Direct Line with Vladimir Putin


The annual special Direct Line with Vladimir Putin was broadcast live by Channel One, Rossiya 1, Rossiya 24, NTV, Public Television of Russia (OTR) and Mir TV channels, and Mayak, Vesti FM and Radio Rossii radio stations. 

Tatyana Remezova: Good afternoon.

As of now, we have received some 1.5 million questions from the public. Actually, the figure exceeded 1.5 million this morning. The most popular form of address is a telephone call. We have received nearly one million of them. Each call is recorded and processed by operators and is presented in a special inquiry form.

We have received nearly 400,000 text and MMS messages. However, this year the people are very actively using the website to ask their questions. It is very simple and easy to use. People can make video calls, talk with an operator, send a text message or record a video message. This is very simple to do. Just click on the Record button. The only condition is that your message must not exceed one minute. Now click on the Send button. Your address will be processed by our staff. It means that your message has reached us.

The benefit of sending a video message is that you can tell us about your problem and also let us see it. It can be a bumpy road, a rubbish heap or a leaking roof. We will be broadcasting live the messages about the most acute problems.

The OK Live service is another high-tech means of reaching us. This service will connect you directly to us in this studio; we will try and do this during this programme. Not a single call will remain unanswered. Every call will be processed, and, as I have already said, summed up in a special form that includes your contact information. The most important part is that work on your calls will also continue after Direct Line.

Pavel Zarubin: Good afternoon. Mr President, shall we begin?

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon. Of course, let us proceed.

Pavel Zarubin: Over the past few days we saw for the first time how you prepare for Direct Line. We saw you sitting over a heap of questions and reading other messages on your laptop. What looked like the most important to you? What are the most acute problems?

Vladimir Putin: In fact, it is clear that I should always be informed and aware of what is going on in reality. In the course of the current work it is more or less clear what people are concerned about. But during the preparations for Direct Line, of course, we find out some things that are the most pressing and important at that particular point. At the moment, and it is not a secret or a revelation, people are most concerned about the quality of life, incomes and healthcare. These issues are followed by waste treatment; this is what I heard just now. So, these are the most pressing issues. Housing and utilities.

Pavel Zarubin: It is true, we have received great many questions regarding these issues, but there is something else. As I understand, these problems should be solved by national projects. Everyone talks about them; officials at all levels talk about national projects. But, judging by the questions, it seems that people do not quite understand what these national projects are and what they are supposed to achieve. Will they be useful in the end?

Vladimir Putin: Yes, of course, and I am grateful that you chose to begin with this issue because all of our work revolves around it today. In fact, the work revolves around people, but in order to achieve the best results for our people, for our citizens, for the development of the economy, we created these so-called national projects. The ultimate goal of national projects is to put the economy on new track, make it tech-intensive and improve labour productivity, thus improving the quality of life and our country's long-term security. Therefore, we divided the areas of activity, not by the level of importance, but in a certain order in accordance with the distribution of resources.

It was a challenging job. First of all, we needed to decide how we would attain the result set and where to find the funds for the measures the state is supposed to finance.

Regrettably, one of the Government's decisions was to increase VAT from 18 to 20 percent. In part, it was done, as I have already said, to replenish the budget and to start working on one of the state's obligations, that is, on infrastructure development.

For example, who will build railway lines, bridges, motorways or electricity lines? None of this, as well as some other structural jobs, can be done without the involvement of the state.

And then we coordinated the decision, calculating how much we need in order to boost the development of certain sectors and to increase people's incomes to a new level.

I would like to say once again that, regrettably, we had to take some unpleasant measures - let us put it this way. But we believed from the very start that the relatively negative effects of these measures could and would be very short-lived. Overall, the Government and the Central Bank turned out to be right, alas - inflation increased for a period of six months.

What does this "inflation increased" mean? It means that the Central Bank raised the key interest rate, it means that production fell a little, and so on.

We can see now that production is on the rise again, that inflation is declining - I believe it fell to below 5 percent as of the day before yesterday, and that incomes started growing...

We will talk about this in more detail later, of course, but it is true that incomes have started growing again. In other words, our plans and the methods of implementing them appear to be effective, at least so far.

Yelena Vinnik: Mr President, let us continue.

You have mentioned a decline in incomes. We all see it too. There are a lot of questions. I will read just a few very short ones, they are from different regions.

