To Internet Users
Once again I would like to sincerely thank everyone in Russia and in other countries who asked questions and closely followed the interactive webcast. It was very interesting and useful for me to know just what topics are of interest to you. And during the webcast in the time allotted by the organizers I tried to answer a number of your questions.
However, when I read responses on the Internet I felt that many users were expecting a more cheerful and relaxed dialogue. I must say that this did not depend only on me, but also on the organizers. And they chose the questions that they thought were the most topical. And I answered these questions independently of whether I liked them or not.
I hope that in the future the style and format of a webcast, the fact that it is open and direct, will help authorities and society engage in a more constructive dialogue. We are ready to encourage this and are open to this possibility. And, incidentally, your responses show that Russia is not inferior in this respect but, on the contrary, is setting a world trend in this regard.
The President of Russia has two websites, an official site and a children’s site. And before the G8 in St Petersburg we decide to give its guests and, of course, the world’s Internet users the opportunity to better get to know the Kremlin – the centre and symbol of Russia. We are launching a unique project in which the Kremlin is open to every visitor. One can even come into my cabinet and other rooms that are usually closed to tourists.
Question 1: Here is my question. I am a young graduate who has finished studying and must now look for work. Yet in other developed countries it is the employers that look for employees among young graduates and this was also the case during the Soviet Union. In your opinion could there be, for example, a decree to settle this question? And I am not referring to the fact that the employer should come to an educational establishment, offer young graduates a position following their studies, and provide them with a scholarship during their studies.
Ivan, 19 years old, Ishim.
Answer: It is true that in many countries of the world students make contracts and study at the expense of companies that they go on to work for. This also exists in Russia. For example, a number of metallurgical, engineering and energy companies have a history of training graduates for themselves, paying for their education and giving them a stipendy. And undoubtedly we must develop this tradition of partnership between universities and business. Including by adopting legislation to stimulate it.
As a whole, I consider that university programs must be more oriented towards the requirements of the labour market. And we are actively trying to modernize the Russian education system in this direction. So that with the participation of employers we are starting to develop new standards for vocational training. And according to the suggestions from influential organisations of employers such as the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Association of Russian Construction Companies, we are already creating new lists of the professions that are most in demand.
Question 2: Dear Mr President, do you consider uncontrolled immigration and the fact that communities other than Russia’s native nationalities are moving to our cities as threats to Russia’s national security? Are you afraid that the catastrophe that took place in the Serbian territory of Kosovo could happen in our country? You say that we have problems with demography; we should welcome all those from the CIS and other countries who consider Russia to be their native land instead of taking in those who don’t have jobs in their own independent republics!
Evgenii, 27 years old.
Answer: I agree that uncontrolled, illegal immigration is fraught with serious problems. They include criminalisation in the labour market, increased tensions in society, and black market financing. At the end of the day, this does constitute a serious threat to the state’s internal stability. And you know this from a number of recent examples in European states… We must fight effectively against these threats and prevent them before they become dangerous.
Today the scale of immigration into Russia is growing, just as it is in other countries. And we must have an effective migration policy that corresponds to modern-day requirements and strictly observes the rights and freedoms of the person and the citizen.
We must only attract foreigners based on the needs of the Russian economy. In addition, we must increase the responsibility incumbent to employers if they violate the regulations for foreign workforce employment.
We must not forget that an effective migration policy is one way to improve the demographic situation. And one of the priorities in this field is assisting the voluntary resettlement in Russia of compatriots living abroad. The so-called migratory potential of compatriots living abroad amounts to approximately 6,7 million people. These people have been brought up according to the traditions of Russian culture, speak Russian, do not want to lose their ties with Russia. As such, they have all possible opportunities to adapt well to Russian society. In connection with this we adopted a special state programme to assist compatriots wishing to resettle in Russia.
Question 3. Vladimir Vladimirovich! Today on every street there are more gaming halls with slot machines then garbage cans! When will we resolve the problem of the constantly increasing number of gaming halls?
Ksenia, 20 years old.
Answer: I share your concern. And the fact that the number of gaming halls has increased rapidly over the past few years is due to several factors, including certain defects in the legislative base of the Russian Federation.
