President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Sobyanin, we recently met to discuss some issues connected with how things are going in the capital and agreed to discuss at a later date a wider range of issues concerning Moscow, its issues, transport and industrial development and social matters.
Mayor of Moscow Sergei Sobyanin: Mr President, it seems to me that Moscow has adapted to the current difficult economic conditions, judging by a number of indicators. First of all, the volume of investment has not declined; it did not fall last year, either. We can even see a little increase, even in comparable indicators.
We can also see positive aspects in that industry has started to grow, and exports are growing quite significantly. This means that import substitution is taking place, and our products are becoming more competitive.
This includes the automobile industry, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and IT. We have seen a significant increase (by 50 percent compared to last year) in small and medium-sized businesses in terms of registering individual entrepreneurs and patents.
Tax payments by small and medium-sized businesses to the city’s budget have increased by 24 percent. Of course, this is largely due to the legalisation of businesses, as now the conditions are different, including those concerning patents and individual entrepreneurs, but still, this is also real economic growth.
This growth comes primarily from the continued implementation of city development programmes, including transport and utilities. You were present at the opening of the largest infrastructure project – the Moscow Central Ring railway. I must report that we have put into operation all of the 31 stations, and the number of passengers has exceeded 300,000 people.
Today it is one of the most popular transport projects in Moscow. We continue building the metro this year, eight stations will be put into operation, which is considered quite a respectable result for metro construction, a large work-scope.
We continue working with Russian Railways to develop commuter transport though there are problems as Russian Railways cannot afford to meet all the goals of the Moscow transport hub. However, I regard it among our priorities, and we will try to obtain extra funds together to go on with the programme.
This programme is intended not only for Moscow but also for the Moscow Region, the neighbouring areas and the entire Central Federal District with a population of 40 million. It is an ambitious project that impacts the economy.
As for the social sphere, I think healthcare and education are doing well. Wages are growing. We are implementing presidential orders on doctor and teacher salaries. Healthcare boasts good statistics, both in terms of quality and quantity. The number of treated patients and the ability to quickly get a doctor’s appointment – all reflect positive trends.
Birth rates and natural population growth remain on the upswing, while mortality rates are declining, especially among adults. As for education, the recent OECD study known as the Programme for International Student Assessment, PISA, has confirmed that Moscow is among the best places in the world for education. It is in the top ten best school educational systems, and Europe’s second best, coming after Finland.
Though Shanghai, Singapore and several southeastern countries are ahead of us, we look fine by European standards. What matters most is that the best education was previously limited to several elite schools while now, a majority of Moscow schools offer very good education. That is what makes us look decent even at the international level, though we have many problems.
There are still doctors’ and teachers’ wages to raise and IT to be introduced in both these fields. Healthcare needs to introduce electronic prescriptions, electronic health records, and so on. It demands ambitious IT development to improve public services.
The agenda in education also includes an information project envisaging electronic textbooks and teaching aids, and many other facilities that together promise to upgrade the quality of education. Together with the Ministry of Education, we have begun to draw up a project to integrate the various kinds and levels of education – preschool, school, secondary vocational and higher – by using all of the opportunities afforded by Moscow universities and science parks. That will enable high-school pupils to learn about professional opportunities and to work with universities and major companies.
This is a megaproject of sorts. It seems to me it does not merely promise some abstract education but will enable school leavers to understand what trade or profession is to their liking. It will do a lot to streamline admittance to universities and will certainly improve the quality of graduates.
I can cite an example. There has been a roughly 30 percent improvement in the quality of applicants to Moscow medical universities based on scores on the National Final School Exam. That is impressive progress. Evidently, the applicants’ basic knowledge is better than in the recent years, and they are determined to be doctors and work at medical institutions and organisations. This is a positive trend.
Vladimir Putin: Good.