The meeting was attended by Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Anton Vaino, First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov, Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin, Presidential Aide Maxim Oreshkin, Presidential Aide and Head of the Presidential Speechwriting Office Dmitry Kalimulin, Minister of Labour and Social Protection Anton Kotyakov, Minister of Economic Development Maxim Reshetnikov, Minister of Finance Anton Siluanov, Minister of Construction, Housing and Utilities Irek Faizullin, Governor of the Central Bank Elvira Nabiullina, and Head of the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service Maxim Shaskolsky.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues.
Today, I suggest discussing the current economic agenda, the tasks on supporting small and medium-sized business, as well as the development of housing construction and other areas. As you know, I spoke about these things in my Address to the Federal Assembly, and I instructed the Government to prepare specific proposals on each of these issues, and to develop close teamwork between federal agencies, the regional teams and domestic business circles.
Once again, I would like to say that factors of instability are still in effect in the Russian and global economies, as you well know. Under the circumstances, it is necessary to keep abreast of the developments and promptly analyse the trends of business activity at home and abroad.
Of course, we need to evaluate the dynamics of key macro-economic indicators. They show objectively that despite the difficulties, the Russian economy is still gradually recovering and overcoming the aftermath of the coronavirus epidemic.
Thus, Russia’s GDP in January-March is just 1 percent below the pre-crisis first quarter of last year. Let me recall that at that time the global and Russian economies were running in a routine, stable manner, without the pervasive epidemic-related restrictions.
Naturally, many economic indicators have not yet reached their former levels, but again, the positive changes are also obvious.
Thus, in the first quarter, the processing sector of Russian industry grew by 1.4 percent, adding 5.4 percent in March, and increasing by 14.2 percent in April, against the backdrop of last year’s serious decline.
Unemployment is showing a steady downward trend; the labour market is recovering. As I have mentioned, it peaked at 6.4 percent last August; by April 2021, the unemployment rate dropped to 5.2 percent. The number of employed people has already grown by 1.2 million since last year’s recession. We need to increase this by at least another 700,000 in order to reach 2019 levels when unemployment was 4.7 percent. Allow me to remind you once again that this was precisely the instruction given to the Government.
We certainly need to achieve growth in people’s real incomes – this is a most important task and a top priority for government bodies at all levels. Unfortunately, we are still struggling with a difficult situation in this respect, and it is a key factor.
Again, here we need to work in close contact with businesses, the business community, which plays a central role in labour market revival and economic growth.
Today is May 26 – Russian Entrepreneurship Day. I would like to give my best wishes to everyone who does business in Russia, creating jobs and achieving success through hard work, perseverance and talent.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to once again thank the owners and managers of domestic businesses for the responsible approach they showed during the pandemic – we have all seen it; for their efforts to keep people on board and maintain stable, reliable operations at their enterprises, companies, especially in those areas that are vital for their cities and towns, for our citizens.
Over the past year, we have seen many examples where business leaders tried to not lose sight of their long-term goals despite the current problems. They invested in the modernisation of production facilities, in increasing Russia’s economic and technological potential, and sought to change life for the better in their towns, regions, and in the entire country. Such behaviour, this attitude from the business community certainly deserves the sincerest respect and support from the state and society.
I would like to express my special gratitude to Russia’s leading business associations, which are dedicatedly working on strategic plans and the implementation of the national development agenda.
As has been traditional, Russian businesses, together with their foreign partners, will be widely represented at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum next week. I am asking my colleagues from the Government and federal agencies, as well as regional leaders who will take part in the forum sessions, to make the most of this platform for dialogue with business. Again, I would like you to substantively discuss problems that concern Russian entrepreneurs in order to eventually make decisions that will have a positive effect on the development of industries and regions, that will foster employment and incomes.
As I have mentioned, I suggest we discuss additional support measures for small and medium businesses in addition to the general economic picture. In addition, we will review the residential real estate market and affordable housing.
Let us move on to the agenda. But before we do, let me say the following, this is directly related to the economy, and we have long understood this: the coronavirus epidemic has emphasised the absolute importance and meaning of our main job – to protect the people, to ensure the life and health of our citizens.
Now, as the restrictions are being relaxed and the economy is recovering, companies and organisations are restoring their usual working patterns. The summer vacation season is ahead. All this means that people are connecting more with each other and visiting public places. Under these conditions, it is very important to consistently reduce the risks of the spread of the virus. And, as I have said more than once, it is necessary to form what is called herd immunity for this purpose.
Comprehensive vaccination is the best, most civilised way of resolving this task, as experts say in both our country and in the rest of the world.
I know that people express different opinions on this issue. Some of them support mandatory anti-coronavirus vaccination. Some think it should apply to the entire population of this country, while others think in terms of certain professions, those who come in contact with many people by virtue of their work. The latter group includes people in sales, public catering, medical, educational and social institutions, etc.
I would like to express my position on this once again. I believe mandatory vaccination is inexpedient and should not be introduced. People should realise themselves the need for vaccination. They should understand that if they do not do it, they could face a very serious and even lethal danger. This primarily applies to older people.
I would like to emphasise again and appeal to all our citizens: please give it serious thought. Remember that the Russian vaccine, as the practice of its use millions of times shows, is the most reliable and safest today and that conditions for vaccination have been created in this country. Let me say once again that based on using this vaccine millions of times, specialists see that it does not harm people’s health or cause serious complications. It really protects people from the threat of infection or prevents severe illness. Specialists, scientists have reliable, justifiable information on this question. We must trust their professional opinion and listen to them. This is directly linked with the situation in the economy and social sphere, as we can see from the experience of the past year. But this is not the main point; it is very important, but not the most important aspect. Health comes first. Please think in these terms.
Let us get to the agenda.