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TRANSCRIPT: Prime Minister Vladimir Putin meets with the leaders of the United Russia parliamentary party in the State Duma

File Photo of Duma Building
file photo
Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Yesterday I thanked all of the deputies of the State Duma on behalf of the Russian government for working jointly with us in the past four years. Today, I'd like to discuss the results of work of the United Russia parliamentary party in the State Duma and further plans for the country and parliament. I hope that you will conduct an effective election campaign, telling the electorate about your achievements and future plans, convincing the overwhelming majority of the voters that you have chosen the correct path, and by so doing win the necessary number of State Duma seats to be able to continue your work. The past four years were not an easy period, as we, the country and the rest of the world know. It was a difficult period for all countries, including Russia. Yet, we have largely overcome the global financial and economic crises with the smallest possible damage. I have said so before, but I believe that I should say it again at this meeting. We have overcome the crises with the least possible damage because we were able to take decisions promptly and rely on the United Russia majority in the State Duma to support the financial sector and entire industries ­ in particular, aviation, shipbuilding, automotive industry, mechanical engineering and coal production. In other words, we took practical decisions bearing on these industries and we did it quickly and effectively. Of course, there were many problems concerned with direct assistance to the people, notably the labour market, jobs for the people, employment. Many decisions have been taken in this sphere, including to increase relevant payments, to create funds in the regions and to offer people various [social] jobs. I'd like to say it once again ­ some things must be done as soon as possible.

When I spoke in the State Duma yesterday, I said that many ideas were born during disputes in the State Duma itself, but I think that it would be expedient to explain how this is done, which you know better than anyone else. Even while we were discussing these issues with you ­ at meetings between government agencies and the United Russia parliamentary party in the State Duma ­ the debate never stopped in the State Duma about what should be done and how and when it should be done, what tools can be used and how the problem can be resolved in the best possible way. It was a natural, vigorous process. The thing that especially pleases me and that has benefited us is that both the government agencies and the United Russia faction in the State Duma certainly wanted the best for the people. I don't think that they have achieved the best results in all of their undertakings, but their efforts can be assessed on the whole as satisfactory. I would like to thank you for this.

It is especially important in this connection ­ and I would like to highlight this ­ that these decisions helped us to make choices and find solutions to a number of social issues, some of which have been accomplished and others of which will be accomplished soon. The following are the tasks that we have fulfilled. We have discussed this and the people know about it. We have increased pensions 45% by a single decision, ensured retirement pension valorisation, and recalculated pensions earned during the Soviet period ­ and all of this was done with direct assistance from you.

The decisions that we took jointly with you had been thoroughly analysed from the economic angle. This allowed us to take decisions that will come into effect on January 1, 2012, such as a substantial increase in military payments and pensions. The decisions that we drafted and that you adopted will allow us to take the necessary steps in the social sphere. I am especially grateful to you for this.

This is what I'd like to point out and what will be important to us now and later. By taking these decisions, we have not pushed ourselves and the country into a debt trap. We see what is happening in many Western European countries. New large-scale social protests are continuing in Portugal and Greece. As you know even Italy is reeling from the shock, and France seems to be facing mounting problems as well. Why is this? It's because of debt. Where did the debts come from? Clearly, back in the day, people made bad decisions. At some point, they started living beyond their means, and then were unable to stop this trend. Excessive social commitments not founded in real economic performance led to this economic position, and made it necessary to impose sharp spending cuts and sequestrate these budgets. By the way, the same is happening in the United States now. It's exactly the same thing. So, what then would I like to draw your attention to, friends and colleagues?

What our European friends and US partners are facing also results from a lack of social cohesion, when the leading political forces are unable to find common ground. We are seeing another wave of crisis in the United States, as the two parties still cannot reach agreement in Congress ­ having a negative impact on the economy. I hope this will not happen in Russia. In this regard, I would like you to focus on the need to get the best results during the upcoming elections. If we fragment parliament and, as in certain other countries, find ourselves unable to take the right decisions at the right time, making promises instead and living at the expense of future generations, then at some point ...

