The meeting is the first in a series Mr Putin will hold with the Government leadership and key ministers to look at implementing the objectives the President set in his Annual Address to the Federal Assembly in follow-up to the executive orders of May 2012.
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Opening remarks at a meeting with Government members
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues.
The holidays are over, sad as that may be, but we need to start work.
We have a big agenda this year. Our plans have all been set out in the relevant documents, but we still need to concentrate on the main areas and focus our attention and financial and administrative resources on them. For this reason, the Prime Minister and I decided that we would meet around once every two weeks here to discuss together the most sensitive and most important issues for us all.
When I say ‘for us all’, I mean the Government in the broader sense, including the heads of big cities and regions, as well as the Cabinet.
The objectives set out back in May 2012 are well known, and many of them were restated in specific terms and updated in the Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly. We need to discuss today how we are going to go about our work in 2014.
“Prime Minister and I decided that we would meet around once every two weeks here to discuss together the most sensitive and most important issues for us all.”
We will look at several issues today. We will hear from Minister of Construction and Housing and Utilities Mikhail Men on the priorities for carrying out housing programmes. As you know, this was something we examined in considerable detail at the last State Council meeting.
I would also like Finance Minister Anton Siluanov to brief us on preparations for executing the 2014–2016 budget. I know the Ministry has worked hard to get a solid budget ready on time, but we also know the problems, namely that financing either arrives too late, or ministries and agencies delay things, to put it mildly, instead of getting on with implementing the plans they themselves fought for and defended during the difficult and involved Government discussions. They defend their priorities and then we discover later that they are ready to carry out the actual work only in the second half of the year, or not even until October or November. This practice must end.
In this respect, I would also like to hear from Mr Ulyukayev [Economic Development Minister] on the measures for making budget investment produce greater results. Of course, budget investment is not a cure-all for every economic woe, but we do have 6–7 trillion roubles in investment, and this has a big impact on the economy in general. Therefore, given that we are now transitioning to a new way of working in this area – the federal contract system – I would like to hear today about how prepared the Ministry is for this work.
There are several other serious matters that we will discuss today. As you know, I was in the Far East for New Year’s Eve and met there with people who are still living in temporary shelters. We are not talking about 5, 10 or 20 people, but about 1,500 people. Overall, they have everything they need at the shelters. The shelters themselves are perfectly decent, with good food and medical care. But people of course are waiting to settle the biggest issue – housing, which is a question of major repairs and renovation, or providing them with new homes.
I did not get the chance to talk with everyone during that New Year meeting, but the overall range of problems is clear. I therefore want to ask Mr Trutnev [Deputy Prime Minister and Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District] to give us more details on this matter. I want to say right away however that we have come to a preliminary agreement that all of the housing would be built by no later than September this year, and the Government and the regional authorities must make a combined effort to ensure that this is done.
“I was in the Far East for New Year’s Eve and met there with people who are still living in temporary shelters. People of course are waiting to settle the biggest issue – housing. We have come to a preliminary agreement that all of the housing would be built by no later than September this year, and the Government and the regional authorities must make a combined effort to ensure that this is done.”
Finally, there is one more problem. Or rather, there is no shortage of problems, and incidentally, to make sure we do not overlook any of them we really must meet regularly with people and work with them. The regional heads should in any case meet with the local people once a week. Mr Trutnev, I ask you to oversee this work too and go out there constantly, especially when the time comes to get the construction work underway.
There is another very serious problem, namely that the homes that were fit for habitation and that needed major repairs and renovation (and in some of them this has already been partially or fully done) could end up in a bad state after the winter. They were all soaked through with damp after the floods of course, and we do not know what state they might end up in after the winter cold, when the temperature drops to minus 25 or more. I therefore think that in cases when needed and when people request it, a repeat expert inspection should be made of these homes. This repeat inspection must be carried out.
I ask the judges at every level to examine in timely fashion all disputes that arise in this respect, and without any red tape. There are many issues here and I will not repeat them now, but I ask in any case that the regional authorities and the Government do not just go through the motions as they deal with these issues but always keep in mind above all the interests of each and every individual.
That is what I wanted to say for now. But since we are looking at the Far East, I want to ask the Transport Minister, Mr Sokolov, to speak. You know that one of the problems in that region concerns transport. Many people cannot afford not only to travel from the Far East regions to European Russia, but cannot even travel between towns in the Far East itself. I know that the Government has decided to make changes to the subsidy procedures. I would like to hear about what these changes involve and what the first results are so far.