Media Review

22 march, 2012 12:31

RBC daily: "Forty billion to be on the safe side"

Putin ready to allocate money for seismic retrofits.

The Ministry of Regional Development has requested a resumption of the federal targeted programme on the seismic retrofitting of housing, which had been cut back. It was explained at a meeting at the Government House yesterday that a quarter of all Russian territory is prone to earthquakes. But it was the governors that were mostly shaken by what they heard from Prime Minister Vladimir Putin who knew what he was talking about. He agreed to add about 40 billion roubles in funding for the programme.

Participants in this meeting discussed the need to enhance the earthquake resistance of buildings on a quarter of Russian territory, notably, in 550 towns and villages in 27 regions with a total population of two million. They are located mostly in Siberia, the Far East and southern Russia. In 2008 the government adopted this programme for 2009-2014, but its funding was almost halved from 72.9 to 34.3 billion roubles.

Before March 1, regions spent 13.8 billion roubles (including 11.3 billion from the federal budget). They decided not to disperse these funds over all 27 regions and focused on Kamchatka, Sakhalin and the Amur Region. Yesterday Regional Development Minister Viktor Basargin decided it was time to restore the funding of the programme to the former 73 billion roubles and extend it by four years. This year, the minister requested another two million for Tuva, Khakassia and Altai over and above the allocated 2.8 billion roubles. He asked Putin whether he should continue giving the money to the most vulnerable regions (15 out of 27) or to all of them. "Of course, you should start with those regions where the seismic hazard is the highest," Putin said.

The governors that have already taken part in the programme tried to convince the prime minister that everything is fine as it is. Governor of the Kamchatka Territory, Vladimir Ilyukhin, who prefers to build new housing rather than repair the old buildings, rejoiced: "People in Kamchatka are celebrating house warming parties on a massive scale for the first time in 20 years. We are now building 70,000 square metres of housing as compared to 10,000-15,000 before," he added. "Do you have a plan for the urban development of Petropalovsk-Kamchatsky?" Putin asked. "We have established a working group," the governor explained. "You either have a plan or you don't," Putin said abruptly. "We do. We are adjusting it now and it will be ready in May," Ilyukhin said. "No matter where I am at the time – here or elsewhere – you need to show me the plan," Putin said.

Governor of the Amur Region Oleg Kozhemyako was next to take the floor. He had to explain why he failed to spend almost one billion roubles in allocations. "We did not have a single contractor and the cost of construction of one square metre of housing differed too much from what the government estimated (57,000 roubles as opposed to 33,200)," the governor began to patter. "The contractor has been determined but there is no clear-cut justification for the cost of the construction," Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak interrupted him. "Your deputy promised several times to deliver this but never did," Kozak added. "You have this document on your table, don't you?" Putin jokingly prompted the governor. "Yes," the governor said, paltering with the facts like his colleague before and promised to deliver the document to the government in a couple of hours.

A final decision on the funding of the programme will be made in the first ten days of April. Finance Minister Anton Siluanov assured Putin that the economic bloc had no objections to this funding in principle but would like to see all the documents first.

Inga Vorobyeva