Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:
Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon colleagues. This is the last deputy prime ministers meeting this year. I believe that our discussions are very useful because we can discuss both open issues and issues that are closed to the general public, and do it in a friendly atmosphere.
This is what we’ll begin with. We’ve had a long cold spell, which is quite unusual for December. Due to this some regions have encountered certain difficulties, if not problems. The Emergencies Minister reported to me on this issue yesterday. He spoke about the situation in Novosibirsk, Tyva and several other regions. Mr Kozak (addressing Dmitry Kozak), what is the situation there?
Dmitry Kozak: On the whole, this year we have had 16 accidents in the housing and utilities sector since the beginning of the heating season, which is not unusual, although the actual figure depends on temperatures. Three of these accidents developed into emergencies, meaning that heat had not been restored by the approved deadline, that is, within 36 hours. All of these incidents have been rectified, excluding in the Republic of Tyva. The situation can be described as an emergency because water didn’t reach the boiler house for a long time, resulting in a lack of heat for 103 residential blocks where 3,000 live.
Dmitry Medvedev: The minister told me yesterday that all of them have been resettled. Is this so?
Dmitry Kozak: Yes, they have been moved to temporary quarters, that is, 2,465 people have been moved, and the rest are staying with relatives and friends. Repairs are underway there, with half of the radiators replaced. One of the boiler rooms is to be started up today and it will begin heating the buildings. Overall, rescue teams numbering over 1,000 people are working there, delivering meals and clothes, and there is hope that the situation will be settled within the next two days. Heat distribution in the other regions where emergencies were reported, in particular, Novosibirsk, has been restored.
Dmitry Medvedev: I see.
Dmitry Kozak: As for the New Year holidays, instructions have been issued to the regional authorities, and through them to the municipal authorities, to approve duty charts for the holidays. These charts are to be submitted to the Federal Government so that we’ll be able to monitor compliance. We really need to do this, given the unusually low temperatures. In principle, we have done this before, but this year we need to be especially alert to be able to respond promptly to emergencies.
Dmitry Medvedev: Good. Do you want to add anything?
Arkady Dvorkovich: I wanted to mention Tyva, which is my responsibility. There were plans to replace the boiler, in the boiler room where the accident happened, next summer. But the accident happened before we had a chance to do this. The head of the republican government has asked the Federal Government to provide modular boiler systems from the state reserve, and we considered their application. A modular system is being delivered to Tyva from a military unit in the Krasnoyarsk Territory, which should settle the issue.
Dmitry Medvedev: We must do it one way or another, because people must be able to return to their flats in the next few days. So we must settle the issue. With respect to these accidents, unfortunately, they did happen and will happen inevitably, not because of the poor condition of the boilers, but because Russia is a big country with a huge heating system. However, it is alarming that these kinds of accidents happen regularly in a number of regions. In particular, this has happened many times in the past few years in Tyva, so we should look into that.
So the weather conditions affect not only the utility services, but also agriculture. I know that you, Mr Dvorkovich (addressing Arkady Dvorkovich), have chaired a meeting on this issue and have discussed cold weather and the lack of snow in a number of regions, which raises concerns about the future of the winter crops. How is it going and what’s being done in this respect?
Arkady Dvorkovich: Yes, last week I held a teleconference on this issue with the regions with the largest areas of winter crops. The situation is as follows. In general, the winter crop areas are mostly the same as in recent years; about 16 million hectares. This is enough for winter crop sowing, but, considering the current situation, it would have been good to have more. Many companies are experiencing financial problems and couldn’t sow more. Their plans were more optimistic, but the results of the sowing campaign were the same as last year. Due to the weather, the loss of winter crops is more or less the same as usual: about 8% - 9%.
Dmitry Medvedev: Probably, it depends on the region. I met with the Governor of the Orenburg Region. They are pretty worried about the winter crops.
Arkady Dvorkovich: There are several regions that are doing worse than others, notably, the Orenburg, Saratov and Volgograd regions, the south of the Samara Region and the Penza and Ulyanovsk regions. The reason is the combination of low temperatures and little snow. The regions that have good snow cover are doing well despite the cold weather. Their winter crops are in good shape. As for the regions with little snow, their losses are between 20% and 30%. This is significant but even with all these losses their harvest is expected to be the same as in the last few years. That said, I have instructed the relevant bodies to allocate additional money under the fund redistribution provision and from regional budgets for possible re-sowing wherever necessary and for additional expert recommendations to make sure the management of winter crops meets all the standards. I have also told them to promptly allocate the funds under the 2013 budget. Traditionally, this process takes a very long time here.
Dmitry Medvedev: Regrettably.
Arkady Dvorkovich: We have agreed that all this will be done until the end of February. The resolutions either already have your signature or have been submitted to you and will be signed later this week.
Dmitry Medvedev: Okay. Follow up on the developments please. Our winters are long and something can always hit like a bolt from the blue. It’s important to monitor how any changes affect the fields and the harvests we expect them to produce.
Now let’s switch to social issues. I know Ms Golodets (Olga Golodets) held a meeting of the Government Council on Guardianship in the Social Sphere. You discussed the creation of guardianship councils at medical and social institutions. Could you please tell us briefly about these councils? Why do you want to establish them? What will they accomplish?
