Irkutsk
Ulan-Ude

Blagoveshchensk
Chita
Yakutsk

Birobidzhan
Vladivostok
Khabarovsk

Magadan
Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk

Anadyr
Petropavlovsk-
Kamchatsky
Moscow

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Please refer to the text in Russian as a source.

Far East: the results of 2014 year

The Far Eastern policy of the federal center: the year of the "great crisis"?

Far East: the results of 2014 year

EastRussia begins a series of publications "The Far East: Results of 2014". During January, the portal will publish expert materials on tangible achievements and shortcomings in the development of the regions of the Far Eastern Federal District. The first publication is devoted to the policy of the federal center in relation to the Far Eastern Federal District.

It cannot be said that 2014 was a year in the Russian regional politics "the year of the Far East". But it is abundantly clear that last year the Far Eastern Region turned out to be one of the highest priorities for the federal government. Perhaps, only the annexation of the Crimea slightly “balanced” this situation, because otherwise it would indeed be possible to say that the most powerful efforts were directed by the federal structures to create conditions ensuring the development of the Far East.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that in 2014, the Far Eastern policy first appeared in the arsenal of the federal center as a special direction of regional policy. For the Far East, its own mechanisms have been developed to attract investment and ensure its accelerated development. At the same time, there were also large-scale changes in regional policy as such, associated with the liquidation of the Ministry of Regional Development in September. The new version of the regional economic policy in Russia provides for increased support and emphasized attention to priority macro-regions, for which special “regional” ministries are being created. Last year, the list of such macroregions included, in addition to the Far East, Crimea and, as before. North Caucasus (the Arctic and the Kaliningrad region may be added to them, but a management scheme has not yet been developed for them). Both the Far East and Crimea have developed their own special instruments of regional policy, in the first case - the territory of advanced socio-economic development (TASED), in the second - the free economic zone (FEZ). However, a significant difference is that only the Far East has a chance to recoup investments - by creating conditions there that allow attracting investments, and not just spending public money for the sake of political stability and maintaining the socio-economic sphere of backward territories. Therefore, only the Far Eastern policy of the federal authorities today presupposes the creation of a mechanism for regional development in the true sense of this word, and not overwritten by stereotyped bureaucratic phrases.

Of course, the increased attention of the center to the Far East has its own conjunctural reasons. Some of them were formed in 2012-2013, when the APEC summit in Vladivostok was held, which was the previous stimulus for increased attention to the macroregion. Then there was a chance to move from support by the federal authorities of one local project - the APEC summit - to the comprehensive development of the entire territory. In 2014, against the backdrop of the worsening of Russia's relations with the outside world, perhaps, and only for the Far East, this conjuncture proved to be favorable. At least, the federal authorities have new incentives to make a bet on the development of relations with the APR countries and, in this regard, to turn the Far East into an important integration platform attractive for external investors. Attention to the "positive" - ​​investment development - shifted throughout the year even despite the presence of conditionally "negative" scenarios of attention to the region, related in this case to natural disasters (work to eliminate the consequences of last year's catastrophic floods was completed) and important for the federal government Because of its social resonance.

It cannot be said that the Far East used to receive less attention from the center: the first persons of the state regularly visit it, and various initiatives are often voiced in its attitude. But in 2014, this attention was much more specific, as was shown by the visits of Vladimir Putin and a number of government events.

Recall that the key ideas that one way or another were at the center of the agenda were formulated at the February 5 governmental meeting of the year 2014 and suggested the creation of advanced development territories and the whole system of development institutions, the expansion of the Ministry of Economic Development, the transfer of head offices of large companies to the Far East. In the future, these and other issues were discussed at the on-site meeting of the government commission in April in Khabarovsk, at government meetings on July 2 and October 9, and on September 1 at a meeting in Yakutsk with the participation of Vladimir Putin.

The formation of the Far Eastern policy was closely linked with the strengthening of positions and the increase in the hardware influence of the key player in the person of Minvostokrazvitie. It can be said that this ministry last year turned out to be, perhaps, one of the most active and successful in the Russian government. Moreover, Minskostokrazvitiya proved to be a skillful political player, which is not typical of all bureaucratic structures. It led active bargaining, put forward inflated demands, which sometimes caused heated discussions, and as a result got a good result (though not everything that was requested, but it was not supposed). The government curator of the Far East Yuri Trutnev and the minister for the development of the Far East Alexander Galushka, who demonstrated their determination and energy, turned out to be very noticeable in both the information field and hardware events. They attracted to the Public Chamber, business associations, State Duma deputies and members of the Federation Council, not to mention regional authorities.

