Visits within Russia

27 october, 2009 18:30

Vladimir Putin, who is on a working visit to Kaliningrad, chaired a meeting of the Presidium of the Presidential Council on Local Government Development

Vladimir Putin's introductory remarks:

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.

Today we are holding a regular meeting of the Presidium of the Presidential Council on Local Government Development.

We will focus primarily on anti-recessionary measures, starting with the situation in the labour market and support for small and medium-sized businesses. We'll also discuss the general state of affairs in providing services to people, and utility services' performance.

Traditionally, municipal authorities have been in charge of these areas, which are presently becoming more important.

I would like to remind you that the measures taken at the peak of the crisis allowed us to avoid widespread unemployment. Moreover, unemployment has been gradually decreasing since May 2009.

Industrial production has begun to grow again, and increased by 5% in September compared with August. This has had a positive impact on the economy in general.

The number of registered jobless people stood at 2.27 million in April, and has fallen to 2 million in September. By the end of this year, 1.61 million people will be involved in regional employment programmes, which is a very impressive figure when one takes into account the total number of unemployed people. Through these employment programs, 1.46 million people have found employment in public works, 102,000 will undergo retraining, 44,000 will start their own private businesses, and 6,700 will move to new areas to work there.

However, it's still too early to scale back measures supporting the market. We decided to continue employment programmes through 2010, and we will allocate 36 billion roubles from the federal budget for this purpose.

The effectiveness of our efforts mainly depends on municipal authorities, their ability to handle the situation on-site, and their understanding of the actual state of affairs.

Obviously, it will be necessary to revise the priorities for our programmes supporting the labour market, which must be done while taking into account long-term plans to modernise and diversify the economy.

As production starts growing, many of those who lost their jobs will return to their places of employment. However, simply returning to pre-crisis employment levels is not a goal in itself. We do need to restore employment, but we must also change its structure at the same time.

The restoration of the older system of employment would be illogical and contradict our policies of boosting labour productivity and getting rid of uncompetitive and obsolete production facilities. If a person previously had a small-time, low-paid job, why make them return to that job?

Next year's priorities must include increasing employees' professional skills, thus ensuring effective employment and creating new, highly-paid jobs.

We need to pay more attention to retraining and advanced training programmes. We must also more actively support self-employment and new businesses.

In addition, employment programmes must be supplemented by measures targeted to support the most vulnerable social groups, including large families, people with disabilities, seniors - everyone who has difficulty finding a new job, or is unable to find one at all.

It is critical to draw up specific plans for single-industry towns, which are fraught with so-called stagnated chronic unemployment and have deep-rooted problems.

We must not allow for this. The federal Government permanently monitors such industrial centres and works with certain companies. As you know, a specific group was even set up in the Government. We will commission experts to deal with various areas of this issue.

However, it is the performance of municipal governments that will determine to a great extent how quickly these towns' economies are reorganised.

We already know how to do this. We must attract investors, create new production facilities, and develop small and medium-sized business, which must be carried out not only in the traditional retail and service sector but also in high-tech industries and in the social sphere.

Twenty percent of employed people work at small and medium-sized businesses, which account for 14% of GDP. There are great prospects for development in this area.

By the way, 33% of those employed in Kaliningrad work at small companies, which is far higher than the average index in Russia. Small business' contribution to the regional economy is also over 30%, which is a fairly good result.

Today I suggest that we analyse how effective our plans for supporting entrepreneurship on location are on the ground, including our plans to remove administrative barriers, reduce the number of inspections, expand access to municipal government contracts, and privatise property owned by municipal governments for the benefit of small businesses.

As you all remember, a special privatisation programme for the benefit of small businesses will be in effect through July 1, 2010. I would like to know how effective this programme has been, and if there is any need to extend it.

In the end, municipal governments themselves also have an interest in developing small businesses. Small businesses are one of their most stable sources of tax revenue.

For our part, we will think of ways to strengthen the financial base for local governments. I have already instructed the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Regional Development to examine this issue as carefully as possible once again.

I would also like to direct your attention to the residential construction. It is particularly important that we both support the construction industry now and make substantial progress on housing problems.

First of all, we need to be more proactive in allocating land for residential construction, in city-planning, and in resolving issues with utility networks. If we fail to do this, we are at risk of losing the momentum in residential construction that we have worked so hard to gain recently.

Let me remind you that from January to September of 2009, 35 million square metres of residential housing were built. That is 99.4% of last year's numbers. At first glance this is not a bad figure, in fact it is impressive in the midst of the crisis, but nevertheless this is still not enough. Because this result is based on what we accomplished in 2008 and even 2007.

And one more thing. A week ago in Kaluga we discussed the performance of our regional governments. At that meeting we heard that merely 20% of Russian citizens are satisfied with the operation of our utilities companies. And, to be frank, and you know this far better than anyone else, this number has more to do with local municipal governments than the governments of our constituent entities.

Besides, the procedures for issuing various types of government certificates and documents of title are far from perfect. People often have to pay intermediaries to deal with this paperwork. I must say that first of all we are sick and tired of them, of these intermediaries. They work with both regional and federal government paperwork. Everyone is fed up with them. Resolute measures are needed to change this situation, so that our citizens do not to have to spend weeks standing in lines.

I think that a specific programme for improving the quality of services must be implemented in each municipality.

Methods for resolving this problem - from applying unified standards and administrative regulations to establishing centres with multiple functions that operate in the "single window" mode - have been identified more than once. Other proposed measures such as using advanced electronic technologies are promising, and this is what I would like to direct your attention to.

Ladies and gentlemen, now our Government is working on a programme for developing the Russian economy after the crisis, a so-called strategy for getting out of the crisis. Strictly speaking, this is the point of my introduction. This programme will also affect municipal government responsibilities. Therefore, we rely on your cooperation, on your proactive position, and on your initiative. We also rely on the consistency and clarity of all levels of government.


Vladimir Putin:
I would like to get back to the issue of paid services. I didn't mention them by accident; my words are substantiated by the materials provided by the Office of the Prosecutor General, which were collected at my request.

Some cases are outrageous. We will be preparing appropriate solutions at the level of the federal government, and we will develop an exhaustive list of paid services that may be offered to our citizens. An exhaustive list. Everything else must be free. All intermediaries must be eliminated, so that no organisation can come between a citizen and a government authority, and so that no organisation will extort money from our citizens.

I expect that we in the federal government will reach a solution very soon. We will arrange for a debriefing for our federal authorities based on the report of the Prosecutor General. But I also want to address you at the same time: you will carry out a substantial portion of the work with our citizens.

And I ask you to prepare your solutions in line with those developed by the Government. That is, I repeat it once again, an exhaustive list of paid services and their rates, so that a citizen can know what he is paying for and how much he needs to pay. And so that he can make a direct payment to the federal government or to the municipal governments, rather than any intermediaries.