21.10.2015, 19:49

Speech at a Moscow City Duma meeting

Sergei Sobyanin: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. As Mr Shaposhnikov (Moscow City Duma Speaker Alexei Shaposhnikov) said today marks five years since I assumed this position. So, it would be appropriate to sum up what has been done in the past five years. Five years are enough not only to formulate programmes but also to receive the first results of their implementation. The materials you have received contain major indicators of the city’s development, so I won’t quote these figures in detail but will tell what we are doing and how.

Moscow is an enormous city, an integral and very sophisticated mechanism that reflects the interests of various social groups — a kind of an engineering mechanism that is brought into action by sophisticated technology. A city is a place of labor and leisure, study and medical treatment, a place of birth and death.

We live in a world that continues striving for urbanisation. More and more people are coming to cities and Moscow is no exception. Cities are the locomotives that are carrying forward their countries and whole regions. They are competing for people, talents and investment. It would be no exaggeration to say that Moscow is one of the world’s largest metropolitan areas. We are part of Russia. We are its capital and locomotive in global competition. This gives us the right to be proud but at the same time we are shouldering tremendous responsibility.

We must improve Moscow, making it comfortable for residents and business so that it could win the competition. We must improve it continuously in many areas and as fast as possible. If we concentrate on one area and neglect the rest, we are bound to face lop-sided development, crises and growing pains. Muscovites know this well from their own experience. So our philosophy of running Moscow is to ensure continuous advance and achieve the best results.

Now I will try to answer the traditional question: “What is the main achievement in the past five years?” I think, we have managed to make Moscow more comfortable for its residents and guests and more competitive than other global mega cities. We have managed to make the city better. But what have we done and how?

The creation of a comfortable urban environment is based on a package of fairly routine activities but standing behind them is the work of millions of people, specific decisions and huge material and financial investment. This is quality construction, smooth transportation, effective engineering infrastructure, comfortable public spaces, modern social infrastructure, open channels of communication between the city residents and the authorities, and good conditions for business and investment.

What have we done in these areas in the past five years? First, we have adopted a new urban development policy. Moscow’s history reflects continuous growth but it faced different tasks and opportunities in different times. What tasks did the Moscow Government face? During the two decades of construction boom the city received thousands of new buildings that will serve Muscovites well for many years. But at the same time the city paid a high price for this achievement. It suffered from overcrowded accommodation, obsolete infrastructure and traffic collapse.

Our urban development policy is aimed at preserving the existing urban environment as much as possible rather than pursuing infill construction. Instead of concentrating investment and jobs in the city’s tiny historical centre, we are promoting polycentric development and formation of business activity centres beyond the Third Transport Ring. Instead of building impersonal sleeping districts we are promoting the comprehensive development of promising territories where jobs are near residential areas. Instead of reducing budget investment, we are engaging in large-scale construction of transport, social and engineering facilities.

It is easy to say this, but almost impossible to implement. We have reviewed almost all of the investment projects that were signed previously — about 1,200. We looked for compromise solutions in dialogue with investors. In cases where we failed to reach a compromise, hundreds of lawsuits were filed, the majority of which the city won. As a result, 500 investment contracts for the construction of 21 million sq m of infill, pinpoint or irrational development projects were terminated.

Of course, not all urban development mistakes could be rectified. Nevertheless, by reviewing the investment contracts, we stopped infill development and preserved the city’s living fabric.

At the same time, the city offered investors new promising sites. The decision to expand Moscow has completely justified itself. The newly incorporated territories have already attracted billions in investment, accounting for over one-third of the property built in the city — up to 3 million sq m a year.

Over the past three years, 80,000 new jobs were created in the newly incorporated territories in business centres, the manufacturing sector, commerce, logistics, the social sphere, construction and transport. The newly incorporated territories are turning from a depressed suburb into a well-balanced city district. We will soon put forward for public discussion a draft master plan for the development of the new territory.

