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Yegor Borisov: "We always work ahead of the curve"

The head of the republic of Sakha (Yakutia) Yegor Borisov - about the present and future of his region, and also about whether the government can make people happy

Yegor Borisov: "We always work ahead of the curve"
- Yegor Afanasievich, the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) is a region about which one can not help saying the famous phrase "the position is binding". The largest subject of the Russian Federation and the largest "administrative unit" in the world. Yakutia is part of the Far East, which, as we recall, the president called "the priority of Russia's development" for the whole XXI century "Model region", from which side you look. And even in  The crisis of the republic’s economy is developing positively. Under such conditions, can you offer your own “models” of survival as an example for the rest of Russia?
I must correct you right away. Not "survival", but normal life and growth. Yes we can. And offer. The development of the Far East will really determine the fate of Russia not for one or two years or decades, namely "for centuries". Minerals in the European part of the country are being exhausted. Where else can the state find support and new growth points? To break through, Russia needs to move on to new technologies and a new philosophy of life, taking into account its traditions. We are in Yakutia, I think that was understood a little earlier. Therefore, we are always, as they say, in search. Any new idea or initiative in the republic has always been sought to be used one hundred percent, and as soon as possible and with good reason.
Let me remind you that we always had our own strategy and priorities.

In the 20-ies of the twentieth century in Yakutia, the gold mining industry began to thrive, and in 50, an emphasis was laid on the development of famous diamond deposits. In 80, the republic became a leader in the development of coal seams and deposits of precious metals, the efforts of the best scientists and production workers were directed toward solving this problem.

In 2007, on the eve of the next crisis, we came to the understanding that in a risky world situation one should not rely only on solid minerals and boosted the active development of hydrocarbon reserves. In many respects, it was this kind of strategy that allowed to mitigate the consequences of the world financial cataclysms. To solve the tasks envisaged by the Scheme for the Comprehensive Development of the Productive Forces, Transport and Energy of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) to 2020, to date, more than 1.5 trillion rubles have already been invested, among the investors are the largest companies in Russia (Surgutneftegaz, ALROSA, MECHEL , "Rosneft", "Gazprom", etc.). Now the economy of Yakutia is diversified, we firmly stand on our own feet.

In a crisis, it was not easy for all regions, and for us too. In addition, a number of large construction projects have come to an end, and we feel a slowdown in investments in fixed assets. But on the whole, the situation in the republic both in crisis years was better than in Russia as a whole. I emphasize - in Yakutia, where the population is only one million people, where the frosts are below fifty degrees in winter, where the main mode of transport is a helicopter, and the soil is permafrost. I think that says a lot.

- For more than a month there have been public discussions on the socio-economic development strategy for Yakutia, calculated up to 2030 and even further - "with the definition of the target vision to 2050 year", as the name of this document says. Is it possible at all to build such long-range plans in our time?
- There is a big difference between strategic plans and groundless projects. The first for us the basis and guide to action, and the second we are not acceptable at all. In this case, we can quite literally look into the future for 15-30 years ahead, because we are not based on any abstract dreams, but on accurate calculations.

The government of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) conducted a huge preliminary work; a powerful intellectual center, a specially created Project Office, was used to prepare the strategy. Leading scientists of republican universities, professors and academicians, whole scientific groups acted as experts. We were greatly assisted by the Center for Strategic Studies and the Northeastern Federal University. For the valuable and impartial criticism, we are grateful to the scientific community and the public of Yakutia.

The core of the Strategy-2030 is the Human Resident of modern Yakutia. It is through the prism of a person that strategic goals and priorities are formulated, which are aimed not only at becoming a competitive and comprehensively developed personality, but also at creating a comfortable and safe living space around a person. We must ensure a high quality of life in the region, preserve and increase the human capital of Yakutia. We have to ensure the transparency of the republic's management system, develop industry, find growth points in the real sector and make a qualitative leap in the education system at all levels. This is what will create a comfortable environment for the development of the potential of the inhabitants of Yakutia, will give people the opportunity to get away from dependent moods and pessimism, and will teach managers to communicate with civil society and keep a report to it.

By the way, this is how public discussions took place. Representatives from all regions of Yakutia participated in them, their dialogue with experts was active and sometimes very emotional. By the end of December, we will receive a whole package of amendments, clarifications and proposals, which we will present at a large final conference with the participation of invited experts, scientists and specialists in the field of strategic planning. I think it is this approach to the business that will allow us to bring our plans to real implementation.