The game of advance was also a successful tactic of the ministry, which allowed it to constantly retain the initiative. For example, discussions on specific sites of TASED went throughout the year, although the law was adopted by the Russian parliament only at its very end. This constantly supported the interest in the process of harmonizing the law on TASED, which turned out to be quite long. So, for the first time, the text of the draft law appeared in open access in April, and in December, it made very substantial amendments before adopting it on the last reading. But in the Russian realities, given the innovations of the bill and interdepartmental contradictions, it can still be considered a good result.

Along with the law, the ministry's important successes were the March government decree to expand the powers of the Ministry of Regional Development and the resuscitation of the Far Eastern Development Fund and the Baikal Region (in December, the president instructed to pre-fund the fund, where the leadership was replaced by that time). As a result, by the end of the year, a rather flexible model for the formation of state priorities in the development of the Far Eastern territory appeared. On the one hand, in the Far East, it is now possible to create territories for advanced development, which are an improved analogue of the former special economic zones (SEZs). On the other hand, the old decisions on the definition of priority investment projects by the state have been revised, which was the former tool for raising funds to the regions. Against the backdrop of the adoption of the law on TORs, this instrument was found to be unsuccessful, but it was not abolished (federal authorities in the meantime criticized their regional counterparts, who, in their opinion, complicated the procedure for selecting projects, thus reducing their number). On the contrary, in accordance with the presidential mandate, a methodology was developed to select investment projects in the Far East and the Baikal region (approved by a government decree in October), and then the actual selection began. As a result, Far Eastern projects can be varied: for example, if you can not create a TOP, you can give the project a priority status. During the year, there were regular lists of potential TOPs and priority projects, which created considerable confusion, considering also that official decisions simply could not be in the absence of the necessary regulatory framework.

In addition, at the very end of the year, a proposal arose, moreover, in the text of the presidential message, on the creation in the Far East of so-called “free ports” with a preferential customs clearance regime. Vladimir Putin proposed to create such a port in Vladivostok, and then Yury Trutnev named Zarubino as a candidate. But for the implementation of this initiative is still required to create a legal framework.

Along with the creation of new ones, the old instruments remain intact, designed to revive the economic life of the Far East and attract investments. One of the important decisions was the extension of the special economic zone in the Magadan region to 31 December 2025. The new version of the law on the Magadan SEZ expands benefits to residents and focuses them on work in the real sector. In addition, by the decision of the government, a new SEZ appeared - in Vladivostok (industrial-production type, in the interests of the automotive industry).

The federal center continues to pay great attention to the direct financing of the Far Eastern projects, which is being carried out within the framework of the relevant state program and federal target programs. First, it is expected that in 2015 there will be a sharp increase in funding of the federal target program "Economic and social development of the Far East and the Baikal region." Separate attention is paid, as one would expect, to the transport infrastructure. For example, Vladimir Putin specifically instructed to provide in the state program measures to increase the carrying capacity of the most important highways of the Far East (Amur, Lena, Ussuri, Kolyma, and Vilyui routes). Secondly, in connection with the expiration of the period of validity of the federal program of social and economic development of the Kuril Islands next year (in connection with which a decrease in its financing is expected, and the completion of the main activities was reported just last year), the concept and parameters of the new program are determined which will cover 2016 – 2025. Also among the Far Eastern projects implemented by the federal center, but for geostrategic reasons, last year, the Vostochny cosmodrome, which is being built in the Amur Region, began to take more and more confident positions (on September 12, the on-site meeting with V.Putin took place). ). It seems that the cosmodrome, which is seen as an alternative to Baikonur, may become one of the most costly Far Eastern projects for the coming years.