In addition, new business activity centres are created in industrial zones that are in the process of reorganisation — ZIL and a number of other semi-deserted territories. As a result, thousands of Muscovites and residents of the Moscow Region were able to find a job closer to home and save several hours a day that they used to spend commuting. We are seeing a gradual reduction in commuting to and from the city centre. At the same time, contrary to numerous forecasts, the urban development policy maneuver has not led to a decline in the construction or investment volume. The opposite is the case.

Transport is Moscow’s second most acute problem today. An erroneous urban development policy, chronic lagging in the development of the public transit system and the underestimation of the pace of growth in terms of the number of cars have brought about a severe crisis in the transport system. Many experts thought that Moscow has already passed the point of no return and that traffic congestion has come to stay.

I’ve never shared this opinion. There is a solution to transport problems. It is enough to look at many European cities that underwent a transport collapse several decades before Moscow. The solution is the priority development of public transport: the metro, railway services, surface transport and the taxi service; enforcing order on roads; road construction; making city facilities accessible to pedestrians and providing incentives for a responsible choice of options for moving around the city.

In terms of its scale, the city transport development programme is one of the largest in the world. Its implementation would have been impossible without the support of the president and the federal government or without the all-out effort within the entire Moscow transport system.

Obviously, many unpopular transport solutions would have been impossible without support and understanding from Muscovites and City Duma deputies.

Any trip around the city begins and ends with walking. So making walking more comfortable is a major prerequisite for the resolution of all the metropolis’s other transport problems.

To clear the pavements and pedestrian lanes for the people, the city government had to take tough measures, including the prohibition of chaotic parking and the closure of illegal stalls, kiosks and advertising structures that literally inundated all busy places. Nevertheless, these measures worked and today pedestrians feel far more comfortable.

In terms of the speed and intensity of passenger traffic, the Moscow metro is among the best in the world. At the same time, the development of the metro system fell catastrophically short of the needs of the expanding city. There can be only one solution here — to build more metro stations to regain lost ground in 10 to 15 years. The lack of vacant land plots necessary for manufacturing facilities was one of the most-challenging problems that we had to deal with in the absence of ready projects. As a matter of fact, we had to create anew the 30,000 strong collective of metro construction workers, inviting the relevant companies from all over Russia, Belarus and even more distant places. As a result of five years of painstaking work, often testing the limit of the city construction complex’s capabilities, 18 new metro stations were built, including 15 that have already opened for passengers. The most important thing is that a huge headstart has been achieved for the next several years.

Railways. For a long time, their transport capabilities were simply ignored, as the situation there worsened. However, it is obvious that motorways, even the best motorways, will never cope with commuting between Moscow and the Moscow Region, which runs into the millions of people.

The city government, in conjunction with the Moscow Region government, the Ministry of Transport and Russian Railways, began the construction of additional tracks on radial lines of the Smaller Moscow Belt Railway. It is a challenging project. There is a shortage of financial resources and we have to deal with a lot of property and organisational problems related to vacating land plots. Nevertheless, we are seeing the first results. On 1 October, express train services were launched on the new fourth main line of the Oktyabrskaya Railway. The travel time between Moscow and Zelenograd has been cut in half. Overall, in the past five years, the number of passengers from the Moscow Region has grown by 40 percent. Today, suburban commuter trains carry over 2 million passengers per day.

Surface public transport. Do you remember what they used to say about designated lanes for public transport? They said this was a meaningless effort that did no good.

And here is the result — one in every four surface public transport passengers — some 1.5 million people use designated lanes daily. The traffic flow has become faster and more regular. The separation of public and private transport currents has increased traffic capacity of outbound motorways because right lanes have been cleared of chaotically parked vehicles, which had often been parked in double or even triple rows.

Partial replacement of rolling stock has made public transport more popular. We have been gradually introducing a new haulage pattern, compelling private companies to comply with uniform city standards. We have already launched the first projects. In addition, we have practically frozen rate indexation for public transport fares. In comparable prices, the rate of a metro or bus trip is 35 percent lower than in 2010. The decrease in the real fare is an important factor making residents opt for public transport.