- What have you been given legislative innovations in recent years - for example, the creation of TORs or Free ports? How do you assess the work of the Ministry of the Interior of Russia?
- As far as the legal and regulatory framework is concerned, the progress is certainly felt. In former times, the development programs of the Far East by and large remained on paper. Now we see an initiative, I would say - offensive policy, and the new ministry proves its efficiency. Undoubtedly, a lot depends on the efforts of the presidential envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District, Deputy Prime Minister Yury Trutnev. This is a real "motor" for all new beginnings. I can judge this when I have to work on the formation of the legislative framework in conjunction with the federal center. Laws are never taken easily - they always meet "resistance of the environment" and opposition. We must give Yuri Petrovich his due: for two years he helped us overcome a huge number of obstacles.

If we talk specifically about the TOPs, then Yakutia has one significant feature: despite the fact that the territory we have is huge, transport and energy infrastructure is limited. Due to this, it is still difficult for us to create any large processing industries in order to compete in the world market. Therefore, we asked to support the creation of TORs on the basis of small and medium-sized businesses. We have in the past years began to operate development institutions, venture funds and technology parks. On their basis enterprises of the Republic of Sakha began to gradually show themselves. And, for example, the residents of the technopark "Yakutia" are already "pulling" the status of the territory of advanced development.

The same is happening with the production of building materials, which is already being developed on the basis of the Kangalassy ASEZ. In the future, we intend to strengthen the development of the diamond cutting and jewelry industries.

At one time, we faced a problem - how to ensure the work of people employed in coal fields in the same Neryungri, when the coal reserves will come to natural exhaustion? They began to learn the so-called small incisions. The management company Kolmar came to Yakutia. And today the pace of its production has grown so much that they give odds to coal giants. Around the small cuts there are serving enterprises, and these small enterprises themselves can not be called small. If in Neryungri we extracted a maximum of 15 million tons of coal, then these "small" will be extracted to 20 million in the near future. Now this project became the basis of the TOP of "Southern Yakutia". Incidentally, in Southern Yakutia, the cheapest hydropower resources in all of Russia. In the long-term plans for the past, we envisaged the construction of eight hydroelectric power stations in these areas. Now this idea, I think, can get a second wind.

You see, what's wrong ... You can not create something with the stroke of a legislative pen on an empty sheet of paper. There must be a solid foundation. In Yakutia it is.

- And the Elgin project may eventually become such a growth point?
- There, the situation is somewhat different. The main problem of the Elga field was its geography. The only issue that was resolved was the construction of the 300-kilometer railway, but here the company MECHEL had some known difficulties, given the crisis, quite understandable. The world situation in recent years, the coal industry, to put it mildly, does not favor. But I am sure that with time this project will also stand on its feet for one simple reason: there are no deposits of coking coal with such qualitative characteristics in the world. And the products of Elga will definitely be in demand. In addition to coal, there are unique deposits of gold and precious metals that could play a very important role in the development of the economy of the Far East. Just at the moment this is a matter of the future, even if it is foreseeable. But we can not dwell only on today. It is time to think about the development of deposits of rare-earth metals in Yakutia - now we are bringing too much of such valuable raw materials from abroad instead of putting our own reserves into circulation. As far as I know, Rostec has begun to study this problem. The corporation has already come to our republic.

- You mentioned several large investors. Is it an accident that among them there are practically no foreigners?
- Until today, Yakutia really relied mainly on Russian capital. For foreign investors, the republic has almost always (until recently, for sure) been a kind of terra incognita. Moreover, the mining industry was developing in our country. Only in the mid-2000s, with the start of the development of oil and gas projects, interest in the rich and promising republic began to grow among partners outside Russia. To be honest, we now, according to the unspoken tradition, “trust our own people more”. However, the situation changed after Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the People's Republic of China in 2014. The political will of the two leaders of the superpowers has created conditions for intensive contacts with investors from the Middle Kingdom, and we are trying not to miss this opportunity.

The Chinese side was offered a number of projects, and now we are cooperating with the PRC in the field of oil production. A joint venture has already been established at one of the fields, the partners invested about 2 billion rubles in investments. In addition, we involve Chinese experts as consultants for infrastructure projects - for example, the construction of a bridge across the Lena River. The negotiations are going on intensely, they will be embodied - I do not know yet. But interest from the PRC is, and very serious.

I believe that we need to learn how to conduct negotiations with foreign investors at the highest level and create conditions for them to come to us more confidently.

