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The Far East: the strategic priority of the Russian state

About why the Russian authorities paid attention to the development of the eastern territories and what results were achieved in this direction

The Far East: the strategic priority of the Russian state
Photo: TASS

Rostislav Turovsky

Doctor of Political Sciences, Professor of HSE, Scientific Editor East Russia
The Far East remains a strategic priority in Russian regional policy, which is confirmed time and again by presidential messages. So, in the message of the president, sounded 1 December, the intention of the state to pay special attention to the development of its eastern outskirts was confirmed. There are a number of reasons for this, among them the need to overcome the backlog in the development of these territories, and the intensification of efforts to include Russia in international relations in the APR, which are of particular importance in the current geopolitical situation. In 2016, the state continued to work on the creation of special tax and economic regimes in the Far East that were designed to stimulate investment activity, made decisions on state support for various projects, paid attention to systemic measures designed to improve the business climate in the Far East, introduce new "rules of the game" In the fishing industry, etc.

Like throughout Russia, the current Far East policy was not affected by the current financial constraints. This year, an updated version of the state program for social and economic development of the Far East was approved, but the parameters of its financing have become the subject of uneasy battles. Ultimately, the budget expenditures for this program, like many other regional development programs, have been curtailed. However, the breakthrough was the decision on mandatory presence of Far Eastern sections in all state and federal target programs. Thus, the task of proportional inclusion of the Far East in government programs has been resolved.

But as a whole, the state is moving further and further from direct financing of the Far East to creating a favorable business climate, which in the future will allow it to develop without constant “pumping” of budget money. The current stage from this point of view can be called transitional. So far, the state and its related structures are involved in co-financing the Far Eastern projects, as evidenced by the increased activity of the Far East Development Fund, a series of government decisions on the selection of projects receiving state support. Particular attention, given the specificity of the territory, is paid to raw materials and infrastructure projects, but in general, their list is varied.

The development of the Far East is impossible without overcoming infrastructure constraints. During the year, the issue of equalizing the Far Eastern energy tariffs, the magnitude of which hampers the development of business in the region, with the average Russian ones, was not without difficulty. In the end, a solution to this problem was found, and in the foreseeable future, the relevant federal law will begin to operate.

The Far East is gradually becoming the center of international cooperation, where one of the important lines has been the diversification of Russian ties with various countries. The Second Eastern Economic Forum, held in Vladivostok, became an even larger event than the first. For objective reasons, China remains the main partner of Russia in the Far East. The construction of the Power of Siberia gas pipeline continues, Chinese capital is included in the largest project of the oil refining complex in Primorye, decisions are made on the development of cross-border cooperation (a special intergovernmental commission has been created for this). At the same time, this year more and more attention is being paid to relations with Japan, and companies from India are expanding their presence in the oil business. This ensures a more balanced interaction of Russia with various countries of the world. Despite the known difficulties, cooperation with Western countries is not curtailed. For example, this year the government gave permission to Amur Minerals, a US-Canadian company, to work at the Malmyzhskoye gold-copper deposit in the Khabarovsk Territory.

Systemic measures of the state on the development of the Far East suggest that it becomes a whole "scattering" of growth points, represented in all subjects of the federation. As part of the implementation of last year's presidential address, the long-term plan for socio-economic development of Komsomolsk-on-Amur, the second largest city in the Khabarovsk Krai and a large industrial center, was approved in 2016. The expansion of the regime of the free port from Vladivostok to other territories began: free ports appeared in the Khabarovsk Territory, on Sakhalin, Kamchatka and Chukotka. The process of creating territories for advanced social and economic development (TACER) is continuing. This year new TOSER began to be created for large industrial projects - extraction of minerals in South Yakutia, shipyard "Zvezda" in Primorsky Krai. There was the first TACER in the underdeveloped Jewish Autonomous Region and two TOSER - agrarian and tourist on Sakhalin.

An ambitious project of the state was the distribution of free hectares of the Far Eastern land, designed to bring into circulation empty lands and attract the population to work in the Far East. Given the roughness in the organization of this unprecedented process, then a bill was drafted clarifying many details of the provision of land. Meanwhile, from 1 February of the next year, not only Far Easterners, but also all the inhabitants of Russia will be able to get hectares in the Far Eastern Federal District. This program is partly related to solving the demographic problems of the Far East, where, incidentally, the situation begins to level off: statistics show that the demographic situation in the Far East is slightly better than the average Russian, and the seemingly endless outflow of population is slowing down.

The resource potential of the Far East and the systemic measures of the state allow us to speak about a very gradual transition of the DFO to a model of advanced development, although there has not yet been a breakthrough, and the statistics do not look better than the average Russian. For example, according to the results of January-October 2016, the industrial growth in the Far Eastern Federal District was only 100,2% in comparison with the same period of 2015. This growth is still provided by the largest commodity production. Nevertheless, completely new projects are appearing - gas processing in the Amur region, production of mineral fertilizers and ferrous metallurgy in Primorsky Krai. The strategy of the diamond industry is changing: Russia is increasingly counting on sales in Asian markets, and therefore the Eurasian Diamond Center was opened in Vladivostok. The reform of the fishing industry has created a system of investment quotas, in connection with which fishermen will have to place orders for construction of ships in Russia, which can revive the Far Eastern shipbuilding. Industrial development of the Far East is closely interconnected with the infrastructure. This year, all the seaports of the Far Eastern Federal District show good dynamics, the construction of railway and automobile bridges connecting Russia and China has been launched, and the painful issue of financing new stages in the modernization of key railways - Trans-Siberian and BAM - is being resolved.

The Far Eastern policy of the Russian state has become unprecedented in recent history, providing for a whole range of measures aimed at developing this most important part of the country, which has previously been given insufficient attention. In 2016, new results of this policy began to appear, evidencing the gradual formation of the potential for transforming the Far East into a locomotive for the growth of the Russian economy and for deepening Russia's integration into the APR.

Published in the tab "East of Russia"
(Joint project of the newspaper Izvestia and EastRussia)

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