Also in 2014, the federal authorities tried to define industry priorities in the Far East, but there were no breakthroughs. In general, the sectoral policy was of an inertial nature, special attention was paid to "habitual" areas - shipbuilding, fishing, forestry. But the measures were more of a point character. For example, in shipbuilding the main attention was paid to the project of a new shipyard "Zvezda". In the fishing industry, the center revived when it was necessary to ensure the delivery of products to the regions of the European part of the country to compensate for the negative effect of sanctions. In the forest industry, the government approved in December the rules for granting subsidies to enterprises of the Far East for priority investment projects. Of the new industries, the automotive industry was advancing, but, given the small volumes of production, "advertising" here was more than a real deal.

In line with the current trends in the country, key projects that the center paid increased attention were related to leading state corporations that have close relations with the Kremlin and the White House. And in accordance with the conjuncture of 2014 for the sake of these projects, the National Welfare Fund's funds were printed out. In particular, the high-priority projects of JSCo «Russian Railways», connected with the expansion of the capacity of the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Baikal-Amur Railway, were of priority nature, which may be necessary, in turn, to increase the export of large-tonnage raw materials. The government approved in October a passport project for the modernization of the railway infrastructure of these two highways worth 592,4 billion rubles. (Of which 150 billion from the NWF, and another 110,2 billion - budgetary appropriations). Rosneft also tried to "knock out" more funds from the NWF, which could, in particular, go to the oil refinery project in Primorsky Krai (Eastern Petrochemical Company, VNKhK), refinery reconstruction in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, offshore projects. But this epic did not end at the level of agreement on the final cost parameters. Rosneft also had a direct relationship to the lobbying of the Zvezda shipyard project, where, together with Gazprombank, it is a key player, somewhat pushing the United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC). These players, according to the presidential decree, were given operational control by the Far Eastern Shipbuilding and Shiprepair Center, that is, the entire Far Eastern part of the USC business. The future of the "Star" was discussed with the active participation of Vladimir Putin, who focused the shipyard on the construction of equipment for offshore projects, which is also important for Russia in the face of Western sanctions. The next "project of the century" was meanwhile the "Siberia Power" gas pipeline, the construction of which was started by Gazprom.

Thus, the system of state corporations supporting the federal government has opened or is beginning to open new opportunities for itself in the Far East, counting on federal funds and political support. Last year, Far Eastern interests of Rostecha were also identified (for example, in the development of coal deposits in the Amur Region).

Finally, the Far East can become a beneficiary of some other directions of the regional policy of the federal center, which became more prominent in the past year.

First of all, this is the reanimated policy of the Center towards the Far North, providing for its underlined attention to the Arctic zone, both from a socio-economic and from a military-political point of view. In the Far East, Chukotka and the northern regions of Yakutia can benefit from this. The head of state also instructed to prepare a comprehensive project for the development of the Northern Sea Route (NSR), in which the technologically most complex eastern component is clearly "sagging" today. This not only provides an opportunity to revive shipping in Yakutia and Chukotka, but also stimulates the ambitions of Kamchatka, where the eastern transport hub of the Northern Sea Route can be created.

Secondly, the Far East is able to participate in the renewed policy of the federal authorities in relation to single-industry towns. The village of Chegdomyn in the Khabarovsk Territory was among the first recipients of funds from the Fund for the development of mono-cities, just created by the government and Vnesheconombank. The law on the territories of advanced development, which included at the last moment in the number of potential TORs of a single-industry town, can earn not only in the TOPs themselves, but also in the troubled single-industry cities of the Far East. For example, the governmental decree ranked among the most problematic in Russia such monotowns in the Far East as Dalnegorsk, Svobodny and others.

Thirdly, the "urban policy", which was launched at the expense of the Ministry of Regional Development, presupposed the selection of pilot projects of urban agglomerations. Among them was the Vladivostok agglomeration. However, in this case it is not yet clear how this project will work after the liquidation of the ministry, and what specifically will be done by the federal authorities in the agglomerations.

The formation of an unprecedentedly wide range of tools for the socioeconomic development of the Far East creates at the same time a number of problems, the solution of which determines the implementation of all these projects, given that many of them exist only on paper so far.

For example, if the Far East does not cause doubts for the federal authorities, the boundaries and the degree of this priority can vary greatly. This was clearly demonstrated by the history of the TORs, which were originally created specifically for the Far East and in the interests of the "regional" ministry as the controlling authority.

