President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Ilya Iosifovich!
We have already been working on demographic issues in the country for almost two years now. This is not a theme that will go away and it is not one in which punctual decisions will be sufficient. I would like to know how things are going in the Northwest. We met some time ago when I was still in the government cabinet, and met on several occasions to discuss this topic. It should always be at the centre of our purview.
Please go ahead and report.
Plenipotentiary Presidential Representative To the North-Western Federal District Ilya Klebanov: Dmitry Anatolyevich!
The last meeting we had in Murmansk in January touched on this topic as well. I must say that it has been a long time since the North-Western Federal District of Russia witnessed positive demographic trends. Over the past two or three years there has been a clear trend for the better. The past year was a turning point in this regard. First of all, over the past year the mortality rate has drastically declined.
Dmitry Medvedev: By how much?
Ilya Klebanov: Approximately by 15 percent.
Dmitry Medvedev: This is the yearly average.
Ilya Klebanov: Yes, average. In absolute terms, in the past year six million more newborns were born when compared to previous years. We associate this in the first place with increasing incomes, with the growth of family budgets. <…> And, of course, we perceive this primarily as a result of national projects. This includes the standard medical examination, vaccination, wage increases and creating new medical centres. These are key aspects that we considered to be obscure even two years ago. Today, we are actually observing this in practice.
Dmitry Medvedev: Already a year ago I remember that infant mortality in St Petersburg reached a level comparable with that of other European countries, which is quite a stringent comparison, when the figures include children who are born underweight. What is the situation now?
Ilya Klebanov: Today that figure in St Petersburg is higher than the European average, much higher.
Dmitry Medvedev: Higher or lower?
Ilya Klebanov: Mortality is lower. For the first time we have exceeded the 1992 birth rate, which was high even by the standards of the Soviet Union. Then we had a deep recession. The birth rate has begun to grow again in the past few years, and now we have exceeded the figure of 1992. That's very good.
Dmitry Medvedev: That is really good, but now our job is to consolidate all these trends, so that they don’t take another downturn in 18 months or two years, but instead become part of a genuine trend, one that can be calculated over five or ten years. This is because the demographic challenges we face are so serious that they cannot be satisfactorily addressed in one or two years. This is what we have to deal with every day along with you and your fellow governors.
Ilya Klebanov: As you know, up until now we have held weekly meetings concerning all the national priority projects.
Dmitry Medvedev: But why just up until now? Just because I am now working in another capacity is no reason to cancel these meetings.
Ilya Klebanov: The idea is that that they should have become part of our people's consciousness by now.
Dmitry Medvedev: And they should become part of people's everyday life. Let us continue to have these meetings and, most importantly, continue to work on all these essential issues.