Simultaneously, the Moscow Government has created a system of paid parking space. Why? Not for garnering additional revenue but rather as a sound economic motivation when choosing from among different types of transport.

Millions of vehicles cannot park without tight rules. In the opposite case, a traffic collapse ensues, primarily affecting drivers. Paid parking is an extremely unpopular project. It took decades for many European countries to arrive at this parking pattern. But due to our demanding situation, we had to implement it within three years. But the result has offset all political, financial and organisational costs. The traffic load has decreased and the average traffic speed has grown.

We can see a radical reduction in traffic jams, which used to regularly paralyse central Moscow.

People ask an important question concerned with vast speculation — who takes the income from paid parking? Every kopek is channeled to the Moscow budget. Since the introduction of paid parking, the budget has garnered over 4 billion roubles. All of these funds have been spent on improving streets and courtyards and major repairs of housing around paid-parking areas.

Road construction. New roads, tunnels and interchanges alone cannot resolve the problem of the excessive number of cars. However, it is obvious that they have to be built, primarily to cut bottlenecks and ensure connections between different districts. The reconstruction of outbound thoroughfares and the Moscow Ring Road is long overdue. New territory development and the renovation of the industrial areas are impossible without roads.

Meanwhile, the possibilities for new road construction in Moscow are utterly limited.

The implementation of any project calls for laying dozens of kilometres of new underground utilities lines. Builders also often encounter a negative attitude from residents, which is quite expected. Drivers are also not pleased with temporary inconveniences.

To cut it short, building roads in Moscow is expensive, troublesome and at times just impossible. Nevertheless, we have found reserves for increasing the construction volume. The most economically efficient projects have been used, the schedules have been cut, and qualified contractors have engaged who have sufficient equipment, labour and expertise in complicated construction projects.

Apart from that, for the first time in past decades, road construction in Moscow has been synchronised as much as possible with similar construction in the Moscow Region.

Two new federal motorways entered the city — the northern detour of Odintsovo and the backup of the Leningradskoye Motorway. Large-scale works are underway on the Novoryzanskoye, Novorizhskoye and Yaroslavskoye motorways, on the road to the Domodedovo airport. The long-standing issue of a comfortable exit and entry to the city is being resolved, although with certain difficulties.

Compared to 2010, the number of passenger cars in the Moscow agglomeration has increased by 2 million. Yet Moscow began to drive faster. Public transport has become more convenient and the city’s streets have become safer and more orderly.

But positive results in terms of resolving transport issues certainly should not make us complacent.

Transport remains a major problem. And the transport situation in the capital will improve only through the steady implementation of existing plans without flips and flops and steps backwards.

Utilities and city lines. The arteries carrying light, heat, gas and water double the length of the equator.

And their condition is definitely of crucial importance for safe living and providing Muscovites with all of the necessary services.

As natural monopolies develop adequate investment programmes, the number of accidents and emergency cut-offs is falling.

For the first time in years, Moscow has almost no areas at all that do not allow for providing new consumers with power, whereas streamlined administrative procedures has made the waiting time for connecting a new facility to powergrid three times shorter. The connection cost has also decreased five times.

On the other hand, the removal of excessive and impractical projects from the investment agenda has resulted in a reduced growth of utility bills to the tune of over 1.5 times, which has therefore alleviated the financial strain on consumers.

For the government, the balance of the state and private sector is also significant in such a sensitive, risky area as utilities management.

You are aware that we have sold the city heating networks and small, ineffective combined heating and power stations to Mosenergo. The privatisation resulted in better heating efficiency and reliability. They have not been using heating fuel in winter for several years, managing to heat the city with environmentally clean natural gas. Yet the operations of private contractors in housing maintenance, courtyards and roads did not bring forth a civilised services market but rather a murky semi-criminal environment, hiring illegal migrants and across-the-board corruption in the utilities area.

