President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Colleagues,
I would like to discuss with you the current situation in the Federal Districts, and federal constituent entities. I do not want to generalise, since that would take hours; instead, we should focus on several specific areas.
I am primarily concerned about back pay in the regions, as well as growing unemployment.
Why am I focusing on these two indicators? Because these indicators reflect the general state of affairs in a given region or federal constituent entity; they are the ones that have the greatest influence on people’s lives.
I think that the Plenipotentiary Envoys participating in this video conference should have a serious and critical counsel with the governors in order to properly distribute responsibilities; administrators need to fulfil their assigned duties.
Our colleagues, the governors, must address the back pay problems, relationships between company owners and trade unions, and the provision of loans to some companies, possibly against future supplies. The governors should be directly involved with the tasks above as we live through the hardships resulting from this crisis, rather than expecting federal authorities or Plenipotentiary Envoys to deal with these matters, although in many cases, support from Plenipotentiary Envoys is also necessary. It is completely unacceptable that local authorities are reluctant to deal with pressing problems and expect the federal government to send its representatives to the region to resolve conflicts. I am requesting that you convey this message to the governors, in absolutely clear and unambiguous terms. If they fail to resolve their regional problems, I will have to fire them, regardless of their previous achievements or the ongoing economic processes. They must do their job properly. Should they lack authority, they must turn to the Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoys and federal agencies, or engage law enforcement authorities in cases of major infractions. But in any event, they must work hard, visit companies to meet with their employees, and summon company owners for joint dispute settlement. They cannot wait for these problems to be resolved by federal authorities or by Presidential Envoys. Otherwise, our entire national government will collapse. That would be the worst case scenario.
Therefore I expect you to carefully monitor all regional problems and, should a need arise, report to me directly. Your prime task, though, is to propel the regional governors to actively do their jobs. They need to stop skirting these problems and hiding in their offices; instead, they must address corporate problems and speak with the workers. It seems to me as though any time there is a labour conflict, local authorities turn to Moscow officials for help. But if the federal government is taking charge of everything, then what is the use of keeping regional executives? We may as well assign officers from federal agencies, each to a specific region, to regularly travel there with problem settlement missions.
I have reviewed the statistics. The unemployment figures you have cited seem to be fair and falling within the nation-wide number of officially unemployed, which is above two million. But in fact, the number of people actively searching for a job is much higher. Thus, employment dynamics overall must be monitored. We need to assist those who have registered at job centres and are thereby included in the official statistics; at the same time, we should not forget those who lost their jobs but have not formalised their unemployment status. To this end, we need to apply more profound statistics, even though the figures may be less comforting.
Another issue is back pay. The figures are disheartening, although not catastrophic. Owed back pay has grown, but at least, more recently, this growth has slowed down. The back pay problem must be addressed by the governors. They should administer the overall process and engage continuous and balanced efforts rather than taking random actions. Under no circumstances should a sharp growth in back pay be allowed. An abrupt growth would be the result of a long neglected problem and continuous back pay accumulation. The subject requires attention from both the Presidential Envoys and regional authorities.
My general conclusion is that you must strictly monitor the overall situation, while the regional governors must take full responsibility of improving employment dynamics, labour market conditions, and back pay figures.
I now instruct each of you to hold meetings with the governors in your Federal Districts. Whether you summon them all at once to your office or visit them one by one is up to you, but you should hold meetings with all of them and make sure that the governors fully comprehend the extent of their responsibility for properly handling the problems we have discussed.
I stated this at the beginning of our meeting, and I will state it again: it is unacceptable that these local problems need to be addressed by top federal authorities. It is the regional governors’ responsibility to resolve these problems, while the Presidential Envoys must supervise their performance. It must be realized. No more relaxed attitudes, and you can tell the governors exactly that. Should the situation in any region become aggravated and begin spinning out of governor’s control, I shall take that as evidence of his poor performance and inability to resolve these problems.
A governor can always hold meetings with subordinates, brainstorm a problem, set a timeline, or merely go out and communicate with the people. I wonder, how often the governors from the regions with major a back pay increase personally speak to people? Not as often as it happens during my visits, I’m afraid.
Anyhow, your tasks have now been outlined.
I expect that we will be holding meetings like this on a regular basis, so that you can report back to me on the latest statistics. Apart from the key indicators we named, there are other indices, such as economic performance data, although they affect people to a lesser degree. In any case, you will now report to me on a monthly basis regarding all major developments, trends, the measures applied, and any failures by civil servants to perform their duties.