The meeting began with a report, at the President’s request, from Healthcare Minister Veronika Skvortsova on the epidemiological situation in Russia.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues.
Today, we will discuss support measures for several economic sectors in need of additional, targeted support. We will hear from Mr Shuvalov and Mr Manturov.
But before we turn to the matters on our agenda, I would like to ask Ms Skvortsova to begin with the epidemiological situation in the country as a whole and in Moscow in particular.
Healthcare Minister Veronika Skvortsova: Colleagues,
Last summer we started preparing very thoroughly for this year’s epidemic season. For the first time since monitoring began, we vaccinated more than 45 million people – a third of the country’s population, and the vaccinations used contain the strains responsible for the current epidemic.
Studies conducted in November show that immunity in the population was more than 61 percent for swine flu, and more than 77–85 percent for all other strains of flu.
This means that overall, with the vaccinations, people will either not catch the flu or, if they do catch it, their symptoms will be milder and not so serious.
The flu that has taken us to epidemic level arrived in Russia in the second week of January, and what is somewhat unusual is that it came up through the southern regions – Rostov and Volgograd regions and Stavropol Territory. Epidemics usually arrive from the east, but this time, it has come from regions in a poor epidemic situation in Eastern Europe, including in Ukraine.
Epidemics have been declared in 47 regions in all federal districts, except the Crimean Federal District. On all counts, the epidemic is of mid-intensity at present. The epidemic threshold has been exceeded by 31.5 percent on average around the country.
As far as the spread of different strains goes, H1N1 swine flu strains account for 75 to 95 percent, with other strains considerably less apparent. The epidemic’s severity is no worse than similar epidemics in past years. People who were not vaccinated have the most serious symptoms, especially people in the risk groups: children under the age of two, pregnant women and adults with chronic illnesses or who are late to seek medical assistance.
Let me note that the situation is fully under control and the system is ready in terms of both monitoring the flu situation and providing medical help.
(Ms Skvortsova went on to speak about the availability of anti-viral medicines on the market, infectious diseases hospitals’ preparedness levels, and flu prevention measures among the public).
Overall, we have the situation under control. It has not exceeded the limits of our usual situation in this season, and we hope it will stay this way.
Vladimir Putin: Ms Skvortsova, there is some new bug from Latin America on its way, some new virus. Mosquitos cannot fly across the oceans of course, but infected people can and do. This virus has already arrived in Europe. Can you say a couple of words on this, please?
Veronika Skvortsova: This is the Zika virus. We have been monitoring it from the moment it appeared. Now, we are working on keeping new, unknown strains under control, including those that have gained new characteristics through laboratory development, and making sure we have Russian-made medicines for prevention and treatment. We have a closed list of similar infectious agents and are working on this issue now.
Vladimir Putin: I ask you to give this matter your attention, because as far as I know, this illness affects pregnant women and can have serious consequences for children. We therefore need to give this our attention. You have good experience here. This requires work with transport companies, airlines, understanding the symptoms and responding rapidly. Of course, we also need to work on the medicines.
Veronika Skvortsova: Yes, certainly. This is ongoing work.
Vladimir Putin: Good. Thank you.
This year, Mr Trutnev headed Russia’s delegation at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Could you say a few words about your impressions?
Deputy Prime Minister and Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District Yury Trutnev: Mr President,
In Davos, we concentrated above all on organising work with big companies interested in investing in the Russian Federation. We held talks with a number of large companies from the Asia-Pacific region and Europe, and mapped out our next steps. This work concerns primarily investment in the Far East.
There was a session devoted to Russia and we had a number of meetings with colleagues from European governments. They mostly raised two questions.
The first was that their economies are also suffering losses due to the sanctions imposed on Russia, and they think efforts should be organised to get these sanctions lifted as soon as possible.
As for the second question, we had a number of meetings with government and company officials from oil exporting countries, and they say too that they are not happy with the world oil prices. They think that with prices at this level, it is not possible to invest in oil exploration and developing new fields, especially offshore fields. They therefore raised the issue of coordinating action in this area in order to change the price. If we do not do this, at some point in the future, humanity will simply end up facing an energy supply shortage.
Finally, there was a meeting of world leaders, which also gave considerable attention to relations with Russia. I spoke at that meeting too.
We heard some quite harsh criticism from [NATO Secretary General Jens] Stoltenberg, and [President of Ukraine Petro] Poroshenko spoke too. I simply described the picture as Russia’s people – 90 percent of our 146 million people – see it, and said that the situation is really quite the opposite.