To make things worse, housing and courtyard maintenance, repairs were all conducted by different companies. Landscaping and local roads repairs were managed by still other companies. And everything was reshuffled each and every year, so it was impossible to find the individuals who were in charge.
To get things in sound working order, we made a decision to set up Zhilishchnik, a network of city-owned management companies based on DEZ (housing managing centres). In 2015, Zhilishnik will be fully established and provided with all of the necessary equipment. They will be staffed by workers, most of whom are Russian nationals. This will guarantee quality housing services.

Just one example: the funds that we used to give to contractors allowed us to increase the number of personnel — turners, plumbers, cleaners — 1.5 times.

And their wages also went up 1.5 times. You can imagine what size of delta contractors appropriated. That said, we certainly do not ban private management companies. They continue their operations where residents are satisfied with their work. They have acquired the necessary licences and are controlled both by citizens and the housing inspectorate. Even though there are still many problems in the area, I believe that both city legislators and local councils have a lot of room for controlling the processes that are taking place in this sphere.

Our next task is to improve the quality of life environment of Muscovites.

I was often confronted with a skeptical attitude towards plans to improve public space. People said that Moscow courtyards were anyway in good condition as they were.

Plans to landscape parks collide with the interests of kiosk owners and shashlik vendors. Initiatives to create pedestrian streets were opposed by office and shop owners, who were quite reasonably afraid of losing customers.

Nevertheless, the need to improve public space was obvious. Unfortunately, it has degraded in recent years. Moscow faced a real risk of becoming an uncomfortable place to live.

It is unpleasant to live in any house, even a big one, if it is in a state of desolation. And the city is our home. Everything outside our flats is a common living space. And all of us should take care of it.

I strongly believe that Muscovites deserve for Moscow to be beautified even better than most other world cities. Over the past five years, we have beautified the majority of Moscow courtyards, school stadiums, parking areas, pedestrian zones and paths.

In winter, artificial ice rinks are open in all of the districts, despite the fact that five years ago you could count the number of them on one hand. Together with the new amenities, the trend of recreation in the open air, which seemed to have disappeared forever, has returned to Moscow. The number of Muscovites who spend their leisure time in courtyards and parks has grown exponentially. A completely different pace of life and a new atmosphere prevail on pedestrian streets. New cafes and restaurants are opening. More people are going to stores. Urban holidays and festivals are being held, which attract millions of Muscovites and thousands of tourists.

The Moscow Government’s next priority is to develop education, healthcare, social protection and other social services.

As you know, Moscow schools and kindergartens were among the best in Russia. However, a cluster of problems had been stored by 2010 in the system of education. They were under discussion in the media and online, and they materialised in queues, in which parents waited day and night in schoolyards to obtain accommodation in a good school for their children. Kindergartens also couldn’t cope with the baby boom, and about 30 percent of preschool-age children did not attend them.

There was another major problem — the growing gap in the quality of education provided by elite and ordinary schools, which left thousands of gifted children without the education they deserved.

Our educational standards and traditions are good enough, and there was no need to change them to meet these challenges while educational management, funding and school equipment needed thorough reform.

Online applications put an end to corruption and unlawful preferences in student enrollment. No problems now occur here. All Moscow children from two years and eight months on have kindergarten accommodation, although the number of preschool children has increased lately by 50 percent. There are almost no problems with children enrollment in the first form of school.

The 50-percent increase in educational allocations and the shift to per capita funding prompt schools to compete for students by offering quality education.

The reform has also brought new schools and kindergartens, their upgraded equipment, the establishment of major educational centres, and the acquisition of practical managerial rights to school councils.

Not all of these measures won public approval immediately. School mergers aroused the greatest disapproval of all reforms, although the reason is obvious enough. Five years ago, there were several dozen schools in Moscow that did not have enough pupils for even a standard first form. Schools employed more managers than teachers, and schools had problems introducing extended curricula on chosen subjects in senior forms.

New major educational centres make it possible to form a full-fledged teaching staff, especially now that the average wage of teachers has grown to 70,000 roubles a month. Almost all schools offer extended curricula on two or three subjects.

