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Meeting with Government members

February 10, 2021, Novo-Ogaryovo, Moscow Region

The President held a meeting, via videoconference, with members of the Russian Government.

The meeting was attended by Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Anton Vaino, First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov, deputy prime ministers Viktoria Abramchenko, Yury Borisov, Tatyana Golikova, Alexander Novak, Alexei Overchuk, Marat Khusnullin and Dmitry Chernyshenko, Deputy Prime Minister – Chief of the Government Staff Dmitry Grigorenko, Deputy Prime Minister and Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District Yury Trutnev, Presidential Aide Maxim Oreshkin, Minister of Economic Development Maxim Reshetnikov, and Minister of Finance Anton Siluanov. The meeting was also attended by Presidential Aide and Head of the Presidential State-Legal Directorate Larisa Brychyova, Minister of Sport Oleg Matytsin, Minister of Healthcare Mikhail Murashko, Minister of Science and Higher Education Valery Falkov, Governor of the Central Bank Elvira Nabiullina, Head of the Federal Taxation Service Daniil Yegorov, and President of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs Alexander Shokhin.

* * *

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Colleagues, good afternoon.

The main speaker today is Mr Belousov. Before we start discussing the agenda, I would like to return to the matter that one of the participants brought up at the recent meeting of the Council for Science and Education, namely the wages of research workers.

In 2018, the Government reported on the implementation of one of the May 2012 Executive Orders concerning public sector wages. At the same time, in my 2019 Address, I specifically brought to the attention of both federal and regional authorities the need to keep the achieved level of wages in the public sector, and that any kind of political chicanery was unacceptable there. This requirement is still valid, as we all understand.

At the same time, sometimes we see that little things can alter the essence of the bigger task. Just a reminder, that the point is not in reporting, but in ensuring a decent level of remuneration paid to healthcare professionals, educators, culture and social workers – the most important sectors for society and for the country.

However, very often we can see – at least, it happens occasionally, to put it mildly – that some of our services play around with the statistics, and we can see certain adjustments of formal indicators. What happens as a result? According to the reports, everything seems to converge. But sometimes things converge due to various tricks, for example specialists get transferred to part-time work, as was mentioned during our discussion at the Council meeting, to compensate them half-pay or quarter-pay. At the same time, their workload remains the same, or even more.

We have heard all this at a meeting of the Council for Science and Education. The discussion involved Anastasia Proskurina, a senior researcher from an institute of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, who mentioned her 25,000-ruble wage, plus a 6,000-ruble bonus. As we understand, and I noted that too, even this sum total does not meet the guidelines set out in the May 2012 Presidential Executive Order.

In this connection, I would like to ask the Government and the regions of the Russian Federation to quickly and attentively analyse the situation with the wages of all public sector workers in all spheres and regions of the country. As we have seen during the pandemic, the modern digital and IT potential makes it possible to accomplish this with regard to every public sector agency and each specialist. In effect, we have this potential today. Consequently, we need to get a complete, objective and exhaustive picture.

I repeat, this analysis should not amount to some average pay survey, and this should not be done just at the level of organisations. I would like to ask you, yes, this work is, indeed, difficult, but we need to assess each employee’s situation.

And, most importantly, we need to draft and implement detailed solutions that will make it possible to eliminate the problems exposed. It goes without saying that problems are inevitable, but we have to analyse them all the time. Public sector wages must be transparent, understandable and fair; this is a key requirement here. We will discuss transparency some time later. And the oversight system for monitoring the situation should take into account the situation and incomes of each specialist, rather than average indicators.

Besides, I would like to ask you to monitor compliance with norms setting the wage ratio for employees and corporate managers. We have already done this with regard to higher education institutions. It is common knowledge that, to put it mildly, a rather substantial gap can exist here. At first glance, average wages can be rather impressive. In reality, though, some people earn a lot, while others are underpaid.

This reason considered, I am asking you to reassess everything linked with public sector wages. I would like to recall the May 2012 Presidential Executive Order once again. No one has abolished it, and its provisions have to be fulfilled, no matter what. I am asking my colleagues in the Government and in the regions to be guided by this aspect in their work.

Before we resume our work, I would like to hear a report by Minister of Science and Higher Education Valery Falkov. He and I have already discussed this matter in the sphere of science. I would like to hear his assessments and analysis.

Please, you have the floor.

(Minister of Science and Higher Education Valery Falkov reported on payments to researchers, including allocation of funds to research organisations and breakdown of wages, in accordance with current law, between researchers depending on their category, and also answered the President’s questions on the issue under discussion.)