Vladimir Putin: You should be more careful in your words, all right?
I recently took part in the Small Business – National Idea? forum organised by OPORA Russia. Mr Shuvalov, I know a list of instructions has already been drafted and the Government is preparing to implement them. Could you say a few words on this?
Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov: Mr President, colleagues,
You took part in the national forum organised by public organisation OPORA Russia on January 20. The forum’s sessions looked at whether small business really is a national idea for our country, and, if not, what measures the federal government and the regional authorities should take. You took part in the plenary session, answered questions and listened to requests.
On January 26, you signed the list of instructions sent out to the Government, Central Bank and regional authorities. Mr President, regarding your earlier instructions, particularly those concerning implementation of the anti-crisis plan in 2015, the Government and the legislators have completed practically all of the work. The only matter still outstanding is to carry out your instruction to define the status of self-employed people so that they can register with the tax authorities as self-employed and pay the relevant insurance and tax payments.
Vladimir Putin: It is important to get this done.
Igor Shuvalov: We have completed all of the other work planned, including establishing the new federal corporation and transferring funds to it, taking the Bank for Small and Medium Enterprises out from under Vnesheconombank’s responsibility and putting it under the new corporation’s operations management, and other steps. Among other things, the plan we are drafting now will contain a substantial support package for small and medium business in 2016.
(Mr Shuvalov went on to speak about needed legislative amendments, work with complaints from the public about businesspeople’s actions, preventing the use of various tax evasion schemes, and the work of banks in which the state has a stake).
Businesspeople addressed the following request to you. They say that in the current difficulties, the domestic market’s possibilities are not as big as we would like, budget resources are limited, and small and medium businesses are therefore opening up new export opportunities. They want the Russian Export Centre to concentrate not only on big projects but also to establish a support system for small and medium businesses’ export contracts, and they want the Russian trade offices abroad to reformat their work in accordance.
We held a meeting of the relevant Vnesheconombank committee on this matter and listened to the different points of view. There are various proposals here, for example, to have the Russian Export Centre continue to focus on larger contracts, while the Federal Corporation for Supporting Small and Medium Business, acting under the Export Centre’s methodological direction, will take care of smaller contracts.
But we will nevertheless start by seeing if we can base this network at the Russian Export Centre or build it in partnership with this corporation. In any event, the work will be done and we will provide all possible export support measures.
Vladimir Putin: The trade offices can work with small and large businesses.
Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev: We are launching ten projects at our trade offices in Asia and Europe, which will set up trading houses together with the Russian Export Centre. The Russian Export Centre and the trade offices will create a single platform, which can be used to actively promote these services for small and medium business.
Vladimir Putin: That is the right approach. Thank you.
Ms Golodets, the Russian Popular Front held its first regional forum on Monday, its first regional conference. Many issues were raised at that event, but one of the most frequent was the question of accessible education and its quality. I know the Education and Science Ministry is currently working on a project called Open School. Could you tell us about it?
Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets: Mr President,
We see that demand for online education is constantly on the rise in Russia today. We have two big projects underway right now. One is about online education for people with disabilities, and provides for kids who have disabilities and need to study from home. We have 19,000 people using this system. The system is in operation and the quality of the teaching provided is improving all the time. This is one of the priorities for our education system in general.
The second system was launched on your instruction in 2014. This is a big programme called Education in Russian. The portal began work in 2014, with 78,000 people as regular listeners. We now have 320,000 regular listeners in 174 countries. Demand for this portal’s services is growing very fast and the portal has 2.5 million users now. We see the biggest demand coming from countries where there is limited access to the Russian language, education in Russian and Russian culture. Demand is highest for classes that teach about Russian culture and Russian and Soviet traditions, and that acquaint users with Russian life. This portal will continue to develop.
These courses also show just what big demand there is for an online school on the domestic and international markets. In other words, there is demand for a full online general school programme here in Russia and abroad.
This project will start work in December 2016. Initially it will be an open educational resource. All subjects, from the first year of school through to the final year of school are being prepared and read now by Russia’s best teachers. Teaching support materials include the best video material we have, the benchmark works in Russian literature, culture and art. This project will work as an auxiliary portal at first and provide an important support resource for Russian education, especially in remote regions. Starting in 2018, it will work as an actual school, in other words, it will be possible to enrol in this school, receive an education, and obtain a school education certificate.
The project is designed to function as a school for up to 1 million people, and we hope to have it working at design capacity by 2020.
Vladimir Putin: Good. This is a good project.
Let’s turn to the main item on our agenda now – support for specific economic sectors.