- It is very important to show the investor "the goods face". What are your undeniable advantages compared to other regions of the Far East of Yakutia can rest in such negotiations?
- The wealth of our subsoil is known to all, and foreign partners, too. There is an advantage, which in itself is a natural consequence of our difficulties: it is cold. The harsh climate of Yakutia sometimes goes to the benefit of technical progress. It is here that we can create huge cryo-storages of information, where the low temperature allows us to store huge data arrays on digital media. Construction of such data centers is considered promising in the world. Only here we will not have to spend too much electricity on their contents - the climate is already extremely cold. So far, however, things have not gone further than negotiations with foreign investors. Here it is not only economic logic, but also political concerns or games.

That, however, does not prevent us from promoting and improving our own scientific and technical developments in this direction. Cold is also energy. There are technologies where low temperatures are needed to generate electricity.

But in the cold or warm, in winter or in summer, our main plus for any investor is that we are clear and predictable. We are able to act strictly within the framework of the legal field, but we always look forward and work for the future. Such stability in business is more precious than gold and diamonds, with which we, too, are still rich.

- One of the initiatives to create a legal field is the draft law on the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation that is currently being actively discussed. You are one of its main initiators and advocates. What did you manage to come to during the discussions?
- Yes, the Arctic requires special attention, and we do not intend to weaken it in the republic. Yakutia has the largest Arctic territory among all subjects of the Russian Federation. And this is a very specific "asset". Here you will not say, they say, we turn to the market - and now live as you wish. In the Arctic without the state can not do. The law on the Arctic is now being considered in the committees of the State Duma and the Federation Council. I hope that in 2017 year it will still be adopted. We to this, at least, will do our best.

For a long time we will be fumbling with an evil memory 90-ies, when production in the Arctic zone was decided to collapse. Even the enterprises of the gold mining industry were shut down, which suddenly began to be considered unprofitable. As a result, the settlements were emptied, the system of hydrometeorology collapsed, the Northern Sea Route disappeared ... The Arctic slowly, but surely died away. Although people there still still live. The question is how? And the answer to it we categorically does not like.

Yakutia and we together with it carry not a momentary market, but an old historical mission. We are living in a vast territory, mastering it and saving it for future generations of Russians in a livable condition. And we must do it no matter what. Russia will leave the northern regions - there will immediately come other, "not ours." For the state this can result in very serious losses. Therefore, it must realize its goals clearly and maintain the northern territories. Nobody for some reason does not let people from the street into their own pantry. But the Arctic for Russia and there are the main "bins": where there is land and permafrost, you will everywhere stumble upon oil, gas, gold and other riches that need to be properly used.

In addition, the shortest route from Asia to Europe lies across the Arctic. Therefore, the development of the Northern Sea Route is also becoming a matter of national importance. Another thing is that the posting of one tanker does little to help. When the system for the movement of cargo ships through the Arctic will be created and will work, then we can talk about “working for the state” and for its benefit.

- Regions of the Far East are now trying to develop the tourist direction of their economy, II The Eastern Economic Forum signed an agreement on the development of the Eastern Ring tourist route. In Yakutia there are many sights, memorials, cultural heritage sites under the auspices of UNESCO. But will the tourists go to you?
- There are usually a lot of clever words, few clever things. We can talk endlessly about the beauties of Yakutia and have done a lot to increase its attractiveness for travelers. Tourists from Western Europe, Asia and even Australia, New Zealand have begun to travel more actively to us. But there are objective factors that hinder such development. The first, of course, is too high transportation costs, the second is the acute shortage of hotels and the entire tourist infrastructure. Otherwise, as on a plane in Yakutia will not get. Inside the republic, we try to subsidize the flights ourselves, although the cost of the tickets is still quite high, and the fleet of regional aviation is very worn out. Paradoxical situation: we can fly “Superjetts” to Khabarovsk, but there are no ordinary An-24 or An-2, we could not buy.

We are faced with another unpleasant fact: large tour operators can act by unfair competition. As soon as a new company is allowed into the airline market, the rest of the players start dumping and push it out of the market. And then they come again, they raise prices three times, and everything becomes clear. The growth of tourism for them is not an increase in clientele, but the exclusion of competitors from the market. Investors are not in a hurry for us to build hotels or cafes. They count money, watch the situation. No more.

