Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov on Russia’s social and economic development results for the first three quarters of 2005 (in response to a question from President Vladimir Putin):
We have just summed up the results for September. What we can note is that although the overall economic growth rate and the industrial output growth rate dropped somewhat in August, industrial growth picked up again in September and came to 0.7 percent.
Vladimir Putin: What is the overall result?
Alexander Zhukov: Overall, GDP growth for the first three quarters of this year rose by 5.9 percent compared to the same period last year. The experts think that this pace will continue through to the end of the year and could increase to six percent for the year overall.
As for consumer prices, they increased by 0.3 percent over the first 17 days of October. We expect an increase of 0.6 percent overall for October. In general, compared to the results for August, September and October 2004, inflation is rising at a rate twice lower than that what we were expecting at the same period last year, but accumulated inflation is somewhat higher than was the case last year, although prices are rising at a slower pace now.
Vladimir Putin: I think it would be good for the government to prepare a package of anti-inflation measures for the nearest future and come up with a programme of systemic measures in this area. I am sure that the Prime Minister and I will further discuss this matter later. And I would ask the Finance Minister to also think about this issue, together with the Central Bank, of course. I know that you have become involved in work on examining the financial aspects of developing local self-government.
* * *
Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin on proposals for a package of anti-inflation measures (in response to a question from President Vladimir Putin):
I think the time is right for a package of anti-inflation measures because the inflation targets that we have set in the three-year draft budget call for a considerable drop in the inflation rate. Inflation should be no more than 4.5–5 percent in 2008. This would be a significant achievement for our economic policy and, of course, ordinary people would stand to benefit the most because prices for basic everyday goods and housing and utilities tariffs would not rise at such a fast pace. This stage of bringing prices down from the current level to 4.5–5 percent…
Vladimir Putin: Lowering inflation.
Alexei Kudrin: Yes, lowering inflation. This is probably the most difficult stage in our work but it is an objective we can certainly achieve within the framework of our three-year budget that has been approved by the budget commission headed by [Prime Minister] Mikhail Fradkov, and we have confirmed this as our goal. But coordination of the work of all the branches of power and bodies of state power, including those responsible for regulating natural monopoly prices and tariffs needs to be organised at a higher level. I think therefore, that this is a very positive idea.
Vladimir Putin: Think it over with the State Duma deputies. Inform the Duma Speaker on the proposals so that we really can achieve a coordinated effort by all the branches of power.
* * *
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the results of his visit to Central Asia (in response to a question from President Vladimir Putin):
On your instructions I visited Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Building on the recent agreements you reached with President Karimov in St Petersburg, we discussed practical issues regarding Uzbekistan’s accession to the Eurasian Economic Community during my visit to Tashkent. The experts will be meeting this week already and working with concrete documents. We also discussed organising practical cooperation within the Collective Security Treaty Organisation.
Vladimir Putin: We are talking not just about Uzbekistan joining the Eurasian Economic Community but also about the merger of two organisations: the Eurasian Economic Community and the Central Asian Cooperation Organisation.
Sergei Lavrov: And as part of this, we are discussing Uzbekistan’s accession to the Eurasian Economic Community, and we also have to decide on the future of the Central Asian Cooperation Organisation’s activities that come under the competence of the Eurasian Economic Community as regards their trade and economic aspects. We therefore also discussed organising cooperation through the Collective Security Treaty Organisation. Our Uzbek partners are interested in this. We also discussed developing our bilateral ties, and not just developing our military-political cooperation and trade and economic relations, but also developing our investment ties. A number of proposals have already been prepared in this area and will be submitted to the government and subsequently presented to you.
In Turkmenistan we discussed the implementation of the existing agreements on cooperation in the fuel and energy sector and cooperation in the Caspian Sea. Turkmenistan is interested in becoming involved in setting up the Kasfor organisation so that all the Caspian region countries can work together to ensure security on the Caspian Sea and prevent smuggling, including smuggling of materials that could be used in the fabrication of weapons of mass destruction and smuggling linked to terrorist activity and so on.
We agreed that, as in Astrakhan where Sergei Ivanov organised a meeting in the summer of last year…
Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov: A navy meeting.
Sergei Lavrov: Yes, a navy meeting in which Turkmenistan took part. And they will likewise take part in the next meeting due in November, which will begin examining practical documents. Turkmenistan has also confirmed its interest in developing cultural and educational cooperation in the CIS area, including in connection with the Year of the Commonwealth of Independent States that will take place next year in accordance with the decision reached by the summit in Kazan.
Vladimir Putin: Regarding the organisation to support peace, security and order in the Caspian Sea region, we need to get all the Caspian region countries involved, including Iran. Are you in contact with our Iranian partners on this matter?
Sergei Lavrov: Yes, as it happens I am due to meet my Iranian colleague today for talks. He is here on a working visit and the Caspian issue is a priority for us. The Iranians are taking part in the discussions and are showing an interest in having all five Caspian region countries work together on creating this organisation.
Vladimir Putin: Regarding the merger of the Eurasian Economic Community and the Central Asian Cooperation Organisation, we need to create a mechanism to carry out these plans and complete the practical work. I would ask you to give this matter more attention.
Sergei Lavrov: We have already reached agreements and the Eurasian Economic Community Executive Committee has already set up a working group that will hold consultations and talks this week with Uzbekistan’s working group.
* * *
President Vladimir Putin on work on the implementation of national projects in the social sphere, healthcare, education, housing and agriculture
Dear colleagues, as you remember, I set out a series of national projects on September 5. Essentially, these projects reflect our priorities in the social sphere, in healthcare, education and housing, and also our economic priorities, including in agriculture, which is a sector that requires particular attention from the state. I said at that time that I intended to personally oversee work on these projects. You already know that I have signed the relevant decree and that a council has now been established to oversee this work.
At the same time, I would like to point out that this council’s purpose is above all to oversee the progress of work and, in part, but only in part, to coordinate the work of the different branches of power and the different levels of authority. I am referring here to the plenipotentiary representatives in the regions, the regional heads, the heads of the local offices of the various agencies and the federal agencies, to the extent necessary. I stress that the government with the Prime Minister at its head continues to bear the primary responsibility for organising and carrying out work on the set projects, and no one has relieved the government of its responsibilities in this area. This work is above all the government’s responsibility and these issues all come under its competence. This is my position and I hope that we will achieve effective and well-coordinated work together.