Vladimir Putin: I will now proceed to the main issue I planned to touch upon. As we know, researchers at such establishments are divided into five categories depending on their positions, and the higher the category, the higher the pay, of course. In principle, this is how it should be. This is the correct approach, of course. But what do we see in this particular establishment? We see that 30 percent of researchers there receive a higher pay than the economy average, and 70 percent receive less than the average.

I will not say whether this is good or bad, but the institute’s management has approved this scheme. At the same time, the basic pay is approved directly by the management, the director of the institute.

What has been the focal point of our discussions with the Minister, including today’s? It is that basic pay can be different for similar institutions even in one and the same region, as you have pointed out.

I understand that there should be a difference between regions. But if the situation is so unbalanced that basic pay differs even between establishments located on the same street, so to speak, this is a matter of concern. This is the first thing I wanted to say.

Second, we keep saying that researchers’ pay must be two times higher than the regional average. However, it turns out that wages are not computed based on the average for the economy. What are they based on, Mr Falkov?

Valery Falkov: They are based on the average earned income.

Vladimir Putin: They are based on the average earned income. As far as I know, this figure differs from the economy average.

Look here, when we say publicly again and again that the economy average is such and such, people, especially researchers who are as good at counting as we are, if not better, take this into account. Maybe we should say openly that wages are computed based on the average earned income, and explain what this means. There should be no dittology in this matter. Everything must be plain, clear and transparent. I would like to ask you to take this into account.

Next, we must, of course, think about improving the methods for calculating wages and percentages of average earned income. I will definitely ask the Finance Ministry and related departments to go over this matter again.

Next, I mentioned five categories of researchers, and the fact that members of higher categories must be paid higher salaries. This is obvious and this is the way it should be: the higher the qualification, the more a person should be paid. However, a lower limit must also be set, because if we do not set a minimum, then there might be certain directors or heads of organisations who will bring this lower limit down to the minimum wage. This is absolutely unacceptable in this area. When young professionals get a job, they must know how much they are going to be paid. The state must regulate this matter which should form the basis for grade-based wages. To reiterate, this must be done openly and transparently. Of course, wages must be based on regional specifics, because the cost of living varies across regions.

In this regard, I have one more remark to make, which we also discussed with the Minister. In relation to the heads of higher education institutions, the rectors, we have established a performance indicator that shows how many employees of a particular institution receive 200 percent of the average pay and how many do not. I think the same could be applied to research institutes and the like. Then, perhaps, this would encourage the relevant institutions’ senior officials not to use the funds on matters of secondary importance. I am not talking about chemicals or necessary equipment, but matters of secondary importance, at a time when they can maintain the proper and necessary wage level as required by the 2012 Presidential Executive Order.

This concludes my remarks. Please do what needs to be done and report back on the results.

Mr Mishustin, please pay attention to this.

Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin: Will do, Mr President.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you.

Let's go through a few items on our current agenda. Mr Murashko, could you please talk about the programme to modernise the primary care system and the progress with vaccinations.

In 2021, we plan to allocate 90 billion rubles for the development of primary healthcare. This is a lot, and moreover, we plan to invest a total of 550 billion rubles over five years. It is essential that not a single ruble gets wasted or spent on something else. All the funds should be used efficiently.

Go ahead, please.

Healthcare Minister Mikhail Murashko: Good afternoon, Mr President, colleagues.

Primary healthcare is more in demand than any other part of the medical system. Outpatient facilities, polyclinics and paramedic centres are places that patients visit most often. On average, people make about a billion visits to primary healthcare facilities per year across Russia. Primary care facilities are the facade of healthcare.

First, I would like to report on our work last year. Our efforts were primarily aimed at rural healthcare. In 2019–2020, 1,396 paramedic centres and outpatient clinics opened, and 985 mobile care vehicles were purchased to improve rural healthcare. This plan continued over the past year despite the difficult epidemic situation.

But in addition to facilities and equipment, we continued to improve polyclinics’ performance. In 2020, as many as 6,000 of them, or more than 70 percent, began to use the new outpatient care model based on our thrifty technology concept that allows doctors to work more comfortably. This is a new economy, and patients spend less time at the polyclinic. Moreover, I would like to highlight that 2,877 of the total number of these polyclinics are children's clinics.

During a meeting on primary care modernisation in 2019, Mr President, you noted that primary care is of the essence for every citizen in our country. On your instructions, from January 1, 2021, primary healthcare modernisation programmes are being implemented in the regions. Those programmes were developed based on the real situation in each locality – we looked at each paramedic centre and each polyclinic, what condition they’re in, assessed their transport accessibility, and staffing problems. All regions approved these programmes by December 15.

