Opening Address at the Meeting of the Council for Realisation of Priority National Projects and Demographic Policy 2008-12-24 23:50:52 The Kremlin, Moscow The President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon, respected colleagues! We have come together today at the meeting of The Council for realisation of national projects in order to discuss questions of all national projects development during the years 2009–2012, and here I have in mind education, healthcare, residential construction and agriculture. I would like to stress one thing, right at the start of these discussions. The national projects must be fully realised, in spite of any crises, problems and difficulties of the current time. The government must fully finance all their obligations for 2009 for the simple reason that these national projects play a very significant role in the country’s social development, and that should be openly acknowledged, they have already demonstrated their efficiency in the course of the years we have been working on them together so far. To some degree the national projects are being developed within government programmes, one example of this would be projects like the development of the agro-industrial complex. Here some short results can be noted. The growth in agricultural production in the course of this year is around nine per cent. This figure is high by any standards. Of course this was in part helped by the grain harvest — which hit a fifteen year high of more than 110 million tonnes. But all in all the increase in domestic produce’s share of the market did come about to a great extent thanks to the influence of the national projects. There has been a direct result of the work done in the agricultural sector – namely the introduction of new technology, the multiple increase in supply of agricultural machinery, and a growth in the production of mineral fertilizers. I would like to repeat once again, that full state support will continue here. We are talking about subsidies, about interventions in purchasing and commodities, about customs tariffs regulation, and about the optimisation of taxation. Regarding the credit for agricultural producers, as is well known, the decision was taken to increase the subsidy rates from two thirds (the sum which we had compensated in previous years) to 80 per cent. However I would especially like to draw attention of the government cabinet to the fact that, apart from state support it is necessary develop both small businesses in villages, and market mechanisms as a whole, those about which, personally speaking, we have already spoken several times at events such as this. There are more problems than successes – and this is especially true in agriculture, and all are well known – those on the production side as well as those in the social sphere. It is vital to act to develop the infrastructure, to continue the extension of the gas supply, itself another theme which we started working actively on several years ago. While the figures for the “gasification” of rural areas, linking them to the gas supply, is not as high as we would have liked, still we have made significant moves forward. It is vital that roads are built, that the infrastructure is developed and that at the same time social provisions are modernised in rural areas. In fact, all areas of rural life require modernisation – because the countryside is not simply a production site or a business, it is the way of life of a vast number of our countrymen, a third of the population of the country. We must continue to work on opening up GPs practices, new schools and libraries, sports and cultural facilities, all of which are greatly needed in rural areas today. Given the circumstances of the financial crisis it is vital to seek out new approaches, new development niches. This in the most direct way relates also to the national projects, whose ideology was at some point proposed as the most modern, original ideology. In this sense the experience of the “Education” programme is particularly indicative. It has already helped raise the level of education in more than fifteen thousand schools, which directly affects the quality of education for six million of our children, not mentioning the fact that we have together achieved the linkup of all Russian schools to the internet, the strengthening of the IT curriculum in schools, which also facilitates modern education. Federal and national research universities are being established, which should return academic research to universities and prompt a new demand for higher education. The system of encouraging the best teachers and talented young people has also proved useful. All these initiatives must of course be preserved going forward. We have also undertaken equipment replacement – teaching materials, improving the quality of school food, the purchase of school buses. Here I would like to note that it is in just these areas that we have succeeded in creating a very good, modern mechanism, where the efforts from the federal centre are supplemented by decisions taken in the regions. Thanks to the national project “Health” thousands of doctors and nurses have moved from their former, somewhat dire conditions of work in normal out-patient hospitals, which used to be in a rather difficult condition. Many of them died out simply from a dearth of staff, there simply weren’t doctors with the required specialities. First aid has become more accessible and of a higher quality. Highly technical specialities, which we have also been actively concerned with, have been able to quadruple in volume of patients they see. Waiting time for ambulances have decreased from thirty five to twenty five minutes as a result of the supply of medical transport facilities which previously had not changed in our country for, essentially, forty years. The mass immunisation programme, the birth certificate programme, and other measures also without doubt have also hit the target. The results are there for all to see – this year we had over one hundred thousand more births than last year, and the natural population decline index has decreased by more than a factor of two. That means we have overseen a population growth of approximately six per cent, or possibly even a little bit more than that. This is movement towards the goals that we set ourselves within the framework of projected demographic development of the country. In this sense so far we have had no failures, we are meeting the targets and we must do everything we can to ensure the demographic programme develops along the lines which were envisaged when it was established. There are obvious results in the housing project too. With the help of state support, more than 80 thousand young families have been housed. The annual increase in mortgages given has increased tenfold, and residential construction has grown by 40%. Of course, these indicators will be affected by the crisis. Nonetheless we must do everything we can to ensure that what we have achieved so far is preserved. I would like to single out for particular attention a programme for ensuring housing for veterans of the Second World War. We agreed, that this would be resolved by the next Victory day, and that must be done irrespective of any difficulties. I stress again that in spite of whatever alterations are necessary, it must not become the basis for rolling back on these social programmes. Here we must also proceed from the understanding that, even where corrections are necessary, and it is necessary to reduce the financing for this or that sector – this must not be the case in the social sphere. In the medium term we must ensure that, as events develop, we return to the discussion of these questions next year. Of course we must move forward. Indeed, new directions will appear within the national projects – such as distance learning for handicapped children, the development of the treatment of cancer measures, additional preventative treatment for teenagers. The efficient use of budgetary resources is particularly important at the moment. Because of the crisis the growth rate of construction has diminished, and we know well that we must take serious steps to ensure that those projects already begun are finished, first of all residential sites, while being constantly attentive to the cost dynamics of construction. Prices for materials are already falling, construction industry costs are also falling, and thus the purchase prices of apartments should also fall. This could also be an additional reason to resolve some difficult problems. In seeking to resolve today’s problems we must not forget about tomorrow. After all, the crisis will end, that’s how the economy works, and we will need again to increase our construction of residential properties. That is why today we should be ready to prepare plots of land for future construction, of course, and do what we can to improve the transport and communications infrastructure. To this end, as we agreed, a special housing construction fund has been established. In general, any crisis is a time to be versatile in decision making. I will give you one example — housing for young families. In one sense this is a very difficult problem which we have discussed many times. But, on the other hand extra opportunities have appeared which are put forward by the government and which may be supported in the regions. First of all, there are already grants given to college graduates and young families. Secondly amendments to the Russian Federation’s Tax Code have been made which increase the tax deduction applicable on purchase of an apartment from one to two million rubles. And, thirdly and finally, we agreed to revoke the moratorium on the use of maternal capital in the application for a mortgage, and families can contribute money to the purchase of a property. These are three positions, which have at the very least not got worse, and which may be used to resolve the housing problem for young people. But of course, business continues to have a particular significance. The tasks here are general: we need to think of professional development of our people, perhaps in some cases we need to protect part of the wages to ensure that in this difficult period people can raise their qualification standards, and prepare for more normal working conditions. This we can do together with business. In conclusion I would particularly like to stress, that all those who are present here today, I hope, understand, and here I have in mind above all the regional leaders, that the priority national projects are not just piece of cake, are not nice additions to their financing from the federal budget. Dear colleagues, they are the very programmes that we originated together, and on which we have worked together for the past few years. I can tell you from my personal experience, you know I used to work on this, and continue to today, that this has become one of the most resonant themes. And wherever I go, and with whomever I am speaking, people always ask me “Are you going to close everything down because of the crisis, or will it continue?” That is why I would like to end where I began, nothing will be closed down, it will all continue. The national projects will be financed next year, just as they are supposed to be.