In the approach to the September 19, 2019, parliamentary elections the ruling United Russia party realizes that it has a problem on its hands in Russia's Far East. There is resentment that budgetary outlays are controlled from the center in Moscow and they are not receiving their fair share. The authorities are attempting to combat its weakness in numerous ways. They have employed their top weapon: Vladimir Putin, who has paid numerous visits to the Russian Far East to promise that the region's development is a top goal. Russia's state television has highlighted what has already been achieved.
Putin used the recent Eastern Economic Forum held in Vladivostok to demonstrate his determination to improve things in the region quite soon. He convened local governors and the relevant ministries to demonstrate his impatience with the region's problems and dangle the prospects of increased assistance. One minister even broached the possibility of digging in to the country's reserve fund, something that was not done during the Covid epidemic.
This meeting received broad coverage in the electronic and print media. Rossikaya Gazeta's account of the meeting follows below:
Vladimir Putin addresses the Eastern Economic Forum (Source: Kp.ru)
"Vladimir Putin Believes That Living Far From Moscow Doesn’t Mean Having A Lower Standard Of Living
"Vladimir Putin called for the prompt development of the Far East, so that there will be tangible results very soon. Affordable airfare, medical rehabilitation after COVID-19, the lack of doctors as well as demographic problems became the main topics of a meeting dedicated to the socio-economic development of the region. The meeting was held within the framework of the Eastern Economic Forum. The President urged the Russian authorities charged with the development of the Far East not to follow 'impersonal regulations,' but rely on an understanding of the region’s strategic importance. 'The region’s residents or those who plan to come here need not only jobs, but also comfortable living conditions. And they need them not someday in the very distant future, but now or in the very near future,' said Putin.
"Available Flights At A Discount Price
"According to the President, the situation in which residents of several Far East regions were not able to buy discounted airline tickets this year is unacceptable. 'There is a program for subsidizing airplane tickets on flights from the Far East to the European part of Russia,' noted Putin. This year, it covers not only the intended beneficiaries, but all residents of the Far East.
"'However, this year residents of certain regions were not able to buy subsidized airplane tickets. The reasons for that are either the tickets were sold out (although there is still a long time remaining till the end of the year), or the region hasn’t got the subsidies altogether,' said Putin.
"Putin noted that every year these subsidies are obtained after a 'battle in the government. 'Look, we all are citizens of the Russian Federation, we all live in the same country. We need to facilitate the country’s regions' sense of connection and the free movement of citizens. Thus, a system of automatic subsidies should be created,' said the President. The President ordered the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Transport to 'study the issue and offer a solution.' He stressed that preferential airplane tickets should be available to the residents of all Far Eastern regions throughout the calendar year. 'In order to achieve this, of course, it is necessary to increase the number of flights, especially during the high demand period,' said Putin.
"Putin also noted that the United Far East Airline ['Aurora' airline] should provide tickets not only at affordable price, but also consider the citizens’ opinion in the selection of offered flight routes. United Far East Airline 'Aurora' intends to increase air traffic in 2023-2024, provided there will be additional subsidies. 'We propose to increase the volume of subsidies [for the company] in 2023-2024, considering the company’s plans to introduce new flight routes and increase the number of passengers on subsidized routes. In 2023 the volume of subsidies will be 7.11 billion rubles, and in 2024 - 7.85 billion rubles,' said First Deputy Prime Minister Andrey Belousov.
"The Deputy Prime Minister also suggested limiting the number of preferential airplane tickets per person for flights to the Far Eastern Federal District. According to him, such measures are needed, because many preferential tickets are bought for business purposes, while the program is intended for welfare-oriented transportation.
"People Need Hospitals And Doctors
"The health care system’s issues in the Far East were also featured in the discussion. Putin believes that it is necessary to modernize the primary health care system and facilitate a medical rehabilitation program for those who suffered from COVID-19. The President also stressed that there are many small settlements the Far East hundreds of kilometers away from each other and 'the current model of health care finance is wobbly. People don’t always have access to quality medical care.'
"According to the President, the equipment of polyclinics and first-aid stations leaves much to be desired. 'A person suffering from a [medical] problem, from a disease, does not care about any regulations and bureaucratic documents, even if they are correctly worded and written. He needs a clinic, a hospital, he needs a medical center, even a modest urgent care center (FAP), in which he will be able to receive help, in which there are doctors and [medical] equipment,' said Putin.
"'The people living here or those planning to arrive need not only jobs, but also comfortable living conditions,' said the President.
"The head of state instructed the government to submit proposals regarding this issue. The President also drew attention to the need to work out a program of medical rehabilitation for those recovering from COVID-19. 'For the time being the Far East objectively lacks the infrastructure capacity for the rehabilitation of all residents of the region (well, at least for those, who really need it),' claimed Putin.
"Health Minister Mikhail Murashko stated that the availability of medical professionals working in the Far East is higher than the Russian average, but this is not enough. According to him, there has been a 13% increase in student’s enrollment for medical specialties in the region. 'Payments under the 'Zemskiy Doctor' [Local Doctor] and 'Feldsher' programs have been increased. This allowed for the increase of the programs’ participants by 30% today,' added the minister.