As you said earlier, at least 550 billion rubles will be earmarked for the modernisation programme in the next five years, with 90 billion rubles allocated by the Government this year for building and renovating 1,054 outpatient clinics and paramedic centres, as well as overhauling 1,500 buildings; 27,000 pieces of medical equipment will be purchased, including, primarily, diagnostic equipment that outpatient clinics need for making timely diagnoses of infectious and non-infectious diseases.

There were plans to purchase 6,739 vehicles. As per your instruction, we, in conjunction with the Ministry of Industry and Trade, purchased 2,000 vehicles in December which were already in service during the New Year holidays and took medical workers to patients.

Of course, the modernised facilities must be properly staffed. Personnel is the most important resource our healthcare system needs. This year, the specialist programmes saw a 3.5 percent increase in enrolment and there was a 13 percent increase in residency and postgraduate studies.

Support will be provided at the federal and regional level. This year, we expanded the support under the County Doctor programme for paramedical personnel and have also included midwives.

Agreements with the regions are now operational, and funds were made available to the recipients on January 1; 39 regions have started competitive biddings for the purchase of equipment, transport, construction and repair services for outpatient clinics and paramedic centres.

The governors should be mindful of the fact that everything planned for this year must be accomplished. The public has discussed the programmes and looks forward to seeing them implemented.

In addition to the facilities and resources available to primary care, the My Health service, which is currently being implemented, allows us to make healthcare user friendly and to improve communication with the public. It is under development. This year, we plan to expand its coverage, including by adding a mobile app. In addition to the personal account area, which can now be used for making an appointment for vaccination, it will offer capabilities such as making yearly medical check-up and doctor appointments, providing access to test results and issuing reminders about taking prescribed medications. This communication is important. According to specialists, it will improve the quality of observation, including for patients with chronic diseases.

I would also like to quickly report on another important task: vaccination, of course. In line with your instructions, vaccination is being carried out across the country, all regions are involved, and over four million doses of the two-component vaccine have already been delivered to the regions. Two million doses have been shipped and are in transit. Vaccination is underway with a total of 3,741 vaccination centres operating today.

I would like to say that together with Rosatom we have tested technologies to increase throughput and quality. In fact, quality during vaccination is ensured at all stages: from the start of production to delivery, storage and sending directly to a medical organisation.

And, of course, I would like to note that recently an article has been published containing the first interim data on the effectiveness of the phase three trials of the Sputnik vaccine. They have been published in The Lancet, a reputable medical magazine, and it has been confirmed that the effectiveness of the vaccine as a preventative medicine exceeds 91 percent and it is almost 100 percent effective in protecting against serious cases of the disease in those aged 18 and above. It is also noted that there were no serious complications; accordingly the level of confidence and quality control in this area are the highest.

Thank you very much. This concludes my report.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you.

As you can see, The Lancet has confirmed its high status and, of course, its impartiality, because hundreds of thousands of jabs in Russia reaffirm its conclusions: impartial and highly professional. This not only enhances the credibility of our vaccine but also the credibility of this publication. Practice shows that this is true.

Mikhail Murashko: I agree. Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: The protection level of over 90 percent has been confirmed and safety has also been confirmed.

Ok, thank you very much.

One more question. Mr Siluanov, we recently discussed this at a meeting on the economic situation; we talked about the unprecedented number of people that have become active on the stock market during the past year – over 6 million, now close to 10 million, I guess. Russians have invested a total of 10 trillion rubles in the stock markets.

I am aware that this cannot be overregulated, like the market for food, for example, or other consumer goods. But it is clear that some problems do need to be addressed.

Speaking of the securities market – we certainly must think about it, and I asked you to think about it, think about how to protect people’s interests. Once again, we do not need defrauded investors 2.0 here, defrauded equity holders again this time, of course.

We realise that at any moment, all kinds of intermediary firms will start mushrooming and promising manna from heaven; maybe they already are.

Please, a few words on this.

Finance Minister Anton Siluanov: Mr President,

Indeed, last year, people’s interest in financial market instruments has sharply increased. Your figures are good and relevant: 10 million people and 10 trillion in investments in financial market instruments. Banks hold about 35 trillion in deposits, that is, the figure is quite comparable. So we certainly need to seriously regulate this issue here.

The reason for this popularity is the low interest rates offered by banks of course, on the one hand, and on the other, the progress of digital technologies that make investment accounts simple and easily available. A user can now open an account and start trading with simple tools – a mobile device, a smartphone.