Remark: Like happened before.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, just like it was in 1990. This could take us as close to the brink as our partners and friends in Europe are now. All economic decisions should be thoroughly pondered, weighed and based on real economic results, and we should only base our decisions in the social sphere on this economic performance. Of course, our ultimate goal is the well-being of our population and the solving of social problems, but we should be guided by economic results and economic growth ­ that should be the foundation.

This year we will see the lowest inflation rate in the entire history of modern Russia, we had a government discussion on this recently, literally yesterday or the day before yesterday, it might even be lower than 7%, an all-time low. We had an all-time low last year as well, and we will keep on bringing inflation rates down, that is the goal we have set ourselves: inflation targeting, cutting inflation completely, this is the direction in which we are moving. This only benefits the economy as a whole, because it will bring down loan rates, which in turn will support the real sectors of the economy ­ which is a crucial element. It is vital to our citizens, our people, because we're talking prices.

We have adopted a package of amendments in order to improve individual labour rights and promote occupational safety. To my deepest regret, this was done only after a series of tragic events, including in the coal industry. But at least, after that, we did it. These tragedies happened with regrettable regularity in the past, and unfortunately, no such action was taken. It was quite right that we passed these amendments, that we shifted a significant part of the responsibility ­ including the financial responsibility ­ to the owners, and this is fully in keeping with the standards and principles that have been in existence in other countries for a long time now. We should give the owners their dues, when these terrible tragedies happened, they didn't spare their finances ­ they dealt with all the social issues arising. However, this had to be enshrined in law ­ it is what people wanted, you did it, and thanks to you also for that.

A number of bills in the social sphere were passed. I am talking about medicines, mandatory medical insurance and, most certainly, the most recent, comprehensive law. As you know, it was no mean feat, we had help in the shape of the Russian Popular Front; Doctor Roshal got involved, as did his colleagues. It even went far as a few fights breaking out with certain governmental departments. I wouldn't say that the law was initially excessively weak or poorly drafted. It contains many strong provisions, and they provided good foundations. However, if the medical community identified certain imperfections, and pointed them out to us, I believe it is very good that we responded. In this regard, I would like to tell you that the procedure we used in drafting and passing this law (we used to implement it in various ways before) ­ the Law on Public Health Protection ­ was certainly correct, appropriate, and should be applied in the future as well, I mean here wide-ranging discussions.

Remark: Zero reading.

Vladimir Putin: Not only that. Zero reading takes place in parliament.

Remark: A wider platform.

Vladimir Putin: Absolutely right. It was posted on the internet; it was discussed by the professional community both in Moscow and in the regions; they have received a host of comments, suggestions and proposals, analysed them all and only then they reached a consensus. This is actually an advanced approach to decision-making that is currently being implemented in some countries to great effect but we have used this approach in real life. Let me reiterate, if we continue down the same path, we will be able to address the most pressing issue, which is securing and protecting our people's interests.

Yesterday, you adopted amendments which will make it possible to launch large-scale housing construction projects for doctors, teachers and people employed in the arts. This is also very important, and I would like to thank you for doing this. The issue is of setting up housing cooperatives for these categories of public sector workers. Land plots for this construction work will be allocated without auctions, making this housing more affordable; at least, I would very much like it to be like this. As a matter of fact, this law was adopted exactly with the view to making housing more affordable. Overall, our efforts to support the construction industry during the crisis have worked out well and are still effective. The housing completion rates in Russia are again on the rise, and were up 3.3% in January-October 2011 as compared with the same period in 2010.

We have also focused greatly on improving efficiency at all levels of government. And here I would like to point out the key law governing the procedure for providing federal and municipal services, which tangibly changes the approach these procedures take ­ realigning the focus so it is on people's needs. This new order is already in place at the federal level and people, I hope, don't have to run around knocking on all those doors in order to get what they need. However, my visits to the regions show that not all issues have been addressed to date, and this law needs to be felt in the regions and municipalities so that everything works on the one-stop-shop principle.

I would like to say a few words about another legislative innovation that you supported yesterday: the amendments associated with organisations engaged in artistic and cultural activities placing orders. I met with cultural activists in Penza, and they told me that the largest sum they can spend when placing an order with suppliers, without being obliged to hold an auction, is a mere 100,000 roubles. They believe this very low and that it hampers their work. I am grateful to you for actually addressing this request from our colleagues in the decision you took yesterday to raise this amount to 400,000 roubles ­ just as they asked.

