Regional ministers of utilities sphere gathered at a meeting in the RF Ministry of Construction, Housing and Utilities. What did they hear there?
On July 22th, regional ministers and deputy governors dealing with the sphere were presented the Utilities Development Strategy by the RF Minister of Construction, Housing and Utilities, Mikhail Menn.
Meanwhile, experts admit that, the discussion and adoption of the Strategy took place behind-the-scenes, and many community’s corrections were not taken into account.
Two big tasks
— The task of the strategy is to make the utilities sphere a modern service, available and convenient for citizens, — Mikhail Menn stressed. — The main thing is that people should clearly understand what they pay for and see the quality of the services.
The Utilities Development Strategy is divided into two big parts according to the tasks to be implemented. The first one is to provide for the housing quality. According to developers, the aim may be achieved by forming owners’ responsible attitude towards their place of living, by creating the capital repair system and solving the problem of dilapidated housing resettlement.
Capital repair and resettlement
According to the Construction Ministry’s data, for the last two years 30,000 aparts houses were overhauled, by 2018 their amount will grow up to 100,000 houses.
As far as dilapidated housing resettlement is concerned, for the two years 384,000 people improved their living conditions, before September 1st, 2017 370,000 more will move to new flats.
The owners’ attitude to the houses they live in has also changed. According to the “Romir” holding research, 45% of population take part in housing management, 17% have chosen a special account for saving money for capital repair. The Ministry charged constructors to make the latter as many as 30%.
Transparency and competition
The second part of the strategy – providing for utilities services quality via the increase of aparts housing management efficiency, communal infrastructure updating and attraction of most skilled workers to the industry.
— At present, 17 281 companies meeting all certification requirements work in the sphere, — the minister announced. — Due to certification introduction we managed to carry out the first stage of cleaning the market of unscrupulous businessmen. Now we are to make their activity most transparent.
According to Minister Menn, the electronic Utilities Informational system (GIS ZhKH) will help to achieve it. The open data will increase the rivalry between managing companies, and they will have to enhance the quality of their services. In the result a consumer wins.
In the sphere of private investments to the industry, emphasis is placed on the transfer of part of the housing and utilities sector to concessions. In this case communal objects stay in public ownership but are managed by private companies.
According to Construction Ministry’s data, there is a real boom of concessions in 2016. If investment activity rate in Russian economy on the whole has decreased from 106.6% to 91.6%, in utilities sphere the investment volume grows constantly.
At present, 857 concessions have been concluded with the total volume of investment commitments of about 84 bln roubles (or 20% of general financing of all investment programs of resource supply organizations of the country).
There are people to be proud of
Concerning the attraction of skilled workers to the industry, the program authors think, there are professional standards in Russia allowing to create the training system and initiating specialists’ interest increase to the industry.
The Ministry has plans of creation of the national staff reserve in the Utilities sphere under the RF Ministry of Construction, Housing and Utilities, of holding annual industry prize, of developing the program of young specialists’ targeted support, and of developing federal educational standards.
— The main result of our work is the fact that we have changed from the band aid approach to the slow but systematic development, — resumed Deputy Minister Andrei Chibis. — Oue task now is not to lose momentum and keep all obligations.
What do the community think?
Vera MOSKVINA, Executive Director of the “Utilities managing companies’ Interregional Union” SRO:
— To my mind, citizens’ training for management their property should be the brightest point in the strategy. We have an owner of an apartment, but should have an owner of an aparts housing. Citizens do not feel themselves masters of the roof of a house, or the cell and engineering systems, so when a capital repair starts they do not let repair teams in. They do not understand that the team are repairing their house for their money. The concept of free privatization has brought illiterate owners. And if we do not manage to educate owners, we’ll need a deprivatization: you cannot manage housing – give it back to the state, as you cannot cope with it.
Svetlana KALININA, member of the “Everyday life quality” work group of the All-Russia people’s front:
— If we start changes, there must clear dates of their realization. In the USSR there used to be plans, and officials’ salary depended on their fulfillment. I think the utilities sphere should develop in this direction: make definite plans and check their fulfillment.
A three-year-long plan of measures to be taken to go out of the crisis situation in the utilities sphere was adopted in 2014, and all governors signed it. Last December I started checking how the program was being carried out, and saw that nothing was being done.
How did the regions use the money of the Utilities Support Foundation? Only three regions – Smolensk, Vladimir and Arkhangelsk did it! And there was a lot of money! This year 15 regions began to work on the program.
So, if the Ministry of Construction prepares a strategy, there must be definite terms and the checking mechanism.
Andrei SHIROKOV, Chair of the Committee on entrepreneurship in the utilities sphere of the RF Trade and Industry Chamber:
— We took an active part in the development of the Utilities Development Strategy Program until 2020. It was mush criticized as the terms were tough. We have amended it. But today it has not been mentioned. The program we see is the plan of work of Deputy-Minisetr Andrei Chibis. And I wonder why they did not invite me, for example, to the conference – there must be some interest for businessmen’s voice not to be heard.
Unfortunately, the Ministry of Construction, Housing and Utilities do not discuss their ideas in public, and if they do – those are invited who will not criticize them.
Svetlana RAZVOROTNEVA, Executive Director of the “Utilities control” NP:
— The majority of the current problems arise because we cannot determine ourselves where to move: back to socialism or forward to the market. That’s why the strategy’s vectors are multidirectional. On the one hand, the role of the state in the sphere of aparts housing management enhances, on the other hand, social protection functions are transferred to business, actually.
For example, tariffs for aparts housing management being established are not economically derived. Citizens’ responsibility for the common property in only on paper – no sanctions are included for default on obligations.
The situation in the sphere of communal infrastructure updating is even more difficult. Great hopes are laid on business. But it is evident, that profitable concessions cannot be everywhere: the state should take an active part in them in small towns and villages.
I think, the strategy should be worked out from the point of view of responsibility distribution between the state, businessmen and citizens. And it should be accompanied with real commitments and definite sanctions for their default.