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Putin helds first meeting of renewed State Council

July 18, 2012, 12:09 UTC+3

There were two main issues on the agenda

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MOSCOW, July 18 (Itar-Tass) - Russian President Vladimir Putin has held the first after his taking office meeting of the State Council that focused on the economic development of regions and raising the welfare of citizens. The head of state announced the transfer of a number of federal powers to the regions starting from 2013, but did not specify the volume of budget to be allocated for that.

Tuesday’s State Council meeting was devoted to the discussion of the governors’ tasks aimed at “ensuring sustainable economic growth and raising the welfare of citizens,” the Kommersant daily reports. There were two main issues on the agenda – decentralisation of authority along with greater independence, more responsible and effective work of the governors and the methods of assessment of their work. Only one thing was clearly explained to the governors: both the failure to fulfil the president’s election program for the country’s development and non-fulfilment of the federal powers may entail dismissal, despite the transition to system of elections of the regional heads.

Beginning in 2013, supervisory powers, particularly affecting the investment climate, will be delegated to the regions. RF regions will themselves implement, in particular, environmental monitoring (except for high-risk facilities), supervision of food quality and safety, supervision over the observance of labour legislation, control of forest seed raising and seed control, will supervise transportation of passengers by motor vehicles, weight checking. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak said at the same time that the delegated supervisory powers will not be accompanied by individual federal subsidies, as before (the total sum will be transferred). At the same time the heads of regions will not coordinate with the federal centre their authority executors, but will be themselves responsible for the exercise of powers.

Obviously, the governors were not happy with that, according to Kommersant: none of them even bothered to speak at the meeting after the keynote speeches. Only Kemerovo governor Aman Tuleyev tried to explain that in the looming economic crisis conditions it would be better to demand from the regions not the fulfilment of strict economic development plans, but at least stability.

However, Vladimir Putin was adamant: “If someone does not feel the strength, capabilities, or does not agree with the proposed program, then there is no need to pretend that we are working, and if you agree, all remain in place and should show results.” However, he said that his administration and the government have created a “special group that will actually keep track of the progress of this work.” He also stressed that, despite the introduction of the election of governors, “the head of state always has sufficient tools to deal with any personnel problem for people who do not perform properly the functions entrusted to them.”

For the sake of prosperity of the regions, the Kremlin is ready to support the governors not only financially, but also morally, writes RBC Daily. The governors will be able to formally complain to Moscow about the heads of federal agencies on site, Vladimir Putin promised on Tuesday. The main task for the governors is to get above the poverty line 13 percent of Russians (18 million). To do this, the regions need at least get out of debt themselves (32 regions have debts accounting for more than 30 percent of annual revenue, and 12 – for 50 percent), to deal with the “lawlessness in the housing and public utilities sphere,” to improve the investment climate (we do not see a breakthrough so far,” the president said. “Two-thirds of claims of businesspeople are to the authorities at the local level”), as well as to distribute the land to farmers and builders.

In the latter case, the President also blamed the federal authorities. The largest landowners in the regions are the Ministry of Defence, Agriculture Ministry, Russian Railways (RZD) and the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS). “As many as 95 percent of their land is not used,” Vladimir Putin estimated. “And the authorities are beginning to sell some land plots. If the land is not needed - let them pass it to the municipality, but it also should not be stuck there ... Because of such policy Russia may miss a “historic chance” to solve the housing problem, the head of state sighed.

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