Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.
Today I signed a law on self-government, which has taken the Executive Office, the Government and State Duma deputies a long time to produce. The document is one of the key elements of a full-scale administrative reform, which we talk so much about. I know that this week the Government will consider related matters.
A couple of words about the law. We know that self-government provides additional guarantees for people’s rights to run state affairs. Government is brought closer to people who become more socially active. It is also a countermeasure to the over-concentration of power in the centre, and an additional guarantee for the stability of the political system.
The law becomes effective on January 1, 2006. We have provided for a very lengthy interim period for it to be introduced. This was done on purpose. The law contains a detailed plan of action for federal and regional authorities during the interim period.
I ask the Government to strictly follow the plan. It is a plan which has been drawn up with your direct participation.
It is necessary to submit parliamentary amendments to many federal laws in advance in order to bring them in line with the renewed model of self-government and federal relations.
It is necessary to relieve regional and local authorities of functions imposed on them by federal laws and unwarranted either from a financial point of view or the actual requirements of state and society. We must exert every effort to apply the stipulated principles of inter-budgetary relations to the tax and budget spheres. This will make the spending of taxpayer money more rational and increase the effectiveness and responsibility of regional and local authorities.
We are approaching winter. We know the kind of difficulties municipal bodies have faced at this time over the past few years.
The fact that the date of introduction has been postponed for so long should not allow the Government to sit back. The work should start today, in coordination with the Commission for the Delimitation of Powers and taking into consideration the opinions and proposals of Russian regions and municipalities.
The necessary instructions for the Government and the commission will be formulated in due course, although I am certain you know what to do.
Two regions of the Russian Federation, the Chechen Republic and St Petersburg, have had elections. Before the end of the year, ten more regions, large ones, will hold them. All this will have an important bearing on the domestic political situation in Russia. So you should do everything in your power to ensure that these elections run normally.
I want to draw your attention to the high voter turnout in the Chechen Republic. Preliminary estimates put it at 86.8%. I do not think this calls for comment. The fact, let alone the result, is gratifying. But even this is not the point. Such high turnout indicates that people hope for a better life, for positive change in the republic and in the life of their families, hope that social issues, above all their security, will be solved in the first place. Although the problem of security is a separate subject we discussed and will continue to discuss, and although greater responsibility will be vested with republican authorities, the social and economic issues in Chechnya cannot be resolved without the support of the Russian Government.
I ask you to continue paying compensations for destroyed housing. Now that we have a fully formed legitimate executive body in Chechnya, we must complete the lists of victims and energetically pursue work further, the work of creating new jobs, solving problems in education, medicine, social affairs, etc.
These problems are closely connected with other issues of federal significance. The Prime Minister and I recently discussed the matters you consider central: the social funds and the need to bring them in line with common sense, today’s requirements, and plans to develop the social sphere and improve the social services for the population. This is a delicate and precise process and one that cannot tolerate any delays. It cannot be done overnight, but it must be started now.