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And strangers will become their own
The governor of the Sakhalin region Oleg Kozhemyako - about what bridges should connect the Far East with the rest of Russia's territories
Photo: Press Service of the Government of the Sakhalin Region
- Oleg Nikolaevich, you are the only Russian governor who has experience of leadership of three subjects of the federation: the Koryak Autonomous District, the Amur Region and now the Sakhalin Region, which you have been heading since 2015. What lessons have you learned for yourself, and from what stereotypes you refused when the third time you became the head of the Far Eastern region?
- For me personally, something else is more important and dear in my biography, the fact that three generations of our family lived in the Far East. My grandfathers came here in 1902 and 1904, back in the period from Witte to Stolypin. I was born in the village of Chernigovka, Primorsky Krai, studied in Khabarovsk, and worked in Primorye for many years. Now we are also talking not in the Moscow office, and this explains a lot, right? I do not need to "learn lessons" from my governorship. I just have to do my job in a way that is good for it. In my understanding, efficiency is a minimum of paperwork and bureaucracy, but a maximum of tangible results, concrete shifts for the better. The Far East does not accept or tolerate anything else.
- Why was it necessary to abolish the program of social and economic development in the Sakhalin region? In all regions, such documents are diligently written with the help of eminent experts, the same Yakutia is making plans until 2030 with a prospect for the distant 2050 ... Do the Sakhalin residents need nothing of this?
- Need. Of course you do. You just need clarity, not a pile of papers. We have a strategy for the socio-economic development of the Sakhalin Region, calculated until 2025. Within its framework, there are 26 state programs in the field of education, social policy, medicine, housing construction - in general, everything that is really important for people.
- Recently, the regional branch of the All-Russian People's Front gave its package of proposals to you as governor. You agreed with the idea of introducing a special social card for the poor in the Sakhalin Oblast. What will it give such people and how is the category of citizens who fall under the definition of poor determined?
- Citizens whose incomes do not reach the subsistence level (on Sakhalin it is about 14 thousand rubles per month), such a card will make it possible to receive a whole range of important services or goods for free or at a significant discount. We have a lot of beneficiaries - veterans of the war and the labor front, "children of war", pensioners, students, many children, and so on. We use a wide range of measures for social support - for example, free dental prosthetics for veterans and people older than 70 years, targeted care for many children, and so on. Services are still paid, simply not from their pocket, but from the regional budget, which transfers funds to medical institutions or other organizations. Some of these measures can be implemented through a social card system, it is more convenient. But it is necessary, of course, to work out the idea comprehensively, weigh all its pros and cons and consolidate it in regional legislation.
- Another topic arose for a noisy discussion both in the press and in the kitchens. One of the high-ranking officials offered to pay a million rubles "lifting" to those who come to the Far East. The phrase was picked up by the media, replicated, and now the Far Eastern land is stubbornly filled with rumors: it is not clear on what basis and from what means, but "they promised a million" - would not miss this opportunity. How do you feel about this initiative, is it feasible in practice?
- Probably, we are talking about changes in the program of labor mobility of the population, which are currently being considered by the government of the Russian Federation. Today, this program provides for the provision of a subsidy from the state budget for employers for each relocated employee, the funds of which are directed to their relocation and arrangement. Moreover, the amount of the subsidy is the same throughout the country. It is proposed to increase the size of the subsidy exclusively for the Far East.
Any idea that will attract people to the Far East and make it attractive, in my opinion, should be welcomed. This has always been the most important thing - under the tsar, under the Soviet regime, and now.
- The President of the country has set an ambitious task for the regions of the Far Eastern Federal District - to enter the top 30 of the ASI rating of investment attractiveness of the RF subjects. How long do you think this will take, and what are the main obstacles?
- I think that the fulfillment of such a task, in the foreseeable future, is quite realistic. The Far East has great chances. There are good sales markets here, with transport accessibility, ports and a railway. However, the lack of gas and electricity in many regions of the Far Eastern Federal District may become a significant obstacle for investors. Any infrastructure is based on these very resources. Electricity is simpler, in some regions (the same Amur region) it is even in abundance. But the problem with gasification must be solved as soon as possible. You cannot build a pigsty, an elevator, a brick factory, or a wood processing complex without gas. The problem is relevant even for Sakhalin - the island is gasified by only 14%. Only in the south, with difficulty, it was possible to "hook" several settlements at the expense of our field. A shoemaker without boots, you cannot say otherwise. In Primorye, gas is also bad, in the Jewish Autonomous and Amur regions there is simply no gas, a "pipe" runs through the Khabarovsk Territory, but it is very difficult to approach it. This is a very serious problem.
