PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: Good afternoon, dear colleagues.

This is the second time we are meeting in this format to discuss issues related to the implementation of the national projects. Some results have already been achieved over the four months since our last meeting. It is important to see that the regions are playing an increasingly active part in this work, enriching the projects with their own programmes. The federal legal base that we need has been practically completed. The national projects have been discussed by the country’s legislators and by the State Council. Of course, the people of this country are watching this work very closely and with great interest and are waiting for concrete results – better quality healthcare and education services, more intensive construction of affordable housing and greater rural development.

Not only the state authorities but also civil society is becoming genuinely involved in the implementation of the national projects. The projects are called national precisely because their success depends on the combined efforts of the state and society, and because they are working towards our common national goals.

Today we are to carry out a detailed analysis of the first results achieved so far. We need to evaluate what we have managed to do, and also in which areas we regrettably still face problems. I will say from the outset that the problems we face are mostly systemic management issues, along with the general barriers to effective market regulation that you are all aware of.

The measures implemented as part of the projects should be an incentive and catalyst for systemic transformation in the sectors concerned, but we have yet to see real structural change take place.

In particular, the tenders among innovative schools and most advanced teachers should lead to the elaboration of criteria for evaluating education services. We need such evaluation criteria not just in the education sector but also throughout the entire social sector. This is important. We need these criteria in order to be able to tie closely the results institutions achieve in their work to the volume, procedures and quality of their financing. This is one of the key aspects of modernising these sectors and we need to make use of the national projects to promote this modernisation. Essentially, the projects create the opportunity to carry out a large-scale experiment.

It was very important that teachers also working as class directors and primary healthcare personnel receive additional payments for their work.

Overall, the Government has settled this matter. The people concerned are now receiving these payments and I think that many of them have seen real benefits from these national projects. It is not by chance that the staff situation in primary healthcare establishments has begun improving over the last months. Moreover, monitoring shows that medical students coming to the end of their studies are thinking more and more often about possibly working as local practitioners.

Just yesterday, at the meeting in the Komi Republic, we discussed the forestry industry’s development and spoke about the need to pay more attention to developing high-value added wood processing capacity in the country, including so as to produce wood products for use in the mass and individual housing construction sectors.

One of the aims of the affordable housing project is to boost the development of the construction and finishing materials industry. The situation has come up where we have the money and the desire to build the necessary housing within the set timeframe, but then find we simply do not have enough construction materials.

The housing project’s development is still being held back by the lack of a legal foundation that would put into effect the provisions of the Housing and Urban Planning Codes. We also need to look out how to bring down costs for people carrying out land development work and decide in general how to address the land issue further because there is a lot of red tape in this area.

Furthermore, a number of tax issues need to be settled in the agriculture sector, including on agricultural cooperatives paying the consolidated agricultural tax.

Looking at the regional component of the national projects, I think that the regional governors need to go further with their proposals and prepare them more thoroughly.

Taking the affordable housing project, for example, the regions are supposed to prepare tracts of land for housing construction by developing the necessary utilities facilities there and then putting the land up for auction.

But so far the regions are for the most part proposing small sites that cannot be used for mass housing construction. I point this out because it is happening practically everywhere. Most of the proposals being made are of this kind. This is not just an exception and it does not correspond to the project objectives. We have said many times that the project’s main objective is mass-scale housing construction, requiring the development of land on which it is possible to build not just a building here or there, but entire new residential districts able to house thousands of people.

In order to assist with this mass-scale development of new construction sites, the regions are being allocated 1.7 billion roubles to subsidise interest rates on loans, and another 12.5 billion roubles in the form of state guarantees. This is quite a lot of money. But when I talk with the regional leaders I still hear from them that they cannot resolve this issue of providing the necessary land because it costs a lot to carry out the development work. Sometimes I get the impression that our colleagues have not fully understood exactly under what conditions this or that national project is being implemented. They just hand the work down to their deputy or assistant, whoever specialises in these issues, and don’t get involved themselves. But they need to get personally involved.

Neither the federal nor the regional authorities have managed yet to fully put in place the mechanisms that have been developed. The priority is to ensure cheaper loans, and this will have a direct impact on increasing the amount of housing construction.

I ask the minister to give precise clarifications on this point.

One other aspect of the work in the regions that I would like to draw your attention to is that the regions should provide specific assistance to the municipalities in this project work. The regions should already be aware which instruments can be used here with best effect.

I hope during our meeting today we will also get the chance to have a productive discussion of all aspects regarding the implementation of all the other national projects in all their diversity.