I would like to mention the work done by United Russia to support our integration processes. To a great extent, it was your participation that made it possible to put together a very intricate package establishing the Customs Union and Common Economic Space between Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus. The work was gruelling, with each country poring over the details, each comma, because each determined the amount set for our respective budget revenues and the well-being of specific industries. Suffice it to recall our heated debates with regard to railway transport, a major infrastructural component of our integration processes in energy and other industries, customs tariffs and social issues more broadly. We prepared the requisite foundations for further steps to be taken towards the creation of the Eurasian Union, which will provide a deeper level of integration between our countries.

In all, the fifth convocation of the State Duma passed over 1,500 bills in four years. Mr Gryzlov mentioned this fact yesterday. United Russia initiated a third of them. You developed another third, in conjunction with other parties and the Russian government. This means that United Russia was in the thick of the legislative process, working hard and always putting the interests of people above everything else. Colleagues, I hope it will stay this way in the future.

It is particularly important to preserve the continuity of positive trends that we have started. I will name three main principles that should underlie this work. First, that all programmes and projects under development have a social focus. Second, a responsible and balanced budget policy. I have already mentioned this earlier, but we cannot afford to run into the same problems that our friends in some European countries have found themselves confronting. This means that all budget expenses ­ let me stress this once again­ must be based on real budget revenue. Real is the operative word here. Not even revenue from oil and gas sales. We receive oil and gas money because the situation on the global markets is favourable for Russia. We made the right decision some time ago when we decided to use a significant portion of this income to establish reserves to enable us to meet our obligations to our people during lean times.

Third, a broad-based public discussion of key legislative initiatives of the kind we had before regarding the most recent law on health care.

There are many professionally trained and competent people among United Russia's candidates for the Duma. Some come from the Popular Front. I am confident that United Russia will present our people, the electorate, with a very capable force, and will ask them to support these people.

To conclude, I would like to wish you success. This is a very important time for any political group, especially one that has faced major demands and major expectations for several years. Of course, these expectations don't always come true, and people react correspondingly, including requests for the party to act more decisively and effectively. I am confident that you can do it, that you will be up to the task. Please, go ahead.

Boris Gryzlov: Thank you. Mr Putin, yesterday we summed up the State Duma's activities during the autumn session and throughout the fifth convocation of the Duma. We adopted 1,608 bills, including federal and constitutional laws, which is 500 more than during the fourth convocation of the Duma and twice as many as during the third convocation of the Duma (800 bills). Clearly, we were able to adopt so many laws largely due to the fact that a single party formed a parliamentary majority. It also reflects the joint efforts of the United Russia parliamentary party, the government, and the president. The number of bills submitted to the Duma by the government and the president has significantly increased, accounting for one third of the total number. This is many more than the number of bills during the first, second, and third convocations of the State Duma, when this cooperation was less efficient.

I would like to point out that the United Russia group in the State Duma voted in a consolidated manner at all plenary sessions. The level of vote consolidation was a little over 98%. This is a major achievement, and deputies actively debate and articulate their positions in meetings or presidium meetings of the parliamentary party, which results in well-argued opinions, that are later voiced in plenary sessions. The group members all displayed a very responsible attitude to their work, which facilitated the adoption of so many bills.

Clearly, the global economic crisis, when we had to rush through an anti-crisis programme, was a moment of truth. The government submitted the programme and we discussed it in the State Duma on April 6, 2009. The United Russia group made 50 specific proposals, which were considered and incorporated into the programme. We have already worked together to implement this programme, and our contribution was the swift passing of the relevant laws. All the appropriate laws were adopted within a month, which is a very short timeframe. This involved very intensive work.

Vladimir Putin: We essentially had to cover every industry, including, as I said earlier, machine building, defence, aviation, space...

Remark: ... healthcare...

Vladimir Putin: I mean various industrial sectors, including transport, energy. We had to make separate decisions on virtually every sector. And later on social sectors, of course.

