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TRANSCRIPT: President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin meet with voters

Dmitri Medvedev and Vladimir Putin
file photo
Vladimir Putin's opening remarks:

We are grateful to you for coming here today. This is a meeting of allies and allies are allies ­ they are like an extended support group, they are our team. We have entered the final stage of the election campaign, and we can see what is happening in the media, including television, print and the internet, and, since we are a team, our common task is... Many things are clear to us, but our common task is to hold today's meeting in an atmosphere that will help us explain our position on some issues to those who have not yet made their choice, are in the process of deciding or are unsure about something. And if you have any questions, Mr Medvedev and I will be happy to clarify the issues which you consider vital, which must be clarified so that you can see the direction of our movement in the short term. Now my monologue is over: let's start a conversation. * * *

Vladimir Putin's statements and comments during a meeting with voters

Preschool education and standards of educational services

We will allocate 10 billion roubles to support the regions that are making positive advancements in this area and that are taking interest in this work. Overall, we must admit that all regional heads are aware of the scope of the problem, which was not so acute before when the birth rate was not so high. Today the inability of preschool childcare centres to admit all children might even be said to be hindering the further growth of the birth rate, because young mothers want to be able to return to their jobs. This is understandable, and we understand it too, which is why we have earmarked 10 billion roubles of federal budget funds.

As for standards, I fully agree with Mr Medvedev. Indeed, regions and municipalities differ from one another, so indeed, how can they all be held to the same standards? You have said here that various inspecting organisations are making excessive demands, but they are the same across the board, which is why they cannot be efficient. Do you see what I mean? So it will be rather difficult to introduce common standards, although we can consider the possibility. And one more thing: you said that your municipal establishment would like to receive direct subsidies. There is a type of organisation called "autonomous establishments," and they have even greater autonomy. We should consider the economic aspects, of course, but I think this is possible, in principle.


We hope that the birth rate will continue to grow still further. The Belt of the Virgin Mary has been carried across the country. Incidentally, priests say that not only Christians but people of other faiths as well, including Muslims, came to see the belt. And when Athos monks asked these Muslims why they wanted to see the belt, they responded, "God knows why ­ just in case. Perhaps it'll help."

Russian medicine

You know, I have an ever increasing sense of pride about our medical specialists. We may be lagging behind in many high-tech spheres, but we have caught up and taken the lead in many of the fields. Mr Medvedev has seen this, but I was impressed when I saw a surgeon using manipulator technology to conduct surgery on a patient lying nearby. It was straight out of science fiction. I asked the surgeon, "How much are you paid?" There were journalists around, and he was embarrassed. "Just whisper it to me," I told him. And he did, and I was pleased. His income is absolutely comparable with that of the best doctors in Europe.

Still, we must admit that there are many problems in healthcare, and healthcare service standards ­ especially in urban outpatient clinics, including in Moscow ­ are far below modern healthcare demands. We must do a great deal to raise healthcare standards. This is why we are implementing a second large-scale healthcare programme including two years of modernisation assessed at 460 billion roubles. This is a solid sum. If you find that you have modern equipment available and new opportunities, Mr Medvedev and I are very pleased because this is feedback. We see that the money is being used wisely and you are getting what we planned you would receive. Mr Medvedev and I visit the regions not only to discuss problems, but also to see what practical work is being done in different spheres. I can tell you that I see many improvements.

As for salaries, including specialists' salaries, they should grow next year due to the introduction of new standards. We expect specialists' salaries to be raised by 6,000 roubles a month and nursing staff salaries by 3,200 roubles. This is based on preliminary estimates. Of course, we should raise salaries in all of the publicly funded sectors across the country. This is the first thing that I wanted to say.

Now, a few words about the practices proposed for rural doctors. I will remind those who focused on other spheres what we suggested should be done starting next year. To encourage young specialists to work in rural areas, we decided to issue a resettlement benefit of 1 million roubles for those young people aged below 35 who will move to a rural area this or next year on condition that they will work there for at least five years. Would we spread this practice to all rural areas and also to cities? The rural population accounts for 40% of the country's total, which is a significant amount. Cities and towns, as well as municipalities, offer better opportunities. Take Novosibirsk, which is a municipal area, but also a city with a million-plus population. So, there should be certain budgetary limitations. We would be pleased to issue everyone 1 million roubles, but this would collapse the budget. Therefore, we should simply increase salaries in the industry as a whole and also resolve one of the most painful problems ­ housing. This should be done by both municipalities and regions. I agree that we should help them, but it is primarily their responsibility, and so they must do this. Where the authorities address this issue as a priority, the achievements are truly impressive.

Strategic planning

I want to say a few words about state planning. There was a joke during the Soviet era. There is a military parade on Red Square. Tanks, artillery guns and missiles roll past, followed by a group of people wearing suits and ties. "Who are they?" someone asks. "The State Planning Committee ­ a weapon of destructive force!," he hears in reply. Joking apart, there were many positive elements to state planning. Its principles cannot be applied to a market economy directly, but we could analyse the strategic planning methods used by large corporations in a number of large countries, even though they differ from the state planning methods that we used for individual industries in the past. In fact, this is what we do today when we draft the country's development programmes to 2020. It is called strategic planning.