Olga Golodets: The Government Guardianship Council was established in October and all of its members have been working hard since then. They have drafted standard provisions for guardianship councils, which have become a guide for all guardians in the Russian Federation. They are establishing direct contacts with the already operating guardianship councils and paying special attention to the creation of these councils at large federal institutions. Regrettably, they did not have these councils before but now two of them have already been established. Ten federal institutions will have set up guardianship councils before the end of the year.
Dmitry Medvedev: What will they do?
Olga Golodets: First of all, they are tools to allow the public to appraise the performance of each institution in this category. Councils do not merely establish whether the patients of a particular institution are pleased with the services or not. They also assess the quality of services and transparency of finances at a particular institution. A good appraisal is bound to instantly raise its status.
Dmitry Medvedev: And who are the members of these councils?
Olga Golodets: The members of the councils are…
Dmitry Medvedev: I don’t need names. I simply want to know what kind of people they are.
Olga Golodest: Some of them represent business. A lot of them are people who have long been dealing with guardianship and volunteering, such as Yegor Beroyev and Chulpan Khamatova. In a nutshell, these are people that are not indifferent and continuously concern themselves with guardianship issues, and many business people. So the sinew is strong indeed.
On 18 December we discussed issues related to the forms of child maintenance in boarding houses. Today, we have set ourselves a task that we plan to fulfil by 1 July – check the diagnoses of all children in remedial boarding houses. Regrettably, one of the problems (and the guardians have pointed this out) is that very often children with different diseases are kept in institutions where they do not have an opportunity to study. I hope those concerned will help us check the diagnoses so we can deal with this problem.
The second urgent issue is that today the requirements for qualification and standards are higher than they used to be. Now people dealing with disabled children in such institutions must be better qualified all the way – in healthcare, the social sphere and education. The requirements for such professional skills will be elaborated with the participation of civil society by 1 July and I hope we will be able to make a fundamental change in the entire social sphere.
Dmitry Medvedev: All right, Ms Golodets. I’d like to remind you about the discussion we had at the Government meeting on the need to review the lists of children kept in such institutions, check on their medical condition and verify some other circumstances with a view to launching this work on a large scale.
Is it a deal?
Olga Golodets: Yes, of course.
Dmitry Medvedev: I would like to discuss another issue concerning our large-scale programme for the Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU). Mr Shuvalov (Igor Shuvalov), we have built many things there, including an impressive complex for the university. Let me note that the university buildings are federal property assigned to the FEFU. Students will move to a new campus on Russky Island and the vacated buildings will be sold in line with the adopted decisions. How is the move going? What have you done? Do you have any problems? The FEFU is now a serious educational institution and it must operate to its full capacity – not bit by bit.
Igor Shuvalov: Mr Medvedev, you have signed a Government resolution allowing the sale of 55 buildings that are now being used by the FEFU on the mainland part of Vladivostok. As students are moving to Russky Island, these buildings will be sold in an open auction. According to the resolution mentioned earlier, we must select an appraiser for these buildings and a relevant organisation to sell them in the auction. We have already commenced this work together with the Ministry of Economic Development and the Federal Agency for State Property Management (Rosimushchestvo). Why is this being done? The funds from the sales will be transferred to the federal budget and we will spend them on preparations for the second stage of the university’s construction. What you have described as our job are 27 buildings occupying approximately 200 hectares on Russky Island. The second stage is designed to allow the university to function at full scale.
At the same time, I would like to tell you that we have organised a housing cooperative for the faculty and other employees of the FEFU and the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. So, we are not only thinking about the construction of buildings, but also trying to provide housing to individuals who are ready to buy it. We are working with contractor companies and the Housing Construction Fund, and providing them with land and the required infrastructure facilities to keep the housing costs low.
As for the move to Russky Island, it is proceeding rather slowly, Mr Medvedev. Right now 2,700 students live in the campus. Those who have moved from…
Dmitry Medvedev: And how many should live there?
Igor Shuvalov: Eleven thousand all in all. As for the 2,700 who have moved, they are first-year students who have matriculated in the FEFU this year. They have moved to the dormitories. All of the non-residential and residential premises were inspected after APEC Leaders’ Week and now a contractor company is removing all of the shortcomings that were found. They are installing new window weather strips and replacing plumbing equipment in a number of places to make sure that everything conforms to the design specifications.
Dmitry Medvedev: What happened with the weather strips?
Igor Shuvalov: The winds are very strong in the winter and the area facing the gulf… Additional weather strips had to be placed on some buildings and we have ordered them.
Dmitry Medvedev: Did you miscalculate?
Igor Shuvalov: Yes. Most probably, this is a design miscalculation, but the contractors are telling us that they have fixed everything. We are now completing the construction of the medical bloc, the outpatient clinic and the engineering building to store equipment for several schools. We plan to finish all of this work by the end of the first quarter and university students will have the chance to start moving as of the second quarter of next year. However, the rector's office has decided that they will make this move gradually, without interrupting the academic process.
Dmitry Medvedev: This is the right thing to do.
Igor Shuvalov: Indeed, because later on students will take exams and each faculty will compile its own schedule for this move, so as to start the new academic year on 1 September in the new location. All of the work is proceeding by plan. If you look at the deadlines for this project and the quality that we have delivered… On the whole, the contractors have done a good job. In fact, you have already given them credit for this.
Dmitry Medvedev: Okay. I fully share the university’s position. Of course, walls are important for the university, but the academic process prevails. I would like to ask you to take care of these buildings and to turn them into organised classrooms ready to accept the students who will move there. Everything should be fine. It's a deal. Thank you.