25 February 2009
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin chaired a meeting of the Presidium of the Presidential Council for the Implementation of Priority National Projects and Demographic Policy
Vladimir Putin's opening remarks:
Today, we are conducting a regular meeting of the Presidium of the Council for the Implementation of Priority National Projects and Demographic Policy.
Allow me to remind you that the adjustment of the federal budget is nearing completion. The Government will discuss its new version in the near future. In this context, I'd like to emphasise once again that priority funding of national projects will be guaranteed in line with our previous agreement.
I expect our regional and municipal colleagues to follow the same principles in adjusting their respective budgets. This is essential because national projects have proved their economic and social effectiveness. It would be a mistake to waste what has been done.
Allow me to recall that life expectancy in Russia has increased by almost three years as a result of the implementation of the national projects. Needless to say, this result was achieved not only due to the national projects but by our intensive efforts in many areas. This achievement was primarily brought about by the improvement of the economic and social situation in the country. However, it is a fact that the average life span has grown by three years during the implementation of the national projects.
In 2008, the number of newborn babies increased by 260,000 compared to three years before, and this is also a tangible result. This is the best figure since 1992.
In 2009, we not only continue to work on the previously chosen projects but will also start financing a number of new undertakings. The most important one is promoting the values of a healthy lifestyle, physical fitness and sports among children and teenagers, and preventing young people from smoking and excessive drinking.
We all realise that a healthy lifestyle does not come about on its own. It goes without saying that young people should display a strong will for regular sports activities and renunciation of bad habits primarily of their own accord. At the same time, however, our society should create favourable conditions that will allow our children to develop harmoniously. I'd like to emphasise once again that this is a task for all of society rather than simply for Government authorities. The mass media, cultural figures, parents, and the public as a whole should concern themselves with this problem.
It would be wrong to say that it was not tackled before. It certainly was. We all know this well and criticise the Soviet times but then almost every child from any family could go in for sports. I know this well from my own experience. I have always gone in for sports for free. Yes, everything was old-fashioned Soviet style, but sports were accessible for all.
Needless to say, we have done something in this area in the last few years. We have built new sports sites in yards, school gyms, numerous sports clubs, and sections. Educational and medical establishments have adopted programmes to combat smoking and excessive drinking.
Authorities in many regions and municipalities and numerous public organisations are effectively working in this area, and thus we don't have to start this work from scratch. Government bodies at all levels should give priority to the formation of the younger generation's healthy lifestyle. I'd like to emphasise that it must become a top priority.
It is essential to take a comprehensive approach to resolving this issue, considerably enhance the effectiveness of the available financial and human resources, and get rid of unjustified redundancy. Moreover, it is necessary to take a number of additional measures. What additional measures could be taken?
To begin with, sports facilities should become accessible to all children and teenagers regardless of how much their parents earn. Incidentally, their construction is not very expensive, and nothing particularly special is required for their operation. I'd like to stress that every child should gain an opportunity to participate in sports for free.
The educational system and local authorities are called upon to play a key role in resolving this task, because it is they who can give young people a worthy alternative to dubious pursuits.
School gyms and stadiums could be open to children not only during classes but also after them. It goes without saying that children should be supervised. Coaches and teachers should watch and help them, and be paid for that. Sports facilities at places of residence should also have a convenient time schedule. As I've already said, funds for remuneration of PT teachers and sports organisers should have special incentives for improving students' health and promoting a healthy lifestyle.
Secondly, it is necessary to invigorate the efforts to provide school children with high quality sound nutrition. This problem will help improve their health during study and shape a healthy lifestyle.
Under the plan, 21 regions are supposed to adopt modern school catering standards this year. In the future, their experience should be spread to other regions. I'm sure that many of those present have been in the regions that are adopting these standards, and are aware that this example is really worth following. They have attained modern quality standards, and for this, I'd simply like to thank them. Needless to say, these standards should be implemented as extensively as possible.
Third, we have adopted laws prohibiting smoking and drinking in educational establishments, stadiums, and many other public places. It is also strictly forbidden to sell alcohol and cigarettes to children. However, I'll be frank - these bans are not being strictly observes in some places, and are not observed at all in others. This is not right. Law enforcement bodies should take strict measures to ensure compliance with these laws. It is inadmissible to make a profit on children's health. It is essential to monitor undeviating compliance with the adopted laws.
The questions pertaining to a healthy lifestyle that we are discussing today are always topical. They do not depend on the current economic situation or any other circumstances. We have discussed the decisions we are planning to make for many months.
At the same time, I'd like to emphasise the obvious - such measures are particularly important during a crisis. We understand what is happening and are trying to parry economic and social challenges. Nonetheless, the number of jobs is being reduced. Some companies in a number of industries are decreasing wages and salaries because of a drop in the sales of their traditional products and lower global prices. This trend is consequently reducing family incomes, and under the circumstances we should do all we can to prevent the children from falling under the bad influence of life on the streets. We should help families, parents, and their children. This is especially important in those cities and villages that are developing serious social problems because of the recession.
Today we should discuss a very important package of questions. I'd like to ask you not to adopt a formal approach to this discussion. I hope very much that we'll discuss these problems very thoroughly, and expect to hear your proposals on them.
Mrs Golikova, please take the floor.