is important for science because this facility will make it possible to study quark-gluon plasma. This is a state of the high-density substances that were produced, for example, during the first moments of the universe’s development following the Big Bang, and is what you find in neutron stars. None of the existing colliders in the world – and there are quite a few – nor those currently in the project stage will have the physical parameters that this facility will offer. This will give Russia a unique advantage. It will offer a platform not only for our scientists but also for scientists from around the world. We already have more than 1,000 scientists from 36 countries taking part in international cooperation. This cooperation is certainly set to expand. All of the experts say that they expect this facility to produce research results of the kind that win the Nobel Prize.
We think it is extremely important to develop this project now. It has all the necessary financing and construction work is going full steam ahead. The first stage will be completed in 2018, and the facility will be ready for operation by 2020.
Vladimir Putin: Do you remember how many institutes are taking part?
Dmitry Livanov: 36 countries in total.
Vladimir Putin: No, how many Russian institutes are taking part?
Dmitry Livanov: We have around 90 taking part. Our organisations are certainly involved in the design and production of the equipment, which is most important and valuable for the facility’s work.
Vladimir Putin: What is the financing involved?
Dmitry Livanov: The financing comes to around 17 billion rubles overall. The Joint Institute for Nuclear Research will cover roughly half of this through the contributions it receives from different countries, including Russia, and roughly half will come from the federal budget. The relevant financial decisions have already been made for the next three years and Russia has earmarked the funding of its share. In other words, construction is fully funded through to 2018.
Vladimir Putin: Dubna offers a good base for this work.
Dmitry Livanov: Yes, it offers an excellent intellectual environment. World-renowned scientists work there, and they also have a very good engineering team, because this is not just a construction task, after all, but is above all an engineering and scientific task. We are certain of this project’s success.
Vladimir Putin: Wish them success. I would like you to give this project the administrative backing and support it needs. Thank you.
The summer vacation season is at its height now. Mr Safonov, how are things going? What problems and issues have people encountered this year?
Please, go ahead.
Head of the Federal Tourism Agency Oleg Safonov: Mr President, colleagues,
The preliminary results of the first summer months of this year’s tourist season show positive dynamics for domestic tourism products and a high level of occupancy rates at Russia’s resorts.
This year, we have expanded sales of package tours. Previously, package tours usually involved flights out of Moscow and St Petersburg, but this year, the choice has expanded considerably and now includes tour packages with flights from Yekaterinburg, Izhevsk, Kazan, Ufa, Samara, Nizhny Novgorod and other cities.
Selling package tours has made it possible to bring the cost of domestic tourism products down by 20–30 percent, which is an important result. These package tours are very popular with Russian tourists. People used to buy package tours mostly when travelling abroad, but now this practice has become widely used here at home as well.
This year, together with Russian Railways, we have developed and implemented the practice of using charter trains and charter carriages for destinations in the south, and this has also made it possible to bring tourism product costs down for the general public. Minimum costs are now around 15,000 rubles a week. These new products have also become very popular.
I would like to say that domestic package tours are the most popular products now and account for 22 percent of sales. This is the first time we have had such a result; previously, tours in Russia accounted for a much smaller share.
Let me also say that we think that opening Turkey as a tourist destination will gave a big additional incentive to Russian resorts to raise the quality of the services they offer to Russian tourists. Prices immediately fell, both here at our resorts, and at foreign resorts. I think this is something important and positive.
The Russian regions are active now in offering our tourists a wide variety of holiday options. Crimea is a very popular holiday destination: more than 1.5 million people have already holidayed there, up more than 20 percent. Krasnodar Territory is also popular, with the figures up 7 percent at more than 4.6 million people holidaying there now. Various kinds of alternative holiday options are also very popular this year, in particular in the North Caucasus Mineralniye Vody area, which offers a wide range of health resort options. We have seen a growth of slightly more than 5 percent here this year. There is also Altai Territory, which offers a variety of activities focused on health, excursions, and environmental tourism. The figures are up 10 percent this year with more than 700,000 people having already come there. The tourist centres of Moscow and St Petersburg are very popular, with a growth of around 6 percent. The Far East is extremely in demand this year and the vacation sector is completely sold out there, with Kamchatka at 100-percent capacity.
We expect this positive trend in domestic tourism growth to continue and predict an increase in tourism figures of around 15 percent. Our most important job now is to continue modernising and building the tourism infrastructure, increasing the number of hotels, and raising the quality of service. These measures are all being carried out as part of the federal targeted programme to develop domestic and foreign tourism.
We believe that raising the quality of services, introducing new tourism products, and actively promoting our tourism products at home and abroad will help to bolster Russia’s position on the global tourism market.
Vladimir Putin: Is the number of foreign tourists increasing?
Oleg Safonov: Mr President, the number of foreign tourists increased by 5 percent last year. This year, the statistics show that we still have work to do because there has been a slight drop in the number of foreign tourists.
Vladimir Putin: Why is this, in your opinion?
Oleg Safonov: We have seen an increase in the number of tourists from some countries, and a drop in the number from others. We probably need to make some further effort to encourage more foreign tourists to visit Russia. We have seen an increase of 50 percent in the number of tourists from China, for example, which has been promoted by the introduction of visa-free travel for tourist groups.
Vladimir Putin: Good, thank you.