Boris Gryzlov: One of the first and most important bills was the law on increasing the government-insured deposit limits, raising the limit to 700,000 roubles.

Remark: To protect deposits.

Boris Gryzlov: Exactly. That measure helped calm down those people who have bank deposits, dissuading them from withdrawing their savings, thus helping to protect the banking sector. Of course we were criticised by the opposition for allocating significant resources to the banking sector. Today, it is clear that this was absolutely correct, for not only has the government recovered these funds, but it has also profited from making them available to the banks. The decisions taken were correct and time has proved us right. Had we heeded the opposition, which wanted to debate these issues...You made an excellent point in your speech yesterday, that it is better to adopt a bill urgently, even with some shortcomings, which can be ironed out at a later date, than to discuss it for hours on end in the hope of finding a better solution, but eventually failing to pass anything. I believe that we succeeded in passing these laws in a timely fashion. With regard to the group's position on major laws, such as the budget...

Vladimir Putin: Sorry to interrupt you, Mr Gryzlov, I remember the discussions we had at the time, when some government members wanted parliament to cede its decision-making powers to the government due to the crisis. But you insisted it was necessary to proceed in accordance with the law and that parliament must retain these powers, as set out in the law. You then told me that the Duma would act promptly to finalise and pass the necessary laws. And it is precisely because we had an efficient parliament that we could do that.

Remark: And the government submitted reports on anti-crisis measures taken on a quarterly basis, we saw special laws passed....

Boris Gryzlov: I would like to note that we have always acted very responsibly when discussing the annual federal budget. Granted, deputies always want to see a great deal done, as they work in the regions and want to accomplish something in them. But we always acted responsibly, refrained from inflating the budget by proposing various projects, and focused our efforts on strategic directions. Regarding the 2012 budget, the only proposal that the party and our parliamentary group made, was to increase funding for the construction of sports and fitness centres.

Vladimir Putin: In addition.

Boris Gryzlov: This is in addition to the funds included in the draft budget. We identified a funding source that did not require the overall budget expenditure to be increased. It is a very interesting programme, coordinated by Mr Vorobyov. We have already secured funding for 400 sports and fitness centres across Russia.

Vladimir Putin: In fact, people in the regions are very enthusiastic about it. This is something everybody mentions when I visit the regions.

Boris Gryzlov: In fact, those governments that are disintegrating now in Europe are all leftist, socialist governments. Germany has a right-wing CDU-CSU coalition government and things are fine there. I am alluding to the upcoming elections.

Vladimir Putin: Well, I would call it conservative, not right-wing.

Boris Gryzlov: Yes, conservative. In election debates, our opponents fail to substantiate their positions. All they say is that things will improve if we spend all the resources on increasing stipends, pensions, and salaries. But they don't base this in anything.

Vladimir Putin: The answer is very simple. The fact is that resources generated from oil revenues and invested in the reserve funds (the largest being the National Wealth Fund) are used annually to support the pension system. That should stop this baseless chatter, they should simply familiarise themselves with the actual facts.

Boris Gryzlov: Exactly. In four years, pensions have increased threefold, from 3,000 roubles to 9,000 roubles (in early 2012). Nowhere in Europe or Russia has before experienced this rate of growth.

With regard to the tasks in the short term. Naturally, we support the creation of the Eurasian Union, and we have already voiced our position on this issue. At a recent meeting, we approved the agreement on the creation of the Eurasian Economic Commission, which is essentially a supranational body. It is our understanding that we need to promote the integration of as many economies as we can in the CIS space that could potentially benefit each other. We are creating a market that has a population sufficient for the efficient functioning of the economy. The three countries currently make up 170 million people. Hopefully, will have a 250-million strong market, which will likely be sufficient to compete with the European Union. There is another issue that we will have to tackle in the near future. I am referring to the budget distribution. We need to readjust this in favour of the regions and municipalities. I think this should be a major issue to pursue in 2012.

Vladimir Putin: We need to review the current distribution of budget revenues jointly and carefully. We need to examine the responsibilities of the federal, regional, and municipal governments and their funding sources. The government is currently undertaking these activities and we will certainly consult and discuss these issues with you.


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