"Could you please tell us when life will get better, at least a little bit? It is very difficult to raise children with a salary of 10,000." This is from Vladimir Nenashev, Samara Region.

Perm Territory: "Why are single-industry towns dying? We have two plants, but there is no work, young people either leave or take to drink. "

Very, very many questions. I know that shortly before we went on air, a video question was sent in, so I am giving the floor to our call centre.

Natalya Yuryeva: Thank you. We really have a lot of questions about low wages, which are simply impossible to live on. People cannot even afford essentials: food, clothes for themselves and their children. And, most often, the problems hit the ones that our lives depend on - teachers and doctors.

For example, a teacher of the highest category from Orel wrote to us that she makes 10,764 rubles a month; another teacher, also the highest category from the Tver Region, 15,000; and a doctor from Murmansk, about 20,000.

Stanislav Taukachiskas, a firefighter from the Kaliningrad Region, makes even less than that, as it turns out. We simply cannot help but show the video message that he sent to Direct Line.

Stanislav Taukachiskas: Hello, Mr President,

My name is Stanislav Taukachiskas, I am from Svetly in the Kaliningrad Region. I work here at Fire Station No.31.

Could you tell me, please, when will they raise my salary? At the moment, the salary of a firefighter is 12,000-13,000 rubles; as the squad leader, I make 16,000.

It is impossible to live on that, not with the current prices: we are forced to find two or three jobs and are hardly ever at home. Families are falling apart because of this.

Moreover, fire brigades are understaffed - two or three people on guard. You see what is happening now in the country: fields are burning, summer cottages, larger structures. When will this be sorted out?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: First of all, we should check what you said about the 10,000 ruble wages. We must know what is really going on. Why? Because we have recently decided to increase the minimum wage and raise it to the subsistence level, which is 11,280 rubles.

Those who work full time must not be paid less than the subsistence wage. I cannot understand why they only receive 10,000 rubles.

Yelena Vinnik: They write that their salary is 10,000 rubles and that whatever they get above that, they receive as a bonus.

Pavel Zarubin: People write that the minimum wage has been reduced in some regions by regional authorities.

Vladimir Putin: In this case, it is a matter for the regulatory authorities to check up on. Or these people are working part-time. Each particular case must be examined individually. This is the first thing I wanted to say.

Now to the problem at hand. Frankly, it is true that the situation at the Emergencies Ministry is far from positive. Because the wages of some of the Ministry's uniformed personnel are small, just as this person has said. I do not know if he is a military man, because a military man doing his job would have earned some 43,000 rubles a month, while civilian personnel only receive between 13,000 and 16,000 rubles.

Over the past few months, I discussed this matter several times with [Emergencies] Minister [Yevgeny] Zinichev, who constantly raised this question with the Government.

A decision has been taken: this year we will allocate 4.3 billion rubles to the Emergencies Ministry so as to raise the wages of the ministry staff, such as the man who has written to us, to some 24,000 rubles.

Next year, we plan to allocate 4 billion rubles every six months, or 8 billion altogether, so that this man's salary should increase to some 32,000 rubles.

Yelena Vinnik: Let us ask if our call centre has received any new calls.

Natalya Yuryeva: Yes, we are swamped with calls; there are more than 1.5 million of them. There is an incoming call from a pensioner. Where from? Moscow. And that caller has not yet given a name.

Colleagues, we have an incoming video call. We will read out the question as soon as the caller formulates it.

Yelena Vinnik: Yes, Natalya.

Let me get back to the decline in incomes. Over this time, we have received thousands of messages saying that people are earning less. Everyone writes that: those who have good wages, those who belong to the middle class and those who are not embarrassed to call themselves poor. And what is probably important here is not the numbers as such but the way people feel. People write that life has become more difficult. When will it get easier?

Vladimir Putin: This is true. This is why I consider this issue to be one of the most relevant and important.

Let me remind you that several years ago we faced several shocks. These are not just the external shocks from the so-called sanctions or the current restrictions, but the situation on the market of our traditional goods such as oil, oil products, gas, hydrocarbons in general, metals, chemical fertilisers, chemistry in general and some other products as well.

Before the Direct Line with Vladimir Putin.

This is why we can see this unpleasant element in the economy and the social sphere. It is true that real incomes have been declining for several years. The biggest decline took place in 2016, I believe.