And one more factor of braking is the bureaucracy of the bureaucracy, which presses on business all its "administrative cargo". I think it would be worthwhile simply to calculate the percentage ratio of officials and the population, as well as small and medium-sized businesses. Irregular numbers. We do not live so many people, and the number of federal structures and various state administrators is the same as in any large region. What for? Such dominance of officials also frightens off potential investors.
So at least two bottlenecks must finally be eliminated. Expand the access of regions to gas and limit - access of officials to the fact that by and large they do not concern. Otherwise, no breakthroughs and shifts can even be dreamed of. It is less necessary to administer and create more conditions for business - for example, as in TOPs or in the "Free Port". The people in the Far East are proactive, he will respond.
- The Sakhalin Region has its own Development Corporation. Who are its employees to a greater extent - officials or managers? Did they manage to achieve concrete results?
- To some extent, yes, they are officials, as they manage the money transferred to them from the Sakhalin Oblast budget. They do this under the full control of the regional government, which owns 100% of the Corporation's shares. But such employees are not civil servants, they have no class ranks. Many came to the Corporation from Sakhalin banks, businesses and other development institutions. They have a huge responsibility for the return of billions of dollars, so they must have a serious baggage of financial and economic knowledge, practical experience in the financial and economic sphere. They cope, and with a relatively small team and very successfully. This was once again confirmed by the recent audit of the RF Audit Chamber.
The authorized capital of the Corporation is 50,2 billion rubles, and for two years of work it has already used most of the funds. 22,38 billion rubles have been granted, including a loan to the Far East Development Fund and the Baikal Region (FRDV is an official consultant of the government of the Russian Federation and a strategic partner of the Corporation, this cooperation is important in order to minimize the risks of investors). 11 billion rubles was contracted in order to complete the financing of projects that have already begun, which have been implemented in stages over several years. In the near future, another project will be financed - the construction of a shop for the production of fish meal and fish oil in the village of Yuzhno-Kurilsk. The volume of investments is almost one billion rubles. A number of projects for a total of 7 billion are waiting for their final approval in the government of the region.
- And by what criteria are projects approved or rejected?
- The main thing is that these are projects with returnable capital. We assess how effective the return on investment can be. By the way, the Corporation will soon have to change its charter and will be able to invest in infrastructure projects that allow developing business on this basis. If, for example, we are talking about the tourist complex "Mountain Air" - we are investing in energy infrastructure, in the construction of lifts. The total cost of engineering structures is several hundred million rubles, even under a billion, investments are unaffordable for private traders. But hotels, rental offices, catering and everything else - this business may well do itself. And there is no doubt that it will do so, having an infrastructure "base".
The corporation was extremely necessary for business development in the priority areas of the region's economy. Our projects in the field of agriculture are "long", usually neither banks nor big business invests in them. Without the support of the state, which provides subsidies and tax incentives, it provides loans, and in some cases, direct investments in equity, in this case is indispensable. Any more or less decent cowshed is now 2,5-3 billion rubles. Who will find such money? For this, it is necessary to keep collateral on the mainland and freeze the funds for a long time. Therefore, we used the corporation's funds for starting positions - we built complexes, brought infrastructure to them, procured all necessary equipment and offered investors practically ready business. Want to manage it? Buy out at least 50%, at least 60% and use.
- What happens next with these projects?
- They get on their feet and work independently. Today, many investors take loans and buy out their businesses from the Corporation. This is what the Korsakov State Farm, Mercy Agro and GreenAgro intend to do. In general, I can say that we were able to convince even those who categorically did not believe in our plans. We have proved that it is possible to grow fodder and grain crops on Sakhalin - the grain is growing, the first 700 tons of barley were harvested this year (20 centners per hectare), hay - 220-250 centners per hectare. There was a great desire to make Sakhalin consume its own food, and not imported food, as it had been for 25 years. Our children in schools or kindergartens did not receive fresh meat at all - only well-to-do people could buy it, in the market a kilogram cost 600-700 rubles. Now an alternative has appeared, and we are doing everything to make the market traders more and more competitors.
- It's a strange thing: in Sakhalin, the salmon catch is decreasing, and in Kamchatka it is growing. Is it a natural phenomenon or is it influenced by human factors and business interests?
