President Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues,
We are meeting today to discuss the state and development of Russia’s roads.
We have been paying particular attention to modernising our transport infrastructure in recent years. Modern transport hubs and arteries are one of the basic conditions for economic growth, and, as you know, this was named as one of the priorities in the annual presidential addresses of the last two years.
Transport infrastructure determines the intensity of economic ties and the mobility of labour, goods and services. Modern international road transport corridors provide entry to the highly profitable market in transit and transport services. The business prospects of entire Russian regions, their investment attractiveness and the quality of life of their people depend directly on having an extensive road network.
The negative experience of many countries shows that much planning and action can be undertaken to bring about economic growth, but it soon hits the ceiling of infrastructure limitations, a shortage of decent roads and low throughput capacity of bridges and ports, if timely action is not taken in these areas.
Road transport today accounts for 77 percent of freight and 60 percent of passenger traffic in Russia, and the volume of international traffic is also growing substantially.
Russia has one of the most extensive road networks in the world, but in terms of density and quality we are still behind the leading countries.
Almost a third of the federal highways are overloaded. I looked at this issue with the minister [Transport Minister Igor Levitin] today and he reported on this situation. A little way out of Moscow and the situation is more or less normal, but the closer you come to the main centres, practically all the roads are overloaded. Bad roads are costing the state and the national economy huge losses – up to six percent of GDP a year — and more than 12 million Russian citizens still cannot travel by road all year round.
The lack of real roads places a heavy burden on the rural areas, making it immensely difficult to get to the nearest district centres, hospitals and schools.
It is clear that we need to increase considerably the amount of road construction and rebuilding work. But we cannot carry out such a huge undertaking solely by increasing budget expenditure in this area and redistributing state resources.
Road construction must become a sector in which the state and business work effectively together, a sector that is attractive for investment.
We still do not have the modern legislative base we need for this to happen, nor have we developed suitable principles for financing and managing roads.
The rights and obligations of the state and local authorities at all levels for the state and development of roads need to be clearly regulated. We need to put in place effective mechanisms for attracting extra-budgetary funds and drawing on the possibilities of private companies in road management, including on the basis of concession agreements, stable and long-term contracts for the construction and operation of roads.
It is very important to regulate land and property relations in the construction and rebuilding of roads. In this area we need legislative acts on the reservation of land and clear procedures for the purchase of land for state needs.
I know that the working group has drafted a proposal on a special federal law on roads for this meeting, and today we will discuss how realistic a framework it provides for settling all of the issues I just mentioned.
Furthermore, we also need to have a detailed discussion on promoting technological and management innovation in this sector. Only in this way will we be able to reduce costs and improve the quality of road construction.
Finally, one very important aspect that we must not under any circumstances forget is the lives and health of our citizens. We have raised this issue in the past and I spoke about it in my last Annual Address with regard to the demographic problem. Road accidents are one of the main causes of the high premature death rate among relatively young people, especially men, and this issue also depends on the quality of our roads.
Roads have traditionally been labelled one of Russia’s eternal problems, and tackling this issue is an ungrateful task, but we do not have the right to ignore the urgent and serious problems our country faces. The housing problem is just as important. But if we back away from tackling the toughest issues, if we are afraid to grab hold of them and start making decisions, we will never resolve them. I therefore ask you to take very seriously the matter that we will be discussing today.