But this immediately caused questions from the "bypassed" territories of the Baikal region, which are part of the same state programs and FTP, especially the Trans-Baikal Territory, which has traditionally been "equated" with the Far East. In the final analysis, the exclusivity of TOSER for the Far East was defended only for the first phase of the next few years, and even then not completely.

The final version of the law, which arose only in December, suggests that the TACER regime may extend to problematic monocities, and this immediately aroused interest in TACER in various parts of the country. Moreover, this purely opportunistic decision, conditioned by the situational search for a mechanism to support single-industry towns, has also led to a confusion in the TACER project of various meanings of regional policy. After all, if the "original" Far Eastern TASER are oriented to the inflow of investments, incl. Foreign, and represent the project of greenfield, then in the case of single-industry towns we are talking about projects like brownfield, about the re-profiling of the economy of crisis areas. At the same time, in recent times there has been a non-working institute of territorial development zones, intended for backward territories. By itself, all this, by the way, is another example of the lack of a clear and coherent strategy for regional policy in Russia, exacerbated by the abolition of the Ministry of Regional Development.

An interesting attempt to consolidate the priority of the Far East in public policy was the initiative of the Minsk region on the mandatory proportional participation of the macroregion in all state and federal target programs. To substantiate its initiative, the ministry identified those programs that are not being implemented in the Far East at all, or are not sufficiently funded. However, such an attempt to consolidate the exclusivity of the Far East can hardly be realized, given that it contradicts the interests of other regions and government departments.

Active promotion of Far Eastern projects and initiatives has already exacerbated the internal contradictions that are already embedded in the Russian regional policy management system. First of all, tensions between the Minsk region and the Ministry of Economic Development intensified, especially since the latter as a result also received the bulk of the Ministry of Regional Development's powers in the sphere of regional economic policy. The stumbling block was TOR, which is, in effect, a "variation on the subject" controlled by the Ministry of Economic Development SEZ. The final decision is a typical example of a bureaucratic compromise: in the future TACER can be created outside the Far East, and even now it can be done in single-industry cities. This means that the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade is able to influence the TACER, thereby limiting the potential of Minskostokrazvitiya. In the long run, there will be a clear situation of "duplication of entities" and the question of why TACER was created if it was possible to amend the legislation on SEZ (which, incidentally, is already being accepted). In addition, the Ministry of Economic Development may influence regional policy in the Far East, both at the expense of its "general" powers in this sphere, and through the SEZ, Arctic projects, monocities, etc.

Another example of the sharp contradiction was the distribution of funds between the projects of Minskostokrazvitiya and JSCo "RZD". It also required conciliation procedures and compromises.

Against the backdrop of the Center's increased attention to the Far East, the issue of the balance of its development remains topical. Earlier, in the "epoch" of the APEC summit, the lion's share of funds within the framework of the macro-regional FTP was received by the Primorsky Territory. Now there are conditions for a more even distribution of resources and involvement of all regions. Nevertheless, the same Primorsky Krai last year all the same stood out against a general background. It is noteworthy that Vladivostok, and not Khabarovsk, as under the former minister, hosts the main regional "stake" of the Minsk region. Some key TOR projects, priority investment projects, free ports are targeted at Primorye, a new SEZ, etc. has been established there. So far there is no feeling that the promotion of Far Eastern projects is free from regional and corporate lobbyism, which will inevitably create imbalances.

The role of regional authorities in the new Far Eastern policy and its benefits directly to the regions also remain unclear. New institutions are created by federal decisions, and the regions at best have the right to "deliberately vote." Although the regions themselves, realizing that they risk losing the chance, were very active last year, offering and promoting their projects. However, today convincing calculations of whether the new regime will contribute to the filling of regional and local budgets are absent. Mainly this mode is focused on attracting investors through large-scale benefits, and this may mean that the budgets will get nothing from them. The prospects of the real sector, the creation of large-scale and profitable industries that are really important for filling budgets (albeit in the long term) are not obvious yet. Under the new leadership, the Ministry of Development and Development became more “Moscow”, which facilitated the promotion of its projects, but did not increase the influence of regional authorities.