Now incomes are gradually rising again. We should distinguish between two notions: people's real disposable incomes and wages.

Real disposable income, which, according to statistics, have been decreasing, is made up of many markers, including income and expenses. Today, payments on loans is one of these markers, and banks provide loans that amount to 40 percent of the wages, so to speak, which, of course, may have consequences.

Remark: It is risky.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, I agree, it is risky. The Central Bank must pay attention to it, because we do not need these bubbles in our economy. Nevertheless, people take out loans, and then they have to repay them, which has a negative effect on real incomes.

About 100,000 self-employed individuals have registered officially, the shadow market has decreased, and this also affects real incomes. There are other factors as well; I will not list them all here.

Speaking of wages, we can see that wages continue to increase both in nominal and real terms. In nominal terms, it looks like this: in 2017, gross wage in the economy was slightly over 39,000 (39,200) rubles, while this year, it is nearly 45,700, with the figure for the last month standing at 48,500.

I would like to make a reservation straight away, so that Internet users and television audience watching us now don't get angry that they don't get such wages. This is natural, I am talking about average figures.

Why do we have to use these average figures? This is because the situation differs greatly, depending on the specific sector or region. The people who are getting paid in Tyva are one thing, and those in Moscow, Tyumen or Ingushetia are another matter.

Speaking of various sectors, the oil industry, the financial sphere and the transport sector pay different wages. But the format of our meeting makes it impossible to discuss each sector and each region separately for three or five hours.

Therefore I and some other colleagues have to use average figures that, nevertheless, show the overall trend. What is this trend like? In the past, gross wages were just 33,000 rubles, and now the total is almost 45,000.

Real wages are calculated depending on specific growth rates. In 2018, we saw 8.5 percent growth rates, and two percent growth rates were posted in early 2019. The May 2019 growth rates are estimated at 2.8 percent.

Why did we see such growth rates last year? First, I believe this was due to economic recovery. Second, all levels of government tried to fulfil the 2012 executive orders, and even in late 2018 they were adding and adding and adding.

By the way, some of the provisions of the May 2012 executive orders may not have been fulfilled. But if it were not for these documents, we would fail to achieve such results because the executive orders force all levels of government to work and achieve results, no matter what. This is the second thing.

Third, as I have already said, we have raised minimum wages to the minimum subsistence level.

By the way, initial wage increases covered 44 million people. One way or another, 44 million people received large or small wage rises.

Increasing minimum wages covered an additional 3.7 million people. This year, we will index the pay grades of service personnel.

There will certainly be questions about pensions today, but I'll say right now, because ensuring that retired citizens get a sufficient income is one of the state's priorities, of course, and we will certainly keep an eye on it. This year, the indexation of the insurance old-age pensions was 7.05 percent, with last year's inflation at 4.3 percent. This is the first point.

Secondly, starting from April 1, we raised state pensions and social pensions by 2 percent following the increase of the subsistence minimum for pensioners. From October 1, retired military's pensions will be increased by 4.3 percent.

As I already said, this will be done along with the increase in military compensations. On the whole, we are moving forward - we can see this problem and will certainly deal with it and will focus on it.

Yelena Vinnik: Will life get easier, in general?

Vladimir Putin: You see, this is what all the national projects that I mentioned are aimed at. Actually, the general solution to this problem is not government funds injected into industry or something else.

The general way is to increase labour productivity, to develop the economy, and on this basis increase and improve the standard of living of the citizens - on the basis of growth. Everything else is auxiliary, because where do you think the government gets the money from? Also from the way the economy works.

Before the Direct Line with Vladimir Putin.

Yelena Vinnik: Mr President, let's continue.

Another topic is healthcare, with a lot of questions.

On the one hand, everyone is talking about progress, which is obvious; new medical centres are opening, including high-tech ones. On the other hand, outpatient clinics are closing, and the quality of medical care does not always correspond to what the patients expect.

These are common problems for the whole country. Therefore, our camera crews went to three places from where people called Direct Line.

We have three regions with us via videoconference: the Chelyabinsk Region, the Pskov and Smolensk regions.

Mikhail Akinchenko: Mikhail Akinchenko, Roslavl, Smolensk Region. We are standing in front of a children's clinic.

