President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Volodin, it is too early to sum up the results of the year, since we have two months ahead of us. In fact, usually these are the most exacting months of the year. Overall, we can already see that the State Duma has been hard at work, especially recently, which is attributable, among other things, to the laws that have to be adopted in connection with the amendments to the Constitution of the Russian Federation.
I see that these efforts are underway in almost all spheres, which includes state building, passing social laws, the social sector, and the economy. I would like to thank you and all State Duma members for your swiftness in taking decisions that enable the economy to run smoothly, support people, and regarding the healthcare sector during the pandemic.
I know that you have an agenda you wanted to discuss today.
I am glad to see you. Go ahead, please.
State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin: Thank you, Mr President. The President’s support means a lot to us. The situation is actually quite challenging. Being a collegiate body, the State Duma has to hold meetings. For this reason, we submit ourselves to tests before every meeting. Still, more and more of my colleagues are getting sick. Today, 38 State Duma deputies are in hospitals, and one is in an intensive care unit. You know that we lost one member of parliament to the pandemic.
Of course, we take the necessary measures to keep the parliament working. Up until now, 91 deputies had the virus or are currently fighting the disease. For this reason, we are doing everything to adopt new working procedures, and to switch to remote videoconferencing tools whenever possible, for example, for the committees. However, it is impossible to have the entire parliament work remotely.
Many European parliaments, if not all of them, are on lockdown orders, so they cannot meet and only confer via videoconference. But we are aware that the President monitors the situation on a daily basis, and the deputies, for their part, must also do their best, must make every effort to ensure that the decisions made by the President have legislative support, especially pandemic-related ones, about helping people, helping affected industries and supporting the economy.
Today we have 1,305 draft laws in our legislative portfolio. The deputies have prioritised them. The priorities include helping people and all bills related to the coronavirus infection response. The next priority is the bills that implement the recent constitutional amendments: the State Duma now has 20 bills under review, of which 14 were initiated by the President of Russia. One bill has been adopted in the third reading, two bills – in the second reading, and seven bills – in the first reading.
We plan to consider as many of these bills as possible this year, only with bills of joint jurisdiction, perhaps those will have to be handled next year, at the beginning of next year.
We understand the importance of adopting these bills because the new constitutional amendments are aimed at raising living standards and ensuring better protection of people’s rights, but of course, they will also make the authorities’ work more effective.
During our autumn session, we usually adopt the federal budget. The Duma committees have by now completed the preparation of the budget for consideration in the first reading; consultations within the various party groups have ended, and we plan to review the budget in the first reading on October 28.
Vladimir Putin: The 28th? All right, this is good timing. How is the budget discussion with the Government going?
Vyacheslav Volodin: Work is in progress. As a rule, it involves debates on various matters, heated to varying degrees and in varying tones. But in general, this is just normal dialogue, because there are problems that the parliament members can see. The Government listens to proposals from the deputy corps, and in August we coordinated the budget in zero reading with the Government. We plan to complete our consultations today and then submit the budget for consideration in the first reading.
Of course, the main questions the State Duma members have raised are related to the coronavirus. There is no secret that we are running budget deficits and economic growth rates are in decline, just like in other countries. Still, it is very important that the current situation differs radically from the previous years, especially the 1990s, and everyone understands this. People do not like remembering those harsh years, but we have to acknowledge that despite the crisis and the challenges, all the social commitments and matters related to the social safety net have been factored into the budget so that people will not be left behind.
In this context, I would like to thank you, Mr President, since we understand that you keep these matters under your special control, especially those related to the demographic trends. As challenging as the situation may be, the programmes that you announced in your Address to the Federal Assembly, have been reflected in the federal budget.
As for the debates and controversies, this is an integral part of our work, since we seek compromises and are constructive in our efforts. It is true that emotions run high at times, but this is how parliament works.
Vladimir Putin: Mr Volodin, could you repeat how many State Duma members are currently sick?
Vyacheslav Volodin: As of today, 38 deputies are in hospitals, including one severely ill deputy in an intensive care unit.
Vladimir Putin: What kind of medical care are they getting?
Vyacheslav Volodin: Mr President, they are receiving the medical care just like all Russian citizens. There were questions where the deputies are treated. They get their medical assistance where they fall ill. If a deputy gets sick in Tver, this means a hospital bed in Tver, and if this happens in Moscow, it will be in Moscow. It all depends on the region, considering that deputies are elected in electoral districts and represent regions. For this matter, they get the medical care in the region where they fall ill.
Vladimir Putin: Please convey my gratitude to all your colleagues for their work. It is true that their efforts are very much needed. It was essential that the legislative work runs smoothly. I know that it did not come to a halt, which was not just a formality, since people worked on complex draft laws that required a lot of expertise. They did not leave this for a later time, since they knew that we needed solutions right away in order to overcome the crisis that we have faced.
Overall, of course, you have done some great work that was highly relevant and delivered tangible results. Thank you for these efforts, and please convey my gratitude to all State Duma members.
Vyacheslav Volodin: Thank you very much, Mr President. This is very important for us, and also a great responsibility.
Vladimir Putin: Good.