The educational reform is over now in its basic aspects, with an established funding and remuneration system, and awards for the best schools.

The results of Moscow school students’ graduation tests and academic competition victories are inspiring. Today, we have twice as many students with excellent marks across the board and children winning academic competitions, and twice as many schools in the national list of Best in Education than before the reform.

I thank Moscow teachers for their truly heroic work.

There is no theme for public discussions more popular than healthcare. This has been so for several years now because, although Moscow healthcare services are Russia’s best, they still cannot keep pace with world leaders, and ever more Muscovites go abroad for medical treatment.

The situation has to be changed and the gap narrowed. How can this be done? To increase funding is the simplest answer. All right, we have increased health allocations by 50 percent — the most we could afford.

Another, no less evident measure is to upgrade medical equipment, build new clinics and repair old ones. We have done it. Moscow hospitals and outpatient clinics now have no less tomographic scanners, angiographers, ultrasound scanners and other high-tech machinery than European medical institutions.

There is another measure — just as evident but the hardest to implement: to increase personnel efficiency. The easiest way to do it is through the right incentives. Medical financing must depend on the quality and quantity of medical services. The federal law introduces the money-follows-patient pattern.

Outpatient clinics had more problems than any other medical institutions. There were excellent clinics in Moscow and very bad ones, which did not provide even half of the necessary services — not out of spite but because it was impossible to install huge diagnostic machines, equip several laboratories and employ many specialists in every tiny district clinic.

We have added another type of high-tech institutions to such clinics — major medical centres providing the entire range of the latest diagnostic studies. These tests have become much more accessible with the introduction of online services to make doctor’s appointments — this new arrangement has doubled access to computer tomography and boosted access to magnetic resonance tomography by 270 percent.

The waiting time for an appointment with a rare specialist has decreased several times over. It takes a few days to get a surgeon’s or cardiologist’s consultation now compared to the previous standard of two to three weeks. We are absolutely open and so is the EMIAS system. You can look up the waiting-list time at various health centres and select your chosen day to see a doctor.

Clinics are financed depending on the number of their permanent patients, so they don’t need to bloat the number of appointments for greater allocations from the mandatory health insurance fund. Despite all this, the number of visits to doctors increased by roughly 30 percent last year while the morbidity rate remained unchanged. This shows that outpatient clinics have become more popular. Many people who avoided clinics because of huge queues and scanty equipment now visit them.

The updated medical standards have allowed the average length of time that patients spend in a hospital to decrease by one-third. Hospital treatment has improved spectacularly.

Moscow has hit five of six public health improvement targets posed by President Vladimir Putin as part of his resolutions in May 2012. The only goal we have not met concerns cancer treatment. But then, we have an unchanging, high mortality rate because there are several major federal hospitals in Moscow, which cater for patients from all over Russia. If we don’t take them into account, statistics for Moscow proper have graphically improved.

The city meets even the overly drastic standards imposed on it by the federal Ministry of Healthcare in the latest contract it has made with the Moscow authorities.

The mother and infant mortality rate has dropped by close to 30 percent thanks to upgrading maternity wards and the establishment of pathological pregnancy and infant intensive-care wards. Moscow now ranks on par with the majority of European countries in these respects.

The heart attack mortality rate in hospitals has decreased by a factor of three to 10 percent, slightly exceeding the relevant statistics for the United States, whose healthcare allocations exceed Russian several-fold.

Life expectancy has increased by three years in the last five years to 77 — an impressive achievement.

I am grateful to Moscow doctors and nurses for their dedicated work.

The city authorities are fulfilling their social obligations to the population even in today’s dire economic situation. Budget welfare allocations are increasing despite all factors. A majority of social protection institutions have undergone thorough repairs within these five years. New services have been introduced for World War II veterans, particularly nursing at home, a medical emergency button, and spa treatment at home. Another 500,000 people are receiving targeted aid.

I thank welfare workers, public organisations and volunteers who help elderly people, persons with limited abilities and families with children.

