Working Day

13 january, 2010 19:00

The Government Presidium meets to sum up 2009 budget fulfilment and discuss transport, fisheries and public health screening results

The Government Presidium meets to sum up 2009 budget fulfilment and discuss transport, fisheries and public health screening results
Speaking at the meeting, Prime Minister Putin set objectives for 2010: to increase pensions, provide war veterans with housing, adopt a new federal housing programme, furnish business incentives and create new jobs.

The transcript of the beginning of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues. Let us exchange the latest information.

Preliminary budget fulfilment figures for 2009 are already in. Mr Kudrin, could you go through them for us, please?

Alexei Kudrin: Mr Putin, last year's budget revenues amounted to 7.332 trillion roubles, or 618 billion roubles more than we planned as we met last February to update budget plans.

Vladimir Putin: How much, please?

Alexei Kudrin: 618 billion more than planned.

Vladimir Putin: 618 billion?

Alexei Kudrin: That's right. We obtained an additional 1.267 trillion in oil and gas revenues thanks to higher oil prices but lost money under other headings. In export and import, for example, we fell short by 346 billion, and lost another 371 billion due to the switch rate.

These pluses and minuses have combined to produce an additional income of 618 billion roubles. I must say straightaway that 2009 revenues, year-on-year, were down by 20.9. We feared a much worse showing.

In spending terms, the federal budget expenditures amounted to 9.651 trillion roubles. Ministries and departments failed to spend 286 billion before the year-end.

Vladimir Putin: And this despite your regular reports on the budget cash performance?

Alexei Kudrin: I would like to point out that all the main programmes, including national projects, targeted federal programmes or planned investments, were fuflilled practically by 100%. Savings were made mainly on the provisions set aside for bank capitalisation in the course of the year, which we did not use in full. We also economised on the servicing of national debt due to the switch rate and on the provisions set up to pay taxes of budget-supported institutions whose expenses may be carried over into the next year.

Those expenses were not connected with the fulfilment of basic key federal targeted programmes and the performance of ministry and government departments. So I think this is a fairly satisfactory result.

The net budget deficit has amounted to 5.9% of GDP. We feared more. As I said, additional earnings improved the general picture, as did the reduced spending. The result is a lower deficit: 5.9%.

As regards the use of the National Welfare Fund, under the heading of quasi-fiscal spending, we used the Fund's resources to support bank capitalisation. Last year, we spent 179 billion for these purposes and a further 30 billion to support small businesses.

Taking these expenses into account, our budget deficit, using international standards, would be 6.4% of GDP. I must say that the Reserve Fund was tapped for 2.655 trillion roubles, and this sum was fully spent on meeting social and other commitments of the federal budget, ensuring the stability of government work and fulfilment of all its obligations.

The balance of the Reserve Fund will be 1.783 trillion roubles as of January 1, which meets the target figures we are going to use in 2010. The National Welfare Fund will be 2.769 trillion as of January 1, and will also be partly used in 2010 to carry out a pension reform and for other purposes.

I must say that unlike other sovereign funds and other countries, Russia did not enter negative territory with its resources placed on world markets; it even made a profit. The Reserve Fund had a yield of 3.5% on its currency basket and the National Welfare Fund, 4.2%. If these figures are converted into dollars, this will mean we have earned $3.7 billion only by correctly and reliably placing these amounts in liquid form. In rouble terms, they translate into 112 billion roubles earned on top of everything else. This money will be entered into the 2010 budget as last year's revenue and will be used to fulfil 2010 programmes.

Vladimir Putin: You mean to say this is the Ministry of Finance's response to the critics who berated it over the placement of our reserves, including in overseas securities?

Alexei Kudrin: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: The Ministry of Finance, therefore, lost nothing last year, but made almost $4 billion as a competent investor.

Alexei Kudrin: That's right.

Vladimir Putin: Well done.

Alexei Kudrin: Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Ivanov, could you please say a few words about the operation of the Russian transport system. We know what is happening in neighbouring countries because of abnormally cold weather and heavy snow. They have caused major traffic disruption. What about our roads?

Sergei Ivanov: Mr Putin, I can report that during the New Year holidays Russia's transport complex was operating without any major disruptions.

Obviously, the Ministry of Transport concentrated on preparations for the traditional holiday season peak of air flights. Overall, Russian airlines made 7,000 regular and charter international and domestic flights between December 26 and January 10.