We must not allow the stock market to be able to mislead people; you have issued instructions on this. This is what we are focusing on now, to prevent aggressive marketing by financial intermediaries.

Compound financial instruments are now available on the market that are presented as an alternative to bank deposits and that boast higher return rates with allegedly the same level of protection. But this is not quite so. So, given the murky nature of these products with dubious yields (by the way, the return on investment for these products is not guaranteed, either) and with these risks in mind, we came up with a corresponding draft law and submitted it to the State Duma which will review it in February-March. This draft law protects our citizens from aggressive promotion policies on the part of the financial intermediaries and institutions which offer compound investment products to the public in our country.

The draft law provides the Bank of Russia with the right to set the requirements for the content and quality of this information. These new regulations will allow consumers to make informed decisions based on reliable information. This will undoubtedly improve the financial market’s health and head off scams based on get-rich-quick schemes.

At the same time, Mr President, we are interested in promoting a civilised financial market. The Government and the Bank of Russia are working on a strategy to expand the financial markets to 2030.

This strategy provides for developing special institutions, professional assistants and management companies who can provide advice on how to properly build a financial asset portfolio, to set investment objectives and advise which instruments come with the lowest investment risk.

We will continue to expand the established institution of investment accounts. We propose expanding the individual investment account maximum limits. Today, it is set at 1 million rubles. We propose increasing it to 3 million rubles and providing an option to withdraw funds from it in special life situations without losing tax deductions. That is, investors, our citizens, could use these accounts for investment purposes, but also have the option to withdraw funds from these accounts if they need to.

Instruments for long-term accumulation investment for 10 or more years will also be developed. This is also important. We are drafting regulations for investing in such instruments. On the one hand, this allows our people to be confident in the reliability of these instruments. On the other, it is a resource for the economy, a resource for investment because the financial market is one of the main sources of investment in the economy that we badly need now.

We fully realise that this investment must be made conscientiously, without aggression by mediators and without cheating. These regulations will be governed by the draft law that will be reviewed soon.

Thank you for your attention.

Vladimir Putin: All right, thank you very much.

There is a proposal on adjusting and regulating taxes in physical fitness and sports.

Mr Matytsin, please tell us about the plans for tax deductions in this area. Explain to us what they are all about, please.

Mr Siluanov, when is this law expected to be adopted?

Anton Siluanov: Mr President, according to our parliamentarians, this draft law will be considered by State Duma in March. We hope the Federation Council will also review it quickly and we will submit it to you for signing.

Vladimir Putin: All right, I understand.

Mr Matytsin, go ahead please.

Minister of Sport Oleg Matytsin: Mr President, colleagues,

With your permission I will tell you about tax deductions as part of our programme on making physical fitness and sports accessible to people. This is one of the priorities of the Ministry’s effort to implement the Strategy until 2030.

The main way to achieve this is by improving the sports infrastructure. In this respect, the Ministry’s programmes provide for the construction of both large sports venues and easy-to-access outdoor sports facilities.

In 2020, we commissioned 135 sports facilities, including the first covered ice rink in Birobidzhan. We planned to do more: 37 facilities are about to be completed but the deadlines for commissioning them have been postponed until 2021 due to the pandemic. This year, we are constructing 174 facilities, 120 of which will be put into operation.

We consider it important to collaborate with the United Russia party project to build modular structures to be used as outdoor sports centres. This year, more than 100 such centres will be built in 78 regions worth a total of 2 billion rubles. It is important that party activists and the local residents have a say in selecting the locations and monitor the construction progress.

It is also important that most of these facilities are being developed in rural areas. We can see great potential there. Although very low-cost economically, these projects at the same time have the most positive social effect and attract people to rural areas. Such facilities have been opened in the village of Troitskoye in the Omsk Region, as well as in the village of Shamilkala (Daghestan) as good examples of such cooperation.

Public-private partnership projects are also a positive thing. We can see striking examples this year. For example, the Armada complex in the Novosibirsk Region, and a facility in Rubtsovsk in the Altai Territory. Gazprom has built an Ice Palace in Astrakhan. All of the projects were 50 to 100 percent financed through investment. It is important that once commissioned, these facilities will be open to various categories of people who can access them free of charge to practice various sports.

The Ministry requires companies that plan and propose sports infrastructure projects to establish public-private partnerships; this condition has become mandatory.

Moreover, we ask the heads of the regions, when they make proposals for the construction of large or small facilities, to work out this mechanism, and to plan how the facility fits into the overall sports infrastructure, what will its target audience be and who it will be managed by.

