President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good evening, colleagues,
Today, we are holding an expanded State Council Presidium meeting with the regional governors, Government members and heads of State Council working groups.
To begin, I would like to congratulate you on an anniversary, September 1: the State Council in its current form observed its 20th anniversary.
Let me remind you that this body was established at the proposal of the MPs and governors of the Russian regions, and since then has played an important, I’d say even strategic role in the system of government bodies, as well as in drafting legislative initiatives and implementing practical measures “on the ground,” so to speak, in the regions and even the municipalities of Russia.
I would like to emphasise that it is impossible to make strategic decisions in such a large, complicated, versatile and multi-ethnic country as Russia without relying on the opinion of the regions, without understanding their basic specific features and without feedback. I would like to note that the regional aspect of the development has been historically inherent in Russian statehood.
At one time, even in the Russian Empire, a unitary country by nature, fairly flexible, unconventional managerial methods were used as regards different administrative and ethnic territories, which made it possible to consider their peculiarities, and we must follow these principles even more in our federative state. Let me repeat that the State Council has a great role to play in this respect.
The State Council has acquired new status in this anniversary year, which was fixed in the country’s basic law – the Constitution of the Russian Federation.
I believe this decision will have a positive effect on the activities of the authorities at all levels and will give them an extra boost both in resolving current issues and in pursuing our long-term plans.
Today, with the regions, we will discuss an issue that is largely mapping out Russia’s progress and will shape Russia’s development in the years to come. It sets the rate and quality of joint work to be done by the state, business and public organisations, goals that target the improvement of life for our country’s citizens.
This issue concerns our national goals, the fine-tuning of the key tools for achieving them, national projects with a view to a high rate of change in the country and globally, new demands from our citizens and experience acquired in recent years, and objective trends in the economy and social sphere. I mean, among other things, the challenges facing Russia and our entire civilisation during the coronavirus pandemic.
I would like to stress once again that the fight against this epidemic is far from over, it is ongoing. We cannot relax and let our guard down.
I would like to address all of our people again. Friends, the risks persist. I want to ask you to remember this and show the utmost responsibility for yourselves and those near you. I ask you to follow all the recommendations from the doctors and specialists. We need this for safety, to protect your health.
Now we know much more about this dangerous disease than we did just a few months ago. We know how to respond and how to build up preventive measures. But now the outcome of our common efforts on fighting the spread of the virus depends on everyone so that we won’t have to resort to large-scale restrictions like we did in the spring, as I said recently; a practice that leaves the economy vulnerable and that is a burden for everyone.
Of course, despite the current difficulties, we need to look forward and set long-term goals in all areas that influence the life and well-being of an individual and their family; and to ensure more efficiency and effectiveness in every area of our work in a bid to not just reach formal indicators but to make sure that people’s lives are improving. I have also talked about this on more than one occasion.
Last July, we discussed this subject in detail at a meeting of the Council for Strategic Development and National Projects. As you know, following that, a Presidential Executive Order was signed, which sets development priorities for our country for the next decade. So, we extended the planning time-frame until 2030.
I want to note that all of our national targets remain unchanged, despite all the current difficulties. Let me remind you that these include five key areas: preserving the health and well-being of all people, creating a comfortable and safe environment for living, enhancing the economy, and opening new opportunities for people to realise their potential, as well as the broad introduction of digital technologies in all areas.
The Government was instructed to work with the State Council to revise national projects and finalise the indicators by the end of October. It is clear what is behind the need to revise them, considering the current difficulties I just mentioned. We also need to create an updated system for the oversight of and joint and coordinated work on national projects.
To avoid wasting time, as I also mentioned, so that now and right from the beginning of next year we can engage in active work, the regions need to know what specific tasks have been assigned to them, how the implementation of these tasks will be monitored and what activities will be funded and the amount of funding.
Unfortunately, not all indicators and parameters have been provided to the regional management teams yet. I want to ask the Government to do this as soon as possible.
On the whole, a lot has been done in recent months, it is true. The Government has considered many proposals for the revision of national projects put forward by the regions.
However, there are still many topics for discussion, controversial issues. I hope that our discussion today will be as substantive as possible, when all the problematic points, the risks of achieving national goals are outlined openly, without embellishment or watering-down.
Only in this case, colleagues, will we be able to come up with concrete and effective solutions and clearly highlight key points, so that, I repeat, we can set a fast pace for our joint work. Already in 2021, there should be a high-quality, tangible result for each of the national goals.
At the same time, I want to emphasise: we should not put off addressing complex, systemic problems until later: ”Now we will do something easier, and later…“ So that it does not happen as people say: later never comes. To keep the work going. I repeat once more: do not put off what we have to do today. And these tasks should not be delayed until 2024. We should not to try to make our life easier and to reduce work requirements by planning simple, light tasks for the coming years. We will not solve the difficult ones then.