For the time being, we see that the International Games "Children of Asia" give a much greater impact to the popularization of Yakutia inside and outside the country, which we have been conducting for several times already. Traveling to them is pure water "event tourism". In Yakutia, the interest in sports, as you know, is very large. Now we are trying to expand the scope of games to make them more famous, the next competition will be held in Mongolia, and approximately to 2022-2024 year we plan to return to Russia. We have received support from the International Olympic Committee and are ready to hold winter games. In 2018 year they will be held on Sakhalin, and then we have.
Also this year we initiated the holding of international intellectual competitions - where there will be chess, checkers, tournaments of young physicists, etc. We have many talented children, and we have already begun to prepare them. It is necessary that Yakutia became known in the humanitarian, intellectual sphere. And then foreigners are sure that we have “bears walking” on the streets.

For the same reason, new schools, kindergartens, and educational centers are being actively built in the republic. For ten years, we have opened model schools in distant villages of 160! And we are developing not only Yakutsk - see for yourself, by traveling in distant areas. In this sense, we can give odds to many areas in the central part of our country, where there are many dying and deserted villages.

The Internet is now available throughout the country, but in the most northern regions it works via satellite - expensive and at low speed. We are to conduct fiber-optic cables to the western regions of Yakutia, starting from Olekminsky district, and also towards Magadan along the Kolyma road. We will bring this to mind, and I hope that soon the best Internet in the Far East will be in Yakutia, and "digital inequality" will be able to be eliminated forever.

- Bears in your cities do not wander, and deer in Yakutia are not extinct? As well as representatives of the indigenous peoples of the North, for whom these animals are not exotic, but everyday earnings and "daily bread"?
"They did not, of course." And I very much hope that they will continue in the future. In the North there are traditional branches related to reindeer herding, fishing, hunting, etc. They need to be supported, no matter what it costs. Indigenous peoples need assistance from the state. Even just humanly: you can not burden too much on those who are constantly living in the fight against natural disasters.

And again we return to the question of not only economic benefits, but of a much more important mission entrusted to us. Recently, at the government level, the idea of ​​developing the urban economy was discussed so that everyone could move from their villages to megacities. I said: "I will never succeed in this in the republic." The point is not even that in the developed countries of Europe the rural population is only 3%, while in our republic it is 33%. It should be understood: people who have been torn from their usual ways cannot be happy and self-sufficient, they pay for it with the loss of their “roots”, the destruction of their personality. A small example. I visited Canadian reindeer herders. I talk with the local aborigine - he looks happy, well-fed, healthy. “Come on,” I say, “let's meet you, I'm also an aborigine.” What is your native language?". He replies: "French." “And how do you live on the material plane, what are you doing?” “I live well. Doing nothing. The state pays us an allowance ”... That is, this person has neither work, nor nationality, nor native language. And my northern peoples do not receive such big money as Canadian “beneficiaries”, but he has the work of a reindeer herder, he has kept all his traditions, he has not lost his native language. Do you understand the difference between the ideas of happiness?

- Do you think power can really make people happy?
- The power, if it wants, can learn to listen and understand people, and then - to act in their interests. At least, I myself strive for this with all my might. I often meet people in a wide variety of audiences. Recently, in the city of Mirny, the capital of our diamond province, 1200 people were sitting opposite me in the hall, and they asked questions that were far from the most convenient. This has been the practice for 17 years, and we have gained invaluable experience in dialogue between the authorities and the people. I see how people's self-consciousness, their mentality is changing. They understand that with a leaking roof, building a school or repairing a road, they have to go to the municipal authorities and demand what is within their competence. People are already well aware of where, whose powers begin and end, they no longer need an educational program.

In other regions, people complain to the president of the country on some small director of the housing commissions - and in Yakutia they know how to achieve results on the spot, and they demand harshly from responsible persons. By the way, this is exactly how the present civil society works, which we want to create in Russia, but the trouble is that it does not work out yet. And here in our republic everything is "somehow" easier. In some regions a powerful corporation can build a production that grossly violates all environmental standards. At our public hearings, such a project is immediately "wrapped up" by the citizens themselves. I consider this counter movement of power and society as the main condition for Yakutia to develop and live in prosperity, with full awareness of where and why it is moving. Moreover: in the dialogue with society, we involve not only regional authorities, but also federal officials.

In Yakutia, absolutely all ministers visited, even those who do not like to get out of the Garden Ring. I think the benefits of such trips and meetings were mutual - and ordinary people, and "people sovereign."

Come to one of these meetings yourself, take a look, take part. Better to see once than hear a hundred times. Consider this a personal invitation!
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