The administrative procedures and the receipt of state services are also very important for the residents’ comfort. Regrettably, issuing certificates, receiving allowances, or making an appointment at municipal offices often looked like torture, with Moscow residents having to queue for hours and tolerate humiliation and rudeness. Not infrequently, extortion was practised.

Establishing a network of the My Documents centres and educating a new generation of municipal employees, who have a totally different style — polite and smiling — and are ready to help, has changed the situation radically. Besides, half of Moscow residents are regular online recipients of state services.

Modern communications have created the prerequisites for solving yet another crucial problem. I am referring to the need to establish a direct dialogue with the people, without which you can’t govern the city. The Active Citizen online plebiscite system makes it possible to run citywide and local polls and learn what hundreds of thousands of residents think. Our crowdsourcing project has involved thousands of alert people in dealing with the city’s problems. By using the Our City website, residents help us to oversee the performance of the municipal services. I am grateful to the Muscovites for their active stance and their help in running our city, which we are fond and proud of.

Colleagues, now let’s discuss the economy, business climate and business development conditions. Over the last few years, Moscow has managed to attract hundreds of billions of dollars in investment in real estate, the financial sector, trade, services, education, healthcare and other spheres. The overall amount of investment has increased by 50 percent during the last five years. Moscow is competing for investment with the biggest cities of the world rather than with other regions of Russia. Moreover, the more complex, diversified and innovative Moscow’s economy is, the more it will feel the pressure of international rivalry. In plain language, we are not competing with Europe for McDonald’s or Auchan establishments. These will operate both here and there. If not, we’ll easily find an adequate replacement. But rivalry is at its highest if the case in point is high-tech industries, quality financial services or world events that attract thousands of tourists. If we want to win, we should ensure a business environment at the level of other world cities. This issue is not entirely dependent on the Moscow Government. But we should do the utmost within our own frame of reference.

A quality business climate at the city level is not an abstraction but a totally concrete thing. I am referring to the elimination of administrative barriers, to tax preferences for industries, to fair taxes for owners of commercial and office buildings, and so on. In the same context, we should put labour migration in order, create a civilised taxi market, and organise small-scale retail trade properly. I could go on with the list. It is these concrete steps that make up the effort to improve the Moscow business climate.

Ladies and gentlemen of the legislature, my report dwells on the most important projects implemented by the Moscow Government over the last five years. At the same time, progress has been no less vigorous in culture and sports, housing construction, security and other areas. Moscow is developing harmoniously the way it should.

And now a few words about our goals. I think we can accomplish as much, and in some areas even more in the next planning period than we did in the previous five years. At the same time, we are also aware of risks and negative trends. This is why the Moscow Government has drafted the budget for 2016-2018 based on a highly conservative forecast of our future revenues.

As in the past, we’ll try to avoid borrowing funds but will balance the budget by saving on the placement of state contracts and cutting extraneous expenses. However, the budget will have the same key priorities and distribution of expenses as in the past period. Over 50 percent of the budget, or over 1 trillion roubles, will be spent on social obligations annually, including on mandatory medical insurance. Over 30 percent will be allocated for development.

We have created a strong foundation in metro construction. We plan to open about 30 new stations by the end of 2018, including the first section of the Third Interchange Circuit and three new radial lines — Solntsevskaya and Kozhukhovskaya lines and the northern section of the Lyublinskaya Line. Over 1.5 million people live and work in that area, whose transit in the city will be improved.

Regarding railway lines, infrastructure construction on the Smaller Moscow Belt Railway (SMBR) has entered the final stage. When the SMBR opens to passenger service, Moscow will have an additional surface metro belt that will have transfer hubs connecting it to radial railways and metro lines. The SMBR will have the same tickets and fees as the metro. We also hope that the success of the Moscow-Kryukovo express line will be an additional argument for the broader use of this experience and these projects will be used in other railway directions to ease traffic. We are building three more mainline tracks.