Before starting the discussion, I would like to emphasise the following. I have said more than once that the main activities of national projects happen in the regions. It is here, in the cities, in the villages of our country, that real, positive changes must be achieved.
Therefore, the initiative, the priority and weighty say in the additional adjustment of national projects should belong to the Russian regions, which see the situation on the ground, having almost two years of experience in the implementation of national projects. Accordingly, they can clarify, detail the tasks faced by our country as a whole, as well as specify the tools for their implementation. They can propose their own, new approaches to those solutions, which unfortunately turned out to be ineffective and therefore require adjustment and even revision.
It is precisely such meaningful proposals that I hope to hear from the heads of the State Council working groups today.
It is extremely important to know where, on what areas we need to focus first. In particular, the regions should be able to manoeuvre their funds and, of course, we need a clear understanding of how the financial and budgetary interaction of the regions and the centre will work in general in 2021 and in subsequent years.
As a reminder: the successful achievement of national goals, improving the quality of life of people is the key benchmark, the key tool for assessing the efficiency of both the Federal Government and the regional governing bodies. This is why I ask everyone to act in concert, constructively, as a team. This requirement concerns, among other things, regional offices of many federal agencies.
I will use the example of a crucial and comprehensive area like housing construction.
We have set a benchmark, and we must achieve this level (I am perfectly aware and realise that this is a difficult benchmark), we must strive to make it so that at least 5 million Russian families improve their housing conditions every year, so they can move into new, more comfortable and spacious housing and apartments. To achieve this, we must increase housing construction volumes to 120 million square metres per year. Colleagues, you know this very well as we have repeatedly talked about it. Let me remind you that last year about 80 million square metres of housing were commissioned.
Under the current uneasy conditions we, nevertheless, supported the construction industry which is unquestionably one of the key industries in the entire economy. According to expert forecasts, this year the volume of mortgage loans issued will be higher than last year. Thus our support efforts on the whole – I want to stress this, on the whole – are working and bringing the results we need.
Naturally, supplies must grow to maintain long-term sustainability in the market. Which means we have to build more to ensure a choice of housing and maintain a price balance, to avoid unjustified price hikes.
Stepping up housing construction is a task for all levels of government, for all governing structures and mainly for the regions and municipalities that are responsible for preparing development sites and of course, improving the grounds around new residential buildings and creating comfortable living conditions for the people.
I remind the heads of the regions of their personal responsibility for increasing the volumes of modern quality housing construction. We must use new allotments for housing construction and to develop the infrastructure. The regions, federal authorities, development institutions and infrastructure companies must closely cooperate on this.
We also need to use extra-budgetary financing for engineering, transport and social infrastructure: roads and railway stations, utility networks and substations, kindergartens and schools, and so on.
We have repeatedly discussed the use of infrastructure bonds. The Government and our companies have already tried and tested this mechanism, and pilot projects have been selected. It is necessary to launch them without delay and also think about expanding the geography of this programme.
Here is one more topic that is close and understandable to the people. The summer holiday season is drawing to a close. This year it began a bit later, somewhere in mid-July due to the pandemic. Despite this, millions of people again visited our traditional resort destinations – the Black Sea coast of Crimea and the Krasnodar Territory. This year, special attention was paid to domestic tourism by virtue of the well-known objective circumstances. By the way, there would have been no fortune, but misfortune helped. We managed to substantially promote domestic tourism.
I would like to raise this issue at the State Council meeting. As I have already said, cooperation of the regions, federal departments and leading infrastructure companies is required for this purpose.
Today, it takes about one day or more to get from Moscow to the Sochi or Yalta coasts by railway or car. What about our people who have to travel there from the north or the Urals. Such a journey will take them a lot more time. Or imagine getting from the Kerch Strait to Sochi by a serpentine road. Try to drive there with children in a car. It is possible and necessary to reduce the time required for such travel with full observance of safety requirements and maintenance of the roads. This must be done.
Let me recall that we are already implementing such plans as regards freight transport corridors and railway access to sea ports in the south. In parallel, it is necessary to do everything to make travel by car or railway to the south faster and more comfortable for passengers, including tourists. I have already spoken about this. I have said this more than once and would like to ask you to look at this from the practical point of view.
I would like to ask the Government to consider in detail the reconstruction of highways and railways leading to the Russian Black Sea coast, and adjust accordingly the plans of road construction and transport infrastructure development.
I would like to emphasise in conclusion that all areas of work that we will discuss today directly determine the living standards of our people and reflect the modern needs of the residents of megacities, small towns and villages. Needless to say, we will continuously monitor these topics.
Let us go on to the practical discussion.