I hope that the law on the gambling business which will undergo its second reading before the State Duma in autumn will help get things under control. I know that deputies have foreseen various restrictions as to where slot machines can be installed.
Question 4: The salary of federal employees is so small, that such a salary only covers food and traveling to work. This does not give people who have chosen to work for the state the opportunity to have families and to ensure their worthy existence and development. Such a situation encourages corruption and encourages qualified personnel to leave the civil service. In short, this results in disorder in all parts of civil service. I am confident that the situation can be changed quite easily. When will the government be interested in having honest state employees?
Andrei, 27 years old, St Petersburg.
Answer: Yes, the salaries of civil servants are really very small, though in practice they increase every three years. In addition, legislation stipulates that the salaries of civil servants are connected to the salaries of servicemen and personnel in the law enforcement agencies. And if we increase the salaries of civil servants then we must increase the salaries of all these categories of employees. It is obvious that to do this at once would be difficult.
Along with this, recently we have made decisions to improve the salary system for civil servants, something that will allow us to attract more qualified personnel into this field. This must increase the attractiveness and the competitiveness of working in the civil service, and ensure that promising young graduates go into this field. And according to the state’s financial capacities and economic growth we will continue to further increase the salaries of civil servants.
Question 5: Good afternoon, dear Mr Putin! In many countries and cities there is a ban on building in historical centres and destroying old architecture. And yet where I live nobody seems worried on this account. I live in Kaluga and I have seen with my own eyes how old Kaluga has been transformed into an ugly set of plastic cubes and glass walls. And the historical estates and manors have been turned into faceless ruins. Can you solve the problem connected with preserving our historical heritage? Thanks.
Veniamin, 22 years old.
Answer: I must say at once that the problem of construction in historic neighbourhoods and city centres is topical for all states without exception. Each country’s legislation plays an important role in ensuring that cultural monuments are preserved and making sure that someone is held responsible for damaging them.
In Russia we have a number of documents that regulate these issues. First and foremost they are the Town Planning Code and the federal law “On Cultural Heritage Installations (Historical and Cultural Monuments) of the Peoples of the Russian Federation”. The corresponding legislation is also developing at the regional level. We also have federal and regional target programmes to preserve monuments of cultural heritage.
The town planning code stipulates that by 2010 we must establish a system that regulates construction in historical centres by proposing general plans for the development of these cities. To preserve the historical environment for cities such as Kaluga these general plans must contain the corresponding zones for protecting monuments. Therefore much depends on the way that bureaucrats, architects and builders implement this law and the extent to which society exerts control over their activities.
In my opinion these architectural monuments and especially the historical centres of cities represent a huge historical, cultural and spiritual heritage. It is important to protect and to value them. And if one constructs something new then it should fit in harmoniously with older buildings that have been restored.
Question 6: Dear Mr President! The major problem of Russian science is the catastrophic condition of its equipment, equipment which has become outdated and is not competitive at the international level. In order to update our equipment we must import expensive scientific equipment. Purchasing such equipment abroad will obviously not increase inflation in Russia. Do you think that it would be possible to use the Stabilisation Fund for this important purpose?
Answer: I share your concern. And I would like to say at once that the money we allocate to science includes financial resources to purchase instruments and other scientific equipment. I shall point out that during these past years there has been a positive dynamic in budgetary resources allocated for science. As such, in 2006 the budgetary sums allocated towards developing science and the high-tech field amounted to 72,4 billion rubles — 14,1 billion rubles more then the previous year. And yet we understand that of course even this money is not enough. And the budget remains the basic source for financing research and development. The private sector still amounts to less than one third of internal expenses in the sciences.
The Stabilisation Fund was established on 1 January 2004 and is a part of the federal budget. Its financial means are intended, first and foremost, to strengthen the financial system, balance the budget and restrain inflation in Russia.
So the financial means of the Stabilisation Fund which, incidentally, as of 1 July 2006 amount to 2,066.8 billion rubles can be directed towards covering deficiencies in the federal budget in the event that there is a steep decrease in the world oil price. And if the sum saved up over one year exceeds 500 billion rubles then according to our legislation the budgetary resources contained in the Fund can be used for other purposes. For example, last year 30 billion rubles were allocated to Pension Fund. And another 643,1 billion rubles were allocated towards repaying the debts of the Russian Federation ahead of schedule. Such payments will continue.