We will also continue to improve roads. In the next few years, we will build about 300 kilometres of roads, complete the redevelopment of MKAD interchanges and Kaluzhskoye Motorway and the bulk of the project to build a Kutuzovsky Prospekt northern parallel road and the Northwestern Link Road and start building the Northeastern Link Road. We hope that the Federal Road Agency (Rosavtodor) will make serious progress with the Central Ring Road (TsKAD). We are also designing several dozen large transfer hubs. Construction will begin on several sites next year.

There are also large-scale plans to improve or create quality public spaces. We are building Zaryadye Park and will soon start building Russia’s largest Dreamworks theme park in the Nagatinskaya Floodplain. The appropriate decisions concerning a new park on Khodynskoye Polye have been taken. New space, nuclear energy, Russian history and other pavilions will be built at the VDNKh. The main national exhibition centre will have a new Ferris wheel and modern amusement rides for kids and adults. We also plan to redevelop several old parks.

In addition, there are many vacant and unused plots that need to be improved. We’ll certainly consider the proposals of the Moscow City Duma and district councils on creating new parks or green areas there. There are large-scale plans for the redevelopment of the Moskva River embankments.

The three-year improvement plans for pedestrian areas include about 150 Moscow streets. But there’s an argument, which we must consider. People often ask if it’s reasonable to invest in redevelopment at this difficult time. I can assure you that every rouble invested in these projects will pay off in spades later. A city that is comfortable for its residents attracts more investment and more talent and young people, and it also develops faster and more successfully.

Large-scale housing repairs is our task for the next few years. As you know, we’ve never stopped paying attention to it. In previous years, we repaired utility lines and structural components at over 10,000 buildings. Add to this the 18,000 lifts that were replaced.

The new system will triple the volume of major repairs, while 4 million low-income residents, or those entitled to benefits, including people with disabilities, will receive targeted assistance for reduced repair payment rates and subsidies. Moscow will allocate around 10 billion roubles for this purpose. As you can see, the city is not going to avoid funding the repairs, but will be doing it through a different procedure. Funding will be targeted and will reach those who really need it.

In the coming year, buildings in the worst condition will be repaired. They include pre-war buildings and those finished right after the end of WWII.

A few months back, members of United Russia reached out to me to suggest that we repair buildings in a comprehensive, rather than partial, way. It may require additional funding, but the suggestion is absolutely reasonable. If a building is in bad shape, it makes no sense to fix one part at a time every few years, and so on for eternity. If we can, it would be better to carry out a major repair effort once and for all. I call on the deputies to follow up on the repair of each building so that in the end residents get a new quality of life, not more problems.

In education, I believe we can set ourselves a really ambitious task. We must gauge our education performance by comparing it not just with other Russian cities but with world leaders in this area. We must find out where we are now and then transition to a new level of scholarly education, comparable to the best foreign examples.

In healthcare, we will also be dealing with issues of an entirely new level. We will be working to improve doctors’ qualifications and payment, introduce quality control of medical services, and establish a medical cluster, a centre of world-class medicine in Moscow. As you know, a new federal law was passed recently on this.

Reaching these goals in education and healthcare will certainly take more than a year. It is important to note, however, that we are not going to stop along our way forward. As I said earlier, funding for social programmes, including mandatory health insurance, will surpass 1 trillion roubles.

Deputies, Muscovites, in conclusion, let me answer one more question that without a doubt concerns every one of you. Yes, Moscow has huge development plans but will we be able to pull them off in the challenging conditions of today? Naturally, there may be better times for constructive work. Yet it is evident that 2015 is not a lost year for development. The coming year will not be lost on this either. Sound management, unity of the city community and, above all, the talent and energy of millions of Muscovites will guarantee this. As has happened several times in the past, Moscow will not only face up to its challenges, it will also get better each year. Of this I am sure. Thank you.