Naturally enough, Russia's Federal Air Transport Agency (Rosaviatsiya) and the Ministry of Transport focused mainly on charter flights. Regrettably, in the past few years passengers on charter flights came across obvious problems, which are almost unknown on regular flights.

This year Rosaviatsiya established a special headquarters and invited representatives of all airlines that have been licensed to perform charter flights. The headquarters set out procedures for booking these flights and a whole package of other measures.

All in all, during the New Year period our airlines made 1,321 charter flights alone. This compares with 945 flights a year ago, when the crisis was at its peak. This is an increase of 38%, which is good for the revenue load. This is a positive change for the aviation industry.

The routes were traditional - seaside and alpine resorts.

There were 119 disruptions and delays on these 1,321 charter flights. The Ministry of Transport qualifies as such delays for more than three hours. Airlines were not to blame in the overwhelming majority of cases. Most of them were weather-related or caused by foreign airports, which could not accommodate or dispatch Russian aircraft.

In Russia practically all airports were operating normally, as they are functioning now in the Far East despite temperatures of 40 degree below zero. There were no delays due to airports' failure to accommodate aircraft because of bad weather. There were individual cases when a number of our companies delayed flights for technical reasons. These three companies are Urals Airlines, Sky Express and Orenburg Airlines. Rosaviatsia has summoned their representatives to make explanations.

As for other modes of transport, we had one serious problem on the railways. A two-metre snow avalanche forced even mechanical snowploughs off the tracks right on New Year's Eve. However, both car and railway traffic was fully restored on Sakhalin by January 4.

As for motor roads, we had the usual difficulties on the Roki Pass in South Ossetia. It is permanently hit by avalanches and the traffic was shut for one day but without grave consequences. Nobody received frostbite. Rescue measures were taken in time, and everything returned to normal.

To sum up, I believe that the operation of our transport systems was practically impeccable during this period, especially if we compare it with that in Europe. We had to operate in the same extreme conditions as Europe but we had stronger frosts and as much snow. However, everything was normal. As for the numerous delays of flights from Europe's alpine resorts, our airlines could not do anything about that. They took passengers away as soon as they were allowed to land.

I would like to mention a few more things to finish the subject. You have received two government resolutions for signing. They call for subsidising railway carriers for 2010 conforming to government tariff regulations on the transport of passengers in sitting compartments and sleeping berths on long-distance trains. The amount of subsidies for all carriers on Russian territory, except for Kaliningrad, is 27 billion roubles. By a separate resolution we are allocating another 307 million roubles for all types of carriages of railway carriers, including sleeping compartments, bound for the Kaliningrad Region from the Russian Federation and back, that is for the exclave and back. This support almost equals our subsidies to airliners for flights to the Far East and back. This will be of great help to our railway carriers.

Vladimir Putin: I signed this resolution and it will be published today.

Sergei Ivanov: Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Zubkov, what about subsidies to the fishing industry? This year we agreed to support the companies that intend to invest in the construction of new vessels.

Viktor Zubkov: Yes, Mr Putin. The gist of these two resolutions, which you have signed, is to reimburse our fishermen for two thirds of the Central Bank's refinancing rate on the investment loans they received in 2008 and 2009. These loans were granted mostly for the construction and modernisation of vessels, as well as storage and processing facilities.

This year's federal budget allocates 400 million roubles for these purposes. The same amount of money was laid out last year. All this makes it possible to loan more funds - somewhere around four billion roubles.

This is a new type of government support for the fishing industry, which has been operating steadily and developing fast in recent years.

These decisions were made after the conference on developing the coastal infrastructure, which you chaired last July. We clearly defined what modernisation entails, specified investment placement and reduced the number of documents required for receiving subsidies.

Needless to say, this will help fishermen reduce their expenses on interest payments and will make government support for the fishing industry more accessible and effective. Under the federal targeted programme we are planning to build or reconstruct more than 40 facilities of the coastal infrastructure by 2012.

As I have already mentioned, the fishing industry is making steady headway. In 2009 the catch exceeded 3.6 million tons, which is a 10% increase on 2008.

Mr Putin, I think it is worth continuing subsidising loans in the future because this is good for the fishing industry, which receives investment faster. I think this would be absolutely the right thing to do.

Vladimir Putin: Good. Thank you very much.

We have recently spoken much about housing and utilities issues. This is one of the most sensitive areas for our people. They have every right to know how tariffs are calculated. We have repeatedly emphasised the need to reveal this information. People should have a clear idea about price formation on housing and utilities. They should know what they pay for. A document to this effect has been drafted. Mr Kozak, could you comment on it please?