So far it turns out that at this stage federal authorities in the Far East form a powerful organizational infrastructure. And it has a very complex composition, and within a year not all was created. Thus, in addition to the Ministry and the Far East Development Fund and the Baikal Region, the management company of the Russian Far East (Far East), two non-profit organizations, one for working with investors and partners (the Investment Promotion Agency And supporting the export of the Far East), the other - for the mobilization of human resources (Agency for Human Capital Development). But the new organizations do not work yet, now the old one, in the person of the Foundation, is barely beginning to come to life. The events of the past year showed that even with the full support of the head of government and the president's benevolent attitude, the creation of an organizational infrastructure and regulatory framework alone is not stretching even for months, but for years. This has already "passed" for several years the North Caucasus, where many issues have not been resolved so far.

Therefore, along with the hopes for the development of the Far East, there are also risks that this process will be delayed due to the long agreement and inertia of the state machine. And it seems that the organizers of the "Far Eastern project", without being tempted by the "theory of small cases", immediately began to solve grandiose tasks, but, alas, they can get bogged down in them. After all, the ministry already had a "difficult fate" when it initially had to fight with other departments for power and resources. And the Fund for the Development of the Far East and the Baikal Region was not created yesterday, but did not do anything. And if we talk about other development institutions, then the same SEZ in Russia has become a rather unfortunate example, with rare exceptions. In the same Far East, two "empty" SEZs were created, where no resident came - tourist and recreational on Russky Island and the port in Sovetskaya Gavan. In the hardware sphere, there have indeed been tectonic shifts, but this is only a hardware sphere.

Another risk is connected with the fact that new Far Eastern projects can be implemented according to the "classical" scheme for Russia, when the state invests in infrastructure, it is successfully mastered by construction and other companies, and investors do not come and production does not develop. Taking into account the ambiguous experience of the SEZ and current foreign policy problems affecting Russia's position in the Asia-Pacific region, one can not expect investors to get into the country immediately after learning about TOSER. It is possible that the problem of shortage of investors will have to be solved by attracting state companies (that is, for the same, in fact, state money), and abroad - at the expense of China, which will continue to realize its interests in Russia. Negotiations with Japan and South Korea have been carried out more than once, but nothing has changed radically. The largest joint projects in the Far East were still announced with China. The sharp increase in the intensity of cooperation with the DPRK, which, of course, nothing to invest in Russia, can also become symptomatic, and instead offers the Russian side to modernize its railway network, promising to supply natural resources instead. Obviously, the Far East at best does not give anything, and at worst it simply hurts, diverting resources.

Meanwhile, it is already clear that the project of transferring to the Far East offices of large state companies failed, and, together with them, the tax base. But this project from the very beginning was seen as ill-considered and doomed, so there is nothing surprising.

Ultimately, according to the statement, the move will be carried out by RusHydro, which has new projects in the Far East (especially in the case of the final takeover of RAO ES of the East), and which is likely to be pushed by its new government curator Yuri Trutnev .

Next year, there may be a situation when the organizational stage will continue, while the projects will require already ready results. It is no coincidence that Vladimir Putin at a meeting with Alexander Galushka in August has already made it clear that it's time to talk about the results. Obviously, such an approach will be more and more persistently manifested during 2015. Meanwhile, organizational problems can become even more complicated, both because of the excessive cumbersomeness of the emerging management system, and due to the unclear criteria in the process of creating TACER, which is already turning into practical plane. It should also be recalled that the unpleasant aftertaste of the previous stage of the Far Eastern development, related to the APEC summit and its "unfinished", was the scandals of last year that led to public discontent of Vladimir Putin when he visited Vladivostok and resulted in the arrests of alleged participants in the frauds during the construction of the Oceanarium . Of course, this has nothing to do with new projects, but negative experience is enough.

Thus, the Far Eastern policy of the federal center, established in 2014, and extremely interesting as the first, perhaps, attempt at systemic development of a large macroregion, has its obvious limitations. It goes well with its "zero cycle", but so far it does not promise a guaranteed return. This, of course, is hampered by all-Russian internal and external problems, especially in the conditions of the intensifying struggle for diminishing state resources. At the same time, the question of the effectiveness of the steps taken will be raised very soon, including by the head of state himself, who has already made this clear.  
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