Interdepartmental integration is also an important component for ensuring accessibility. We believe that all national projects should be used as much as possible. Here are just two: Housing and Urban Environment, and Safe and High-Quality Roads. We believe sports facilities need to be included in the planning of urban infrastructure, and bike lanes need to be planned when designing roads.

It is very important that the work is targeted. In this regard, we are implementing interdepartmental programmes with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, because we can see great potential for engaging schoolchildren and students in sports. And here of course, a system of sports clubs at schools should be the key link, the basic element, if you will. By 2024, 100 percent of our schools should have these facilities.

In principle, the entire world experience shows that sports facilities are most effective and profitable when educational institutions run them.

Of course, it is also important to mention what staff will work in sports facilities under the Sport, the Norm of Life federal project. Over 7,500 coaches attended advanced training courses in 2020. By 2024, 50,000 coaches will upgrade their skills or attend retraining courses.

We are paying special attention to adaptive sport and easier access to sports facilities for all people. This year, over 48 adaptive sports schools received funding for the purchase of vehicles and computers. When building sports facilities today, we meet all requirements on making sport accessible to people with disabilities.

Non-profit organisations and grants are also important. This year we will allocate 165 million rubles to 25 organisations. The national running movement is a graphic example. During the year, young people held 89 events, involving 55,000 participants.

Non-profit partners are also cooperating with our business organisations and large companies like Transneft, Sberbank and Russian Railways. We consider this a very impressive, positive example to follow in developing corporate sports and making it accessible to employees in the manufacturing industries.

Tax deductions, as you mentioned, Mr President, play a very important role in enhancing the financial appeal of sports activities. Following your instructions, proposals have been made to amend Federal Law On Sport and the Tax Code. When the law is adopted, people will have the opportunity to save money with tax deductions on physical fitness and sports of up to 15,600 rubles per year. We believe this will promote the development of sports organisations.

I would like to make one more important point. We know that an adequate amount of sports infrastructure is a major factor. Currently, the average availability throughout the country stands at about 55.7 percent. However, we realise that this figure is an average. To understand clearly what facilities work and what services they provide, by the end of 2021, we will complete the creation of an integrated digital platform that will include all facilities and list all the services they offer.

In this respect, we also see a potential for developing sports tourism. It is very important for people travelling in Russia to have an opportunity to see online what facilities exist and what competitions they host. This will allow them to choose the sports they like.

Of course, large competitions are a great motivation for going into sports. I am referring to the Presidential Starts, The Leather Ball, The Golden Puck, The Orange Ball, sports contests and rural games.

The traditional Lyzhnya Rossii [the Russian Ski Track] will be held this week, on February 13, for the 39th time. Using this opportunity, I would like to invite all of you to take an active part in the event and to show our commitment to a healthy lifestyle through your personal example.

Thank you very much. This concludes my report.

Vladimir Putin: Good. Thank you very much.

It is necessary to make all this work in practice. In general, this is certainly the way to go. Thank you.

Colleagues, to complete the first part, do you know what I want to bring up? I have already recalled this and reminded all my colleagues about Alexander III. Do you remember? I have already talked about this. He once said: “When Durnovo, the Minister of the Interior, reports to me, I understand everything. But it seems that he does not get it. When Vitte reports, he understands everything, but I do not. When Krivoshein (the Railway Minister at one time) reports, neither I nor he understands anything.”

Just a few words. Look, there is a regional average income, and for researchers we will double this average salary. It is necessary to explain what this is all about, so it’s understandable and transparent not only for the heads of the relevant ministries and departments but to the people. There is nothing complicated in this and I assure you that people will figure it out. But in this case they will not have the impression that they are being cheated by the authorities, that the authorities are telling them one thing but are doing another. There is nothing complicated about this. I would like to ask you to consider this circumstance and prevent anything like this from happening in the future.

After all, when we say that we have given the right to the heads of institutions to determine themselves how many employees they have on their payrolls – more than 300 or probably 250 people, we mean that this is up to the director in question. And this is correct, let him decide this. He determines the step from one category of employee to the next and decides how much they can earn. And this is correct as well. They also have some public organisations. This should be understandable and transparent in these institutions. Our dialogue with the people will improve a lot like this, and trust in the authorities will increase tremendously. That said, I still hope that everything is generally in order today, but the problems we are discussing must certainly be corrected now.

Let’s go to the main item. Let Mr Belousov take the floor. Go ahead, please.


February 10, 2021, Novo-Ogaryovo, Moscow Region