The meeting was attended by Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Anton Vaino, First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov, deputy prime ministers Viktoria Abramchenko, Alexei Overchuk and Marat Khusnullin, presidential aides Igor Levitin and Maxim Oreshkin, Foreign Minister, Minister of Industry and Trade, Minister of Agriculture, Economic Development Minister, Transport Minister, Finance Minister, Energy Minister, as well as the Central Bank Governor, heads of several regions, the Federal Customs Service and Russian Railways.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues.
Today we will discuss current issues of developing Russia’s transport industry and outline the key objectives and our further steps in this crucial area.
I suggest we also discuss separately the implementation of transport projects in the country’s south. We will talk today with our colleagues from Daghestan and the Astrakhan Region, where major transport hubs – the seaports of Makhachkala, Astrakhan and Olya – are being developed. These are very important stops in the North-South transport corridor, which uses the potential of the Volga River and the Caspian Sea.
Late last year, instructions were issued to deepen the Volga-Caspian Sea canal to increase traffic and so that the canal would service larger vessels that businesses need. I hope to hear today about the implementation of this project and when concrete results will be achieved.
Before we get down to the agenda, I would like to say the following.
Infrastructure development is one of the main drivers of our economy, any economy, as a matter of fact. We have been boosting Russia’s logistics capability consistently and systematically for many years. We are doing this with an eye on the future and the long-term effect for the Russian business and our people.
In the next few years, we need to step up our efforts in this area. We have already increased direct budget expenses on the development of transport infrastructure and created a programme of providing infrastructure budgetary loans.
Year after year, we need to boost construction volumes, upgrade the network of roads and railways, river and sea infrastructure, transport arteries that not only connect Russian regions and serve as a base for the development of industry and agriculture, but also help our companies and enterprises to boost foreign trade and enter foreign markets.
I have already said, and I would now like to note once again that the Russian economy will certainly remain open in the new conditions. Moreover, we will expand our interaction with countries that are interested in mutually beneficial cooperation.
An entire range of issues are of importance here, including the organisation of convenient infrastructure for national currency payments, efforts to streamline science and technological ties and, of course, expanding the capacity of logistics chains, making them more effective and creating new freight traffic routes.
This work has become much more strategically important in the past few months. The actions of certain countries and their desire to shut themselves off from Russia, rather than to shut down Russia (even to their own detriment) show that it is highly important to diversify transport flows in the modern world and to expand corridors in the direction of predictable and responsible partners.
In this connection, I would like to focus on two principled considerations. They deal with projects in southern Russia, in the Sea of Azov / Black Sea and Caspian Sea basins (we will discuss them today in great detail) and in other high-priority areas.
First, as I have already noted, the situation in the global economy and the system of world economic ties is changing rapidly, and all of us can see this. The Russian business community is adapting to these changes, overhauling production and logistics chains and actively establishing new ties with foreign partners.
Our plans to develop the transport infrastructure and to eliminate the so-called bottlenecks should also proceed at the same lively pace.
I would like federal officials, as well as regional and local colleagues, to hear me. Red tape needs to be scrapped as it is hampering our work and delaying the implementation of transport projects. Failure to meet infrastructure construction deadlines is absolutely unacceptable.
On the contrary, as Ihave already said, it is important to speed up the implementation of long overdue construction projects and to draft and launch new transport sector initiatives as soon as possible. For example, we certainly need to make active use of the parallel design and construction mechanism, while, of course, heeding various safety and reliability requirements for unfinished projects.
It may become necessary to make additional adjustments to the regulatory framework, the procedure for drafting construction forms and records and regulating construction works. You and I have been discussing this for many years, not just a few months. I am expecting to hear proposals on this matter today.
Second. The development of sea and river ports, railways and roads should certainly take into account the real demand for transportation and objective traffic forecasts.
But here is what I would like to note in this connection, just to recall. Recently, we had heated discussions on developing the Eastern Operating Domain and the specific parameters of its capacity.
Yes, the situation was different then, and there were even some sceptical assessments in this regard, that we could have expanded and invested huge amounts of money – hundreds of billions of rubles for this – to build new routes, but there would have been nothing to transport, since there may not have been cargo traffic.
Time showed that these estimates were inaccurate, to say the least. Today, the eastern direction is in great demand and will remain popular for years to come. We can see the same trends on southern routes, where cargo volumes are surging, and the so-called bottlenecks began to appear.
I think it is right to abandon the business-as-usual scenario in developing transport infrastructure, when the cargo traffic is estimated based only on current needs, and then, based on these estimates, routes are designed and built. But then there is a lack of capacity. If we act according to such static logic, then we will always be catching up, as the capacity will always be lacking.
The infrastructure should be oriented towards the needs of tomorrow, opening up a space of opportunities for business initiatives. And experience shows that as soon as new routes appear, goods to be transported along them also appear. You know, it is true: if a road appears, then life begins around it; if there is no road, there is nothing. In other words, it is infrastructure projects that create new cargo flows.
And I would like to emphasise again: this is especially important now, when the situation on global markets is changing dynamically, and trade flows and all global economic activity are shifting from the West to more attractive growing regions. Actually, this has been happening for quite a long time – we all understand this well.
It is important to be aware of this perspective, to create new routes and design transport projects with an operating margin meaning that even at the design stage, provisions must be made for optional infrastructure expansion and upgrades so that capacity can be expanded in a short time and at a minimal cost and new supply channels can be opened for Russian manufacturers, exporters and buyers of foreign products.
To reiterate, this applies to transport projects across all regions of Russia. I am talking about the development of the Eastern Operating Domain and the Northern Latitudinal Railway, seaports in the Arctic, the Russian Far East, southern and northwestern Russia, including the modernisation of the Murmansk transport hub, and so on.
I want you to include this proactive approach to designing and developing the transport infrastructure of ports, roads and railways in the list of instructions following the meeting we had today.
Third. On a separate note, I would like to spend a moment discussing border checkpoints. Our colleagues from the business community – you are aware of this – keep complaining about the inordinate amount of time they have to spend clearing cargo and crossing borders, especially at border points with substandard equipment and infrastructure or shortages of specialists, where more efficient cargo handling procedures are needed.
It is important to speed up the construction of new border checkpoints and to upgrade the existing ones in order to ensure faster and more business-friendly customs, phytosanitary and other types of control procedures.
I would like the relevant agencies to note that this applies not only to land-based checkpoints, but also seaports, which we discussed at a recent meeting on the oil industry. I ask the Prime Minister to take control over these matters.
One more important issue in closing. The summer and vacations season, according to the calendar, will be here in a week. Many of our people are planning to go to the beach, to resorts in the Krasnodar Territory or Crimea, some by car, some by rail or air.
To date, a number of southern airports are temporarily closed. As a result, there has been more demand for train tickets. I know that Russian Railways has launched additional train services from central Russia to the Black Sea. It is important that during the summer period, passengers are provided with sufficient and reliable services, with no disruption.
Judging by what I see, at the moment, there is not yet enough capacity, so I would ask Mr Savelyev and the head of Russian Railways to talk about this.
Let us get started.
Mr Savelyev, please go ahead.