In addition, a part of the financial resources must be reserved for ensuring that the country has long-term stable social and economic conditions in the interests of future generations.
I shall also note that we are paying serious attention to updating fixed capital. So over 2002–2005 investments in fixed capital doubled. And a significant share of these investments were in transportation, communications, manufacturing and towards the extraction of natural resources.
Gradually the deterioration of fixed capital in these industries has started to lessen. The amount of fixed capital that was updated in 2004–2005 twice exceeded amount of fixed capital that was disposed of. At the same time, as a whole this is still not enough, and in a number of industries, for example the electric power industry, the percentage of capital being updated amounts to only 0,6 percent.
In addition to this, over the past few years the state has taken steps to stimulate updating production and providing it with new technology, especially in the manufacturing sector. This year we have abolished import taxes on technological equipment that is not produced in Russia. We have abolished taxes on almost 800 kinds of industrial products intended for aviation and ship building, metallurgy, wood processing and agriculture.
A number of tax measures have been implemented. As of 1 January 2006 in Russia we are providing compensation for the VAT on capital construction. This means that, for example, if a factory is being built then the VAT is reimbursed to the company during the process of construction, not after the factory has been completed.
As of 1 January 2006 when calculating taxes on their profits, companies will also have the opportunity to immediately include 10 percent of the cost of equipment they have acquired as part of their expenses.
And I want to emphasise that the state’s work in this direction will continue.
Question 7: Vladimir Vladimirovich, does Russia have effective ways of pressuring the European Union with a view to improving the human rights situation of the compatriots in the Baltic countries?
Aleksandr, 36 years old, Riga.
Answer: Russia has not put pressure on anybody in the European Union and is not preparing to do so. Instead, we are always trying to raise the issue with our EU partners and insisting that the Baltic countries must comply with international obligations and recommendations in this sphere.
Our position consists in convincing the EU of the necessity of revising the present policy of double standards with respect to human rights. And nothing more is required than Riga and Tallinn implementing the corresponding recommendations from internationally recognized structures such as the OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities, the Council of Europe Commissioner on Human Rights and also the provisions of the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, and the Council of Europe Charter on Regional or Minority Languages.
Question 8: Dear Mr. President, considering the fact that there is a global renaissance in the expanded use of nuclear power to generate electricity, will you be discussing in your upcoming meetings with President Bush how Russia and the United States can more closely work together to allow Russia to provide nuclear fuel services directly to U.S. nuclear utilities?
James A. Tramuto, Washington, USA.
Answer: Thank you for your question. That issue you raise once again confirms the competitiveness of our companies’ high-tech products in international markets.
But the problem that you mentioned really does exist. And Mr Bush and I will discuss this theme.
I shall note that we also do not agree with the discriminatory restrictions that presently apply to the activities of Russian nuclear power companies operating in the U.S.. And these companies would like to deliver uranium to your nuclear power stations directly and not through a monopolistic intermediary that we think is simply unnecessary.
The task that we are setting ourselves involves ensuring free access to the market. Russian nuclear companies do not need preferential treatment. The only thing that we want is to be allowed to compete as equals in the international market, including in the American market.
Question 9: What do you feed your dog?
Marina, 24 years old, Moscow.
Answer: My dog eats porridge with meat two or three times a day. I always ask my guests not to give her anything since, as you know, this only brings a dog additional problems. But I don’t think that my guests always listen to my wishes. Sometimes Koni leaves the room where journalists are with a very happy face and cookie crumbs on her muzzle. For that reason I would like to say once again to everyone who comes to my house, and this time over the Internet: please, do not feed my dog.
Question 10: Vladimir Vladimirovich, do you consider that you are doing what you like best?
Father Georgii, 27 years old, Kazan.
Question 11: How did you earn money in the summer?
Sergei, 17 years old, Moscow.
Answer: Sergei, when I was your age I worked on construction sites and earned what amounted to quite good money at that time. But to be honest, I must say that this money was not always well spent.