"The Governor of Magadan Oblast, Sergey Nosov stated that in order to maintain the level of medical care availability, the regions have to support [medical] institutions, which do not comply with Ministry of Health standards. For instance, district hospitals, which do not receive sufficient funding due to not meeting the medical care standard, function instead of FAPs and outpatient clinics. [The reason for district hospitals poor performance] is the low number of population [and thus patients] in the districts.
"Putin declared that the structure of medical care in small communities must be changed. 'We need to work on this issue, on how to do it [provide medical care] in such a way that it corresponds to realities, to life, and not to some perceptions on how good it would be, if there had been sufficient resources, said the President.
"The President also instructed making healthcare in the Far Eastern Federal District a separate focus of the State Council’s work. He instructed the Governor of Magadan Oblast, Sergey Nosov to head the corresponding subcommittee."
Sergey Nosov (Source: Nosovlive.ru)
Childhood Support From Birth To School Graduation
"The demographic situation in the Far East is a 'task of upmost importance.'
"Yury Trutnev, Deputy Prime Minister and Presidential Envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District, recommended appropriating the experience of the Sakhalin region, where 1 million rubles are granted for the birth of the third child, to all the Far Eastern regions. 'Since 2014, the Sakhalin Oblast has been implementing a program of payments for the birth of the third child. Within three years, a fertility rate in Sakhalin, which was 1.5 [children per woman] became the highest in the country - 2 [children per woman],' said Trutnev. Minister of Finance Anton Siluanov stressed that a package of support measures for families with children had just recently been adopted in the country.
"Putin, in turn, said that it’s necessary to develop specific measures for the support of families with children in the Far East. 'Just as we create the most attractive conditions in the economy for attracting investments to the region, we also need to develop conditions for families in order to make bring kids here (and not in some other territories) attractive too,' said the President. The President also believes that childhood support measures in Russia are insufficient. 'The support doesn’t cover child’s life from birth to school graduation. But it should be done. I have repeatedly mentioned this and instructed the government to work on the issue,' stressed the President.
"Compensation For Losses To The Agricultural Sector
"The support of the Far Eastern regions that have been affected by natural disasters became a separate topic at the meeting. Putin instructed the governors of regions, in which agricultural producers suffered losses due to weather conditions, to promptly file all damage estimates to the [federal] government. He also noted to the Minister of Agriculture, Dmitry Patrushev that 'in some regions, for instance in the Amur Oblast, the necessary documents for provision of the [federal] support measures are not yet prepared.'
"'I ask you to make a note of this and provide these documents promptly, when they will be prepared,' instructed the President. In turn, Patrushev stated the losses of agricultural sector of five regions of the Far East due to natural disasters accounted for 830 million rubles.
"According to the minister, compensation to the agricultural producers is possible, provided there are insurance contracts. However, in the affected regions such contracts were not concluded. Be that as it may, the losses could be compensated from the reserve fund of the Russian government, added the minister."
"People Should Come To The Region, Not Leave
"The governors who participated at the meeting talked about the need for additional subsidies for regions’ development and for new programs and initiatives in the Far East. Minister of Finance Anton Siluanov emphasized that the Far Eastern Federal District needs conditions for development, not subsidies. 'Instead of discussing additional funds for regions’ support, we should still talk about a fishing rod and an investment plan to develop the economy,' said Siluanov.
"'Our goal is to create conditions for development. In order to achieve this, special tax regimes were introduced. And they work well, as it was mentioned today. There is a special program, whose financial resources are growing. This program, which affects the tax base, is focused at [economic] development, creation of new jobs and, consequently at the improvement of people’s lives,' said the head of the Ministry of Finance. He also noted that the majority of the Far East regions have an above average budget support level.
"Whereas, Yury Trutnev noted the problems of some Far Eastern regions. 'Ten out of eleven regions have a budget support level below the Russian average, while four regions (the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, Kamchatka Krai, the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) and Republic of Buryatia) have a budget support level below the minimum,' said the Deputy Prime Minister. He also stated it’s necessary to implement the mechanism of intra-budget equalization in order to deal with the issue.
"In turn, Vladimir Putin noted that the depopulation of the Far East demonstrates that the measures for the region’s support are insufficient. 'I totally agree that a lot is being done, but it is still not enough if we record the depopulation process,' said the head of state. Putin stressed that the depopulation rate has decreased, but didn’t stop. 'If the situation in the Far East was as good as we wanted for people to feel, they would come here and not leave,' stressed Putin. He called the task to increase the Russian Far East population an historic one. 'Our historic task is not only to preserve the human resources in the lands settled by our ancestors over the centuries, but to multiply them,' said the Russian leader. In order to achieve this one needs to develop production facilities, create jobs and provide people with income. Wherein Putin urged to use means that are already in effect. 'True significant resources are allocated, and they should be used effectively,' emphasized the President. At the end of the meeting, the President urged all participants to carry out their assignments."