Dmitry Kozak: This document has been signed. It endorses standards of disclosing information by the utilities companies and subsidiaries of natural monopolies which supply electricity and heating. This document covers the entire sphere of housing and utilities.

This is important not only for society but also for the economy. It provides for mandatory publication of consumer-sensitive information on the quality of the services rendered, their cost and conformity to the established standards.

The document has also endorsed a list of information to be revealed, which reflects all the main indicators of the financial and economic operation of every company. These indicators will allow the consumers to assess the operation of every company. The tariff regulation bodies will be able to compare the effectiveness of different companies.

It is very difficult to judge about a single company. Its managers can always find excuses to maximise their expenses and to charge more. Now a comparison of a thousand companies will make it possible to conduct an effective economic analysis and to establish more fair tariffs.

Vladimir Putin: Well, at least people will know what they are paying for. They will receive not just some general papers with the final figures but detailed information on what they are paying for and how much.

Dmitry Kozak: Incidentally, this is also a response to the public's query. Municipal and federal government bodies are flooded with letters on this subject. People are asking about tariffs and ways of calculating them. This is a concrete answer.

Regular information on tariffs will allow the customers to judge about the operation of these companies.

This is an important step towards raising the efficiency of government regulation. It amounts to public control over the performance of these companies.

Vladimir Putin: Good. Departments and ministries, primarily the Ministry of Healthcare has drafted a number of documents, which I have signed. They are aimed at improving medical aid to the public.

Ms Golikova, could you please comment on these documents?

Tatyana Golikova: Mr Putin, colleagues,

First of all, I would like to mention the healthcare-related policies aimed at implementing the priority national project. The first resolution signed stipulates an additional voluntary medical check-ups of the citizens of the Russian Federation.

The additional nation-wide check-ups will be organised for the fifth time this year. A total of 17 million people were examined over the past four years; over 10 million pathology cases were diagnosed, 15% of them at advanced stages.

All patients who were diagnosed were registered for follow-up care. But what is important is that these 10 million patients with various pathologies had been going along with their everyday lives and never imagined they had them.

2009 saw a relatively high turnout at the check-up stations compared with the previous three years - over 100%. It had never reached 100% before.

The results of the additional check-ups suggest that 24.1% of those who turned up for medical check-up are healthy, while 16.6% were at risk. However, the largest group of those examined, 57.8%, unfortunately required additional diagnostic testing and treatment. Despite the upward trend in the first group, the percentage of people in need of medical help remains high.

In 2010, there is a plan to additionally examine 3.8 million people, and 4 billion roubles have been allocated for this purpose.

In addition to these efforts, in 2009 the priority national project included a healthy lifestyle awareness programme, which also involved the Ministry of Education and Science and the Ministry of Sport, Tourism and Youth Policy.

On the whole, the key mission of the programme is to create an environment in which each and every individual takes an active part in preserving his or her own health, and contributes to the development of an infrastructure necessary for the promotion of healthy lifestyles. It is also aimed at changing the current lifestyle with an emphasis on expensive treatment methods by shifting the emphasis toward proactive treatment. Naturally, proactive healthcare programmes should be developed, which would also ensure a more efficient use of medical resources.

In 2009, regional governments established 502 healthcare centres which we subsidised; we plan to complete this work in 2010. Each centre is capable of serving 200,000 local residents. We also plan to open 193 children's centres, in cooperation with the regions.

To summarise the results of this programme, I would like to cite the most important one. Healthy lifestyles are now a subject of broad discussion at every level, which is a breakthrough and an important trend for Russia. Healthy lifestyles are high on the national agenda today. It is highly important for us that it remain so.

In 2010 and 2011Russia will hold the rotating presidency of Northern Dimension. We have reached an agreement that healthy lifestyles will be a dominant issue in the countries taking part in this project.

I would now like to report briefly on two more policies. We have two targeted programmes - one to help cardio-vascular patients and the other, cancer patients. The first programme will be implemented for the third year running, the second one for the second year.

The cardio-vascular programme is yielding encouraging and positive results. As you know, cardio-vascular disorders top the list of the most frequent and lethal diseases in Russia. The regions participating in the programme (24 in 2008 and 2009) have reported a 4.8% decrease in cardio-vascular death toll across the nation, and a 7.8% decrease in deaths from cerebrovascular diseases, commonly known as ischemic stroke. This is data for 11 months, but we will soon have figures for the whole year.

Fourteen more regions will join this programme this year, which means it will cover nearly half the country.

