Question: What place do you assign to the country’s oil complex and what are the prospects of its development?
Vladimir Putin: I have just met with your teachers; and during the meeting I recalled a fact that you all know: the fuel and energy complex contributes over 40% of the country’s budget. That speaks for itself.
I would like to see the structure of the Russian economy change so that the new economy based on modern technologies, especially information technologies, would occupy a larger place. But the fuel and energy sector of course is in demand and will be in demand.
The economy in this country and in the countries that are our main partners and consumers will grow.
I think you know the main figures which show how oil and gas consumption grows in Western Europe, China and other countries. They are set to grow at a rapid pace. There are not the many sources of raw materials and Russia is one of them. One has to bear in mind that the situation here is more stable compared with other parts of the world such as the Middle East. In that sense, the role of the fuel and energy sector in Russia will be very high.
Question: How do you assess the demand for the graduates of Russian higher education institutions in the international market?
Vladimir Putin: I assess it very highly. Many find jobs abroad. This is not the best option for our country. We would rather have them work inside the country.
The level of training in our country is very high. Not in every sector, but in most it is very high and is certainly recognised in the world. Not in administrative terms or in terms of diplomas, but in terms of the level of training. You only have to look at how many graduates of our universities work in Silicon Valley; that speaks volumes about the level of training.
Question: Are any social subsidies envisaged in the future to enable students from poor families to acquire an education?
Vladimir Putin: That system is already developing, though very slowly. Stipends are paid to students from low income families. What would I advise you and the rector? There is the stipend fund. It is allocated for the whole school. The Ministry does not determine what part of that fund will pay for social needs and what part will pay for academic stipends. The institute itself decides how to spend that money. Let the rector leave it to the students. The students know better who is in greater need. And that is the simplest and the best solution.
In general, if you watched my TV link with the citizens, you have noticed how many requests there were for loans to finance education. It is a question that worries people and the reason is clear. Incomes are low, and people in this country have always been keen to acquire an education. The Government has a lot to do in that area.
Question: What does friendship among students mean to you? Do your university mates help you in your life?
Vladimir Putin: The very fact that they exist is a great help. Now I can’t afford to meet them as often as I would like to. When I go skiing, one of my skiing companions is a former classmate who has worked as a lawyer ever since we graduated from university.
Question: All citizens are supposed to have equal rights. But it is no secret that women find it more difficult to get a job after graduation. What can be done about that?
Vladimir Putin: Go to the prosecutor’s office. But seriously, you should first go to the prosecutor’s office to protect your rights and second, the employers who behave like that are making a mistake.
Women are often much more diligent in their work than men. You can ask the traffic police who record the number of traffic offenses on the roads. Women offend far less often.
Of course it is a problem. It depends on the overall state of society. It must be put right. But you shouldn’t wait for some good guys to do something for you. You have to fight for your rights.
Question: To what extent will Russia depend on the use of natural resources and are any radical reforms or changes in this area to be expected?
Vladimir Putin: We will increase prospecting activities and production and increase proven resources. The taxation system needs to be changed. We should introduce rental incomes and ensure that they are paid into the budget. There are many concrete problems connected with the use of resources in Eastern Siberia, and the size of these resources has not been completely determined. In general, I would like to hope that the decisions being prepared now will address the need to develop the market economy in the country, the interests of business, and at the same time will take into account the interests of the whole nation.
Question: As we are studying at an oil institute we follow the trends in oil prices. To what extent does our budget depend on them?
Vladimir Putin: So far the dependence is considerable. The 2003 budget assumes that the price of oil will be about $20 plus per barrel. You know that the price has now risen to $30. This has to do with the issue that was raised at the start of our talk about the structural changes of the Russian economy. While the fuel and energy sector remains predominant it is necessary for the structure to change in the direction of the new economy based on information technologies. To this end it is necessary to take decisions, and to pass laws, for example, to pass laws on the protection of intellectual property that would create favourable conditions for the development of these sectors.