Anton Vernitsky: I am Anton Vernitsky, and I am together with the camera crew in the Pskov Regional Oncological Centre.

Dmitry Shchugorev: Dmitry Shchugorev here, in a paramedic centre in Mauk, Chelyabinsk Region.

Vladimir Putin: Go ahead, colleagues.

Mikhail Akinchenko: Good afternoon, once again.

As I said, we are here in Roslavl, in front of the children's clinic. First of all, a few words about this town. It is an administrative centre of the district with a population of around 50,000 people. There is a hospital and two clinics: one for adults, one for children. We received a complaint for Direct Line from a young mother, Svetlana Vekshina, who is here next to me. Three and a half months ago she gave birth to a child, a boy. By the way, we missed that point, what is the name of your son, Svetlana?

Svetlana Vekshina: Maxim.

Mikhail Akinchenko: A great name. So, Maxim is quiet and does not speak but his mother has something to say.

Svetlana, could you tell us, please, about the problems you encountered when you moved here from Moscow?

Svetlana Vekshina: Hello,

During the initial examination in Moscow we were given a list of medical specialists that my son had to see on a stage-by-stage basis, as well as a list of examinations that we had to go through once a month or once every two or three months.

We moved here and the first thing we faced, regardless whether I had made an appointment to see a doctor, was the queues, and children having to wait, sometimes for more than two hours. The first time we went for our appointment, we had to wait for over two hours. And the second thing is the absence of specialists, which is the most important thing as far as I see it. So we could not make appointments, as per the list we were given, to see doctors and go through the examinations from that list. The list of available examinations is very limited.

Mikhail Akinchenko: And where do you go to see specialists, if you need to?

Svetlana Vekshina: Nowhere, so far. Well, maybe there is an option to go to Smolensk. But Smolensk is a regional city and it takes two and a half hours to get there by coach. First you need to get to the coach, then travel there by coach, and with a small child this is a very tiresome trip.

Mikhail Akinchenko: On the whole, the situation is clear but we would probably like to hear the alternative point of view as well. We have come here and are right by the children's clinic. Since we have come, although without any warning, let us hear what the doctors have to say. By the way, it is Thursday today and on Thursdays, the clinic issues appointment slips to see pediatric specialists. Today, there was a queue of people waiting for these slips here, at the front desk. But now it is afternoon and there is no queue. We do not see anyone but, theoretically, we should be able to get a slip today. Let us ask the staff at the front desk. There is such a wonderful woman here.

Hello. Direct Line with Vladimir Putin here. We are now on the air. Could you tell us please whether there really are problems with doctors? Could you tell us which specialists people are queuing to see? What is your name? Could you please introduce yourself?

Remark: Marina.

Mikhail Akinchenko: Marina, are there queues to see pediatric specialists? Could you tell us?

Remark: No, but people can arrange to see a doctor in person, by telephone and via the government services website.

Mikhail Akinchenko: And when is it possible to get an appointment, with a pediatric surgeon for instance?

Remark: One moment. Today, people made appointments with a surgeon. He will receive them.

Mikhail Akinchenko: On what day?

Remark: Thursday, June 20.

Mikhail Akinchenko: So, today it is possible to get an appointment for today? So if I made this appointment, I could see the surgeon immediately?

Remark: Yes.

Mikhail Akinchenko: And what about a neurologist or an ENT specialist?

Remark: The ENT specialist will also receive patients today.

Mikhail Akinchenko: In other words, you do not see a problem with specialists, you have enough doctors. Is that right? You do not have queues, do you?

Remark: Well, certain problems occur from time to time but we resolve them as they happen. Doctors receive everyone.

Mikhail Akinchenko: I see. Thank you very much.

Let us try to see the head of the clinic. The point is that this clinic is located on the ground floor of a five-storey residential building. Its layout is fairly standard. We were here yesterday and found her office. It is very close to here, office #15, Natalya Mochalova. Let us see whether she is in her office now.

Good afternoon. Ms Mochalova?

Natalya Mochalova: Yes?

Mikhail Akinchenko: I am Mikhail Akinchenko, and this is Direct Line with Vladimir Putin.

Ms Mochalova, the people complain that there is a shortage of doctors. Is this true? Can you update us on the situation? How many doctors do you have, and how many should you have?

