President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Shmakov, we meet with you regularly, maybe not as often as we would like to, though we often meet at the Russian Popular Front's events; however, it’s been a long time since we last had a detailed discussion with you. Life goes on, and it is not easy, both in the economy and in other spheres.
In this context, our today’s meeting is a timely one, I mean, that taking into account the developments in the economy, we should not forget about the social issues and the need to safeguard the workers’ interests. This is the area where the resolution of such issues without the involvement of the trade unions, without their leading association, would be quite difficult.
Chairman of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia Mikhail Shmakov: Of course.
Mr President, we have entered the budget preparation period, and a decision was made to put together a budget for one year – 2016 – so the deadlinefor submitting the budget to the State Duma has been pushed back slightly. Thus, during our federation’s executive committee meeting, we discussed this matter and adopted an appeal addressed to you as President, the Prime Minister, and members of the Federal Assembly – State Duma deputies and Federation Council members – on what we think should be taken into account when planning the budget.
It’s possible that our suggestions might be slightly overstated, as always. After all, the Finance Ministry largely determines the parameters of our budget, and the Finance Ministry’s main point is that there is no money. But if there is no money, perhaps we should look at certain changes to the entire economic policy or choose slightly different paths.
Right now, we have a crisis situation due to external and internal factors. Perhaps we need to step back from the consistent economic policy that we followed these years, which had its positive sides but, nevertheless, we see today that for an average person, for any worker, the volume of his or her financial obligations and regular payments is increasing due to the introduction of the proposed new tax scale for property based on its cadastral value, due to the introduction of regular payments for capital renovation of residential buildings, and so on and so forth. In some large cities they even introduce paid parking lots.
These are all additional costs for a family, for an individual, but at the same time, citizens’ incomes are shrinking, and we are seeing a gap. Eventually, we want to carefully analyse all this, so that there is a balance – we should either postpone the measures that lead to an increase in citizens’ mandatory expenditures, or take measures to increase people’s incomes. Otherwise, these scissors can seriously cut your entire socioeconomic policy.
We are particularly concerned that suggestions are made, first and foremost by the Finance Minister, to immediately increase the retirement age, to not adjust pensions for inflation fully but for just half or even less than half of the inflation rate that is expected and that we register today. We feel that these approaches should be revised.
Vladimir Putin: Let’s discuss this.