President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Mr Khoroshavin, we just visited one of the islands in the Kuril chain and took a look at the current situation there. Overall, we have managed to improve the situation of late, change things for the better, building new housing and social facilities. This is good because all of this improves living standards and gives people reason to hope that they will soon enjoy the same kind of life as those on the mainland – a modern and relatively prosperous life. But there is still much work to be done to reach this goal.
We visited one of the recently built apartment blocks which is modern and comfortable and constructed of modern materials. The only thing the residents pointed out is that some auxiliary facilities should have been built too. This is to be taken into account when erecting other new apartments of this type. You should continue building new homes, given the share of old housing still in use that needs to be replaced.
Social facilities are important too, of course. We visited a kindergarten. It has good modern design and can take 110 children. This will clearly help to shorten the waiting list for kindergarten places in Yuzhno-Kurilsk. Overall, it offers children comfortable and modern conditions. Similar kindergartens should be built in other places too. I know that there is a programme underway to do just this, but people are still on the waiting lists for now.
Of course public services must be developed as well in order to bring living and social standards on the Kuril Islands up to the national level. The services in this remote corner of our country must offer similar possibilities to those in Sakhalin Region and the country in general. There is a need to get highly professional doctors to come to the islands, as people there say there is a shortage of medical specialists in the various particular medical fields. Of course we cannot simply order people to go and work on the islands. This is why we need a targeted housing construction programme, so that people who go there can count on decent housing conditions and incentives to work and stay there for a long time, even for good.
Again, I note that the public mood there is generally alright. I talked with people when visiting a block of flats, in the streets, and in a shop. This means that we simply should work on improving the social conditions on the Kuril Islands. This is your task.
Governor of Sakhalin Region Alexander Khoroshavin: Thank you for this assessment of our efforts, Mr President. Of course we realise that we still have much to do, as you quite rightly pointed out.
We consider the people living on the Kuril Islands the same way we do all people in Sakhalin Region. They are our people too, and it so happens that they are living on these islands, but their lives must not differ in any respect from life in the Sakhalin Region in general and in Russia as a whole.
Thank you very much for the help that the federal authorities are giving us. The federal targeted programme for the Kuril Islands is probably the only programme of its kind specifically targeting just one area. The programme will allocate 18 billion rubles [around $600 million] for the period to 2015. This programme’s implementation, along with the money that the region is investing, will considerably improve the situation on the Kuril Islands. This includes infrastructure issues, developing the fishing industry, which, as you saw, is the main industry on the islands, and resolving a number of social problems. We will work on all of this.
Today, we are opening two new kindergartens on the Kuril Islands, one on Shikotan, and one on Kunashir. We have thus almost resolved entirely the problem with places in kindergartens on these two islands and will soon settle this problem on Iturup too.
We are building new housing on Kunashir, Shikotan, and Iturup. This includes housing for public sector specialists too, teachers, doctors, and other professionals, as you mentioned just now as being so essential for people living on the Kuril Islands. It is very important to offer these people normal and decent conditions, and I consider this my task.
Dmitry Medvedev: That is correct. I will additionally speak to the Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District. We are to offer reasonable conditions for doing business here, too. Considerable progress has been made here of late. New production facilities are opening in the fishing industry. But further efforts are necessary to launch new sites, set new businesses, buy new equipment, and sort out logistics, delivery and retail sales problems, because all of this is time and money consuming. This is not merely a regional problem but a federal issue requiring coordination in activities of various federal agencies. I will issue respective instructions on this subject.
Alexander Khoroshavin: You are absolutely right on the business prospects, Mr President. We have proposals from businesses, especially in the fishing industry, proposals to promote joint production on Shikotan Island, where fishing is traditionally the main sector, and on Iturup too. I hope very much that the port under construction in Yuzhno-Kurilsk, which we visited today and which is near completion now, will do a lot to help develop the fishing industry on Kunashir too. We will promote new businesses of course, not only in the fishing industry, but in other areas as well.
Dmitry MEDVEDEV: Yes, the quay makes a good impression. It is not ready for full operation yet, but we can see already how important it is for industry and for normal life. It is no good having freight and passengers unloaded out in the harbour, as even today with minor wind we could see huge waves. This means supply and safety problems. Once the port facilities are launched they will offer new opportunities for advancing industries and for normal life in general, and so the sooner the wharf is commissioned the better.