Natalya Mochalova: Yes, we do have problems with the number of medical staff. This year we expect two new doctors to join us, two district paediatricians. As of now, we are short four district doctors.

Mikhail Akinchenko: How many people do you have on the staff now?

Natalya Mochalova: I cannot give you the exact figure. We have 13 doctors now, but we need four more.

Mikhail Akinchenko: That is, you are short one-third of the required staff. What are the highest and lowest wages doctors receive? Are they enough to attract doctors?

Natalya Mochalova: Every region has its own level of wages. I believe our local government knows the answer to this question.

Mikhail Akinchenko: Don't you know it?

Natalya Mochalova: The average wage of a young professional upon graduation ranges between 20,000 and 25,000 rubles.

Mikhail Akinchenko: I can tell you that we looked for information on private clinics on job vacancy websites. For example, such clinics in Roslavl offer 60,000 rubles at the least, which means the wage gap between the public and the private sector is huge.

Ms Mochalova, you can take your problem up with the President. What would you like to ask him about the shortage of specialists?

Natalya Mochalova: I would rather address my question to the federal authorities. I am not sure, but graduates should probably be assigned to the regions after they graduate. Probably, this is the only solution to this problem.

Mikhail Akinchenko: Well, this is the issue we wanted to raise. I hope its essence is more or less clear.

This was Roslavl.

Anton Vernitsky: The Pskov Regional Oncology Centre is a state-of-the-art healthcare facility that was renovated completely just three years ago. In 2016, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was shown this centre's equipment. You see, it received the so-called heavy-duty equipment, including CT scans, a computerised linear accelerator and gamma radiation systems. The state invested almost 1.5 billion rubles in the centre's reconstruction. This is an expensive centre with expensive equipment. Mr President, three years have passed and people from Pskov are complaining to Direct Line that it is very hard to get an appointment with an oncologist, many people waiting in corridors, there are always queues, and people come here at 5am to get their names on the waiting list.

Let's ask the front desk.

Hello. I understand that you did not expect us to come. Could you please tell me if you have a lot of people who come here to get an appointment? How many people came today?

Remark: People come by appointment.

Anton Vernitsky: And you do not have any problems with the appointments.

Remark: As you can see, it is not crowded here.

Anton Vernitsky: The thing is that we did not bring any cameras the other day, and we saw a lot of people queuing in the corridors. Let's try and make a brief tour of the centre. Indeed, this is a modern centre. It was not just renovated; it features state-of-the-art equipment. Unfortunately, Russia still has few such centres so far.

The doctors are now saying that they can show us their equipment. But we don't want to see the equipment. We just want to talk to the people who have appointments.

Could you please tell me how long it took you to get an appointment to see a doctor? Are there any problems with this?

Remark: No, there aren't.

Anton Vernitsky: Can you get an appointment straight away?

Remark: Not straight away, but ...

Anton Vernitsky: No, or it could take some time?

Remark: Of course. I, for example, had to be on a waiting list at a district outpatient clinic.

Anton Vernitsky: Did this take you a long time?

Remark: Of course.

Anton Vernitsky: How long did it take you?

Remark: Three weeks.

Anton Vernitsky: Are there not enough specialists?

Remark: That's right.

Anton Vernitsky: You are now speaking live with President Vladimir Putin, who can hear you. So, are there not enough specialists?

Remark: There are not enough specialists. All doctors leave us. They are probably not paid enough. I don't know.

Anton Vernitsky: The local governor mentioned this too when congratulating medics on Medical Worker Day this past Sunday. Actually, he said that 43 percent of vacancies in the region remain vacant.

The problem of this state-of-the-art centre has to be resolved. Anyone who can do so leaves for clinics in St Petersburg and Moscow, although this centre has modern equipment. It has excellent equipment and good doctors, but their number is small. How can we help?

Pavel Zarubin: Let us go over to the third city straight away.

Vladimir Putin: Please.

Dmitry Shchugorev: We are in the village of Mauk, Chelyabinsk Region, at the local paramedic centre. As you can see, they have a dentist's chair now, which is an incredible thing in itself. Because you can rarely find a paramedic centre in a rural area, not to mention a dentist's chair. This has become a sort of a symbol of rebirth: the paramedic centre reopened here in February; it had been closed for three years because there was a lack of funds and because the specialists who worked here were made redundant.

Click here to read the complete interview.