The cancer programme only started last year. It is probably the most difficult programme in terms of providing medical services for cancer patients, and also the most expensive one. It is funded from the federal budget and the regions as well.

In 2009, it involved 11 Russian regions. A regional cancer centre opened in Chelyabinsk late last year. Another such centre will open in the Khabarovsk Territory in 2010.

The programme is very complex. Even though we began working with regions joining this year in advance, the required equipment has not been provided yet. It will be supplied later this year. But even preliminary efforts in the Belgorod, Kemerovo, Tyumen and Penza regions have already yielded important results, bringing down the number of deaths from cancer in these regions. Unfortunately, so far this trend is on the rise across Russia.

In the Tyumen and Penza regions, cancer death rates decreased by 1.3% and 1.7%, respectively, as a result of preparations to joining the programme.

Vladimir Putin: Well, I would like to say something on this point. However, complex and challenging problems might seem at first glance, especially social issues such as healthcare or housing, if we really concentrate on their solution, provide the necessary resources and consolidate efforts with the regions, then we can achieve success.

Take the problem of shrinking population. It seemed virtually impossible to move an inch. Yet, there is an encouraging trend now. Another problem which seemed unyielding was the extremely high traffic accident death rate. Yet, we have changed the situation. The same must hold true for healthcare.

There are a lot of issues here. This year, we'll have to get down to the problem of medical insurance, an extremely important and complicated social and economic issue. But just look at what we have achieved: We concentrated hard on cardio-vascular diseases and cancer, and we achieved results, which eventually improves life expectancy and quality of life for the Russian people. This is a positive and result-oriented process.

I would like to draw your attention again to the need to identify key issues and promptly deal with them, develop effective solutions and provide the required financing on time. We will continue doing so in 2010. I repeat, however, complex and unyielding a problem seems, it can and must be resolved in the end.

Before going over to our today's agenda, I would like to remind you of important tasks to be fulfilled in 2010.

First, retirement pensions should be raised, smoothly and without hitches, and additional regional benefits provided to retired people whose incomes are for various reasons below the so-called pensioner minimum subsistence level.

We have agreed to allocate federal funds for this purpose. Everything must be prepared and implemented as planned.

Second, Russians entitled to the Maternity Capital benefit, can begin spending the money from January 1, 2010 for purposes stipulated by the law - buying better housing, paying off their mortgages, and financing their children's education and the accumulative part of their future pensions.

As we have promised, the size of the Maternity Capital benefit in indexed every year, and will reach 343,000 roubles in 2010. We have allocated 102 billion roubles from the federal budget for this purpose.

I am asking the Finance Ministry to bear this in mind and provide the necessary amounts on time.

I would also like to tell all those entitled to this benefit to begin spending the money. The Maternity Capital can and must be used actively for the benefit of the family.

Third, we must continue implementing our housing projects consistently this year. I am referring to the plan to provide housing to the World War II veterans and military servicemen, and to build more affordable housing on land owned by the state.

In addition, the Housing and Utilities Reform Fund is ready to finance, in 2010, capital repairs of residential blocks and help people still living in dilapidated and dangerous buildings to move to new housing. The Fund will provide up to 80 billion roubles for this purpose. The most important issue here is that regional governments prepare appropriate applications for financing in time. They should keep in mind that every such application means better quality of life for thousands of people.

We must also make medium-term plans in the sphere of housing, in particular, adopt a new federal targeted programme on housing.

Fourth, in 2010, companies with annual revenues below 60 million roubles will be able to begin using simplified taxation schemes. This is an important policy for the support of small business. But along with that, we must pursue other policies to stimulate entrepreneurship and create more jobs. This remains an issue of high importance for this year.

Finally, a law on information disclosure by state and local government bodies has come into force.

A schedule for introducing electronic options of key state services has also been approved. According to this schedule, this year, Russians will be given an opportunity of filing applications for dozens of important state services online. It means they will no longer have to go to offices and wait in queues.

This schedule must be strictly followed, but not at the expense of the quality of the services provided.

This year, we will have to work hard to meet our long-term development goals, and to remove the consequences of the global economic downturn.

We have a very packed agenda of government meetings and law-making activity. We must work efficiently and effectively.

Let us get down to our agenda now. But there is one more thing I would like to tell you before we begin. As you know, we have just successfully completed talks with our Turkish partners. Today we have had good news from Istanbul as well: The Russian men's national chess team has won the world championship. Congratulations to our players.

Let us begin working.



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