Sergei Sobyanin: I will briefly address the issues that the deputies have raised. As far as our city’s historical image is concerned, and the preservation of monuments, I daresay that no city in the world has at any time in history carried out such a vast restoration programme within such a short span of time. The number of architectural monuments recently restored in Moscow exceeds 600. Over the past five years, the number was ten times smaller. I would like to point out that the city budget covered just half of the expenses, while the rest of the funding was either federal or private. The entire situation — our approach and criteria, and preservation standards, and the level of control — has changed. Some architectural monuments, I admit, still remain in a deplorable state; however, thanks to the tremendous amount of work performed by our architects, restoration experts and builders, they are now exactly twice fewer than before.

As far as the environment goes, its condition can be assessed in exact figures of air and water purity — which have improved — but there is also such a thing as cleanliness in the city, and we might congratulate our communal services on their success in making the city a lot tidier. This is what I regard as the main environmental factor. Take our green spaces. I clearly remember dozens of thousands of tonnes of household waste and construction rubble being taken away from the areas that now have taken on an entirely new look.

As for the influx of immigrants, the problem remains but it is also taking on a new aspect, as immigrants begin to pay the city 4,000 roubles per capita for their registration and permits, with medical insurance on top. This is quite different from the times when we were receiving nothing at all from them. Additionally, their number is clearly on the decline, especially in the budget-funded sector.

As far as our social policy is concerned, may I remind you, colleagues, that in comparison with 2010, our social expenditure, in proportion to the rest of our spending, has grown by 50 percent, reaching a tremendous amount of one trillion roubles. No regional budget in the country (either proportionally or per capita) — except maybe two or three oil-bearing regions — can afford such luxury. We have no oil and no gas, but the profits of our industry are seriously growing — at least those of small and medium businesses registered and operating in our city. Large corporations’ profits are falling here; Gazprom and a few others have earned only half of what they used to this year. The city is not to blame, though, as it depends on world markets. In contrast, our city’s local businesses have been doing quite well over the past few years, both in terms of profit and income tax.

Speaking of timely or untimely decisions on major repairs of residential buildings, I’ll tell you that Moscow was the last region to make this decision. But, to be honest, it’s no longer possible to delay this process. Any further delays would turn rundown buildings into dilapidated ones. We cannot afford this; we must take care and make decisions which are not always popular but which are essential. I want to say once again that Moscow is not shying away from the major repairs issue. The amount of money we spend each year remains virtually the same. These funds are primarily spent on people with disabilities, pensioners, labour and war veterans, and families with many children. On the whole, these amounts will grow considerably. Over the next few years, we will upgrade the most deplorable residential buildings in the city.

Moscow has always celebrated various holidays, and it will continue to do so in the future. Despite the difficult economic situation, I believe that it’s still too early for us to bury ourselves, and we must create an optimistic mood in the city. We have stopped upping these funds, which remain the same as in previous years, and we are attracting more and more private investors and private sponsors. Most importantly, all this is being recouped by our budget revenues and by much more substantial profits of small and medium-sized businesses which are actively involved in these festivals and holidays.

Speaking of our industrial policy, I would like to thank the deputies for passing legislation to support Moscow’s industry. As you know, we have approved a law stipulating 10-25 percent tax breaks for any cost-effective city companies and enterprises, old and new, paying decent salaries to their employees. This support, including support for industrial enterprises, is quite good at this time of crisis. I’d like to tell you that, in the past few years, the city’s economically active population and the number of jobs have increased, not diminished, by almost 600,000. This is a colossal amount. Today, despite any crises, the city is posting an unemployment rate of 0.5 percent, one of the lowest in Russia and the world. I’m confident that Moscow, its residents, as well as local companies, enterprises and businesses, will effectively cope with current problems, just like they have done before. I’m confident that Moscow will continue to develop and prosper in the future.

I can hardly be called a groundless optimist, and I’m not trying to say that we are not facing any problems and that the entire situation is quite simple. On the contrary, I’ve tried to tell you today that all decisions being made and implemented by you and me are very complicated, very difficult and very responsible. We have no alternative but to make these decisions because the city would otherwise fail to develop. We will continue to implement a responsible policy in the future. Thank you.