Disabled people's problems

We are now implementing the Barrier-Free Environment programme, and there is sound progress in many regions...

We are really striving to change things for the better. However, we see numerous unresolved issues as well. The biggest is the lack of well-paid jobs. I'm not talking about rehabilitation equipment or benefits. I am referring to the social aspects of the problem. You know this, and I know this. Employed people feel independent and good about themselves in every way. This is something that the state needs to provide jointly with private businesses. Job creation is a collaborative effort by the state and private businesses. There's much that needs to be done in this area. There's a great deal of injustice in our life to the point where your heart starts to ache. Therefore, the state, businesses, society and regional authorities should keep this in mind. There are millions of disabled people in Russia who need our assistance. The important thing is that we can ­ it's not easy, but we can ­ solve this issue. We will continue along this path and address all of the issues that we will encounter.

Pay increases for service personnel

We decided to focus our financial resources on service personnel who have particularly large responsibilities within national defence and who serve under difficult conditions and in very harsh climates ...

Military service

Now, a few words about the morale in the military. It really is important. I can remember and I am ashamed to recall the mid-1990s when military servicemen were pushed out of public transport and had their caps knocked off their heads in fights. You know that we saw this not that long ago. If society no longer grasps the importance of military service, then it is quickly approaching the edge of a precipice. Everyone quickly realised the army's importance when they saw the bloodshed in the North Caucasus.

Military service personnel will soon be paid good money by Russian standards. If you think about public sector workers' salaries, the first thought that comes to your mind is that it's unfair. However, what we need to do is to raise public sector workers' salaries, not to decrease the pay of servicemen. I remember speaking with army officers when we planned military operations in the Caucasus, and I knew that they would claim many human lives. You know, when I first heard their response, I shuddered. "Yes," they said, "this is part of our job." They were not showing off and there were no television cameras around. You know, such a mindset means a lot, and we should never forget a very important truism, which is nevertheless very true ­ if you don't feed your own army, you will have to feed someone else's army.

Support for agriculture

Last year and the year before last, we allocated 400 billion roubles for the rural economy. We had 147 billion roubles planned for this year, but then we added another 63 billion for a total of 210 billion. In 2009, the rural economy managed to keep an additional 3.5 billion roubles due to government subsidies for fuel and lubricants. Last year, the figure was 5.5 billion, and this year it is 17 billion. Of course, we plan to continue to support all areas of the rural economy, including subsidies for interest payments under loans issued by Roagroleasing and so on. We have increased Rosselkhozbank's capitalisation and have preliminary plans to add 170 billion roubles to it. So, we will continue to support all areas of the rural economy.

We have extended the rural social development programme by another two years. Later, we will further promote agriculture through the programme. We will do all of this....

Concerning modernisation

Modernisation must cover all aspects of life; this is not a matter of modernising industry or the economy. Modernisation is a policy that needs to alter the mindset of society and the way we approach everything that we do. It's also about budget modernisation, an area in which we should focus more on efficient budget spending (I have the housing and utilities sector in mind, among others) along with other approaches. In order to accomplish this, we are developing government programmes; we will discontinue targeted financing and transfer all of its funds to the government programmes. These programmes will cover industry, agriculture and the government, which I hope... I would like to emphasise that if voters trust us with forming the government, if they vote for United Russia and your humble servant as its presidential candidate, then Mr Medvedev will certainly become prime minister, just as he has said many times. With regard to direct government involvement, this is a matter that concerns agriculture, industry and scientific research. We need to base our life on different principles. As for the economy, the idea has been brought up many times that we need to move away from our dependency on oil and gas and adopt innovative economic models. In order to accomplish this, we need to promote science and education. Perhaps the first steps in this direction need to be taken as early as kindergarten.

Speaking of kindergarten, with regard to preschool I prefer to talk in terms of upbringing rather than education. Some modern psychologists say that children should not be taught subjects in kindergarten; instead, they should be properly raised and prepared for school. This is a different area, let's leave it to specialists. In short, the spirit of innovation and modernisation should permeate our entire society. It should become a new phase in the development of our nation and our state. There is a great deal that needs to be done by presidential institutions, but the Russian government has an equally important share of work to do. Please rest assured that we will be able to divide these powers in full accordance with the Russian Constitution.

* * *

Final remarks by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin:

Thank you very much. I feel that we have had a free and open discussion, with certain pointed comments. It's clear that there are like-minded people in the audience, and if we have been successful in sharing new information and our plans for future development with a wide population of Russian people and Russian voters, then we can rest assured that we have accomplished our task. I hope, at least in part, that we have succeeded in doing so. Thank you very much.

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