- A lot depends on nature, fish did not come to Japan this year either. But you are right, the human factor affects no less. A few years ago, the fishing industry began to develop actively in Kamchatka, and auctions were held. The basin principle of assigning rivers and estuarine seines to the enterprises that won these auctions began to operate. Now they are developing vigorously, building modern processing plants. The East Coast is showing the right business approach. Here, on Sakhalin, for a long time the situation was local and private. Plots were distributed among about a thousand users under old contracts (in Soviet times there were 140 of them). The result is a palisade of nets, sometimes almost two kilometers long, just so that "the fish does not come to the neighbor." The rivers are empty.
This issue has been discussed for a long time, much has been said about the principle of "one river - one master". It itself is not bad, I will only specify that such an "owner" can be an association of users, as it is in Kamchatka. Such an organization takes responsibility for the protection of the river and spawning grounds, cares about the fact that the processing plant constantly receives fish, produces products and pays employees salaries. This is a normal principle, just in each region it should be considered separately - the rivers are long and short, the conditions are different everywhere. But it is abnormal, if everyone who put the seine, seeks to use only his "piece", not caring about everything else. Then he is interested in buying up poaching fish, because he wants to justify the costs and he does not care where they caught it.
- Are there any fears that the fishing industry will eventually be divided between giant companies, and small ones will be out of work?
- If large companies come to the market, I don't see anything wrong with that. They use new technologies, people work for them and receive salaries without interruption. Moreover, these are our Russian companies registered in the same Vladivostok. They will not recruit Martians, but the same seaside or Kamchatka fishermen. If you do not want to enter into a deal with them to sell your products, no one forces you to. And the interests of medium and small businesses are guarded by antitrust laws.
The same applies to investment quotas. If you want to build a small plant on the shore, you get 10 thousand tons of the same pollock, which is capable of processing 100 or 50 thousand tons - you are entitled to more. You build a steamer - quotas from 25 thousand and below are given from its length. They will be allocated without problems. The talk that "giant companies will take everything" is from the evil one. There is always an element of takeover on the market, but that is why there are antitrust services, and they do not eat their bread in vain.
- Are you able to attract “foreign” investors from other regions or from abroad?
- On Sakhalin, unfortunately, in the last 15-20 years, domestic producers have not risen above the level of small and medium-sized farmers. There was also no experience in managing large modern production in the field of pig breeding or dairy farming. Therefore, investors - large companies "GreenAgro" and "Mercy Agro" - were attracted from Primorye.
Foreigners do not come to us yet. China's market is rather closed. Japan can be interested in our dairy products and poultry, but it's too early to talk about anything concrete. In any case, you must first feed your own region, and then decide what to do with surpluses.
- To what extent do you count on the support of federal development institutions - in particular, the Far East Development Fund?
- The Sakhalin Region Development Corporation has allocated a preferential loan to the Far East Development Fund of 15 billion rubles. The money will be used to implement projects in the Sakhalin Oblast. For example, for a project for the construction of ferries, for the construction of access roads for coal supply for the Sakhalin State District Power Plant, the construction of a second runway in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, for the airport infrastructure. The fund will be able to invest in other projects agreed with the Sakhalin Oblast government.
- In the era of sanctions and import substitution, one has to become patriots and “buy domestic products”. But how real is it on Sakhalin, which far from the Russian "mainland"? Here even private cars are mostly Japanese ...
- A private trader, of course, always chooses what is more profitable for him. But I must note: many Far Easterners now drive cars, albeit with Japanese names, but made at domestic factories. As for the regional government, we have not been purchasing imported cars for three years. We buy only what the traffic police, ambulance and other emergency services need. In the regional vehicle fleet there are “UAZ Patriot”, “Gazelle”, as well as “Fords” and “Chevrolet” of domestic assembly.
But here's what I would like to say especially. In my opinion, patriotism is not expressed in car brands. This concept of a completely different order. And we are paying serious attention to the upbringing of patriotism. Our region is relatively young, this year it turned 71 year. And I see that the inhabitants of the island are very indifferent to their "small homeland". A lot of young people participated in various actions related to the anniversary of the liberation of Sakhalin from the Japanese in September 1945. Shkolnikov is interested in the museum "Russia. My history". An excellent Victory Museum and Victory Park have been built, where we want to assemble various military equipment. Already today, young people can study there piloting aircraft or skydiving. There is a camp for 1000 people, where the guys from the "Unarmy" are trained at the military training ground along with the soldiers-conscripts. An excellent center of patriotic upbringing, I hope, will be the park "Patriot", which will be created at the airfield "Pushy". There are now competitions "Sakhalin border", various shows - for example, "Wings of Sakhalin", on which thousands gather. The feeling of patriotism is alive, sincere and informal. The Sakhalin people always distinguished it, as long as I can remember.
As for the administration of the region, for us the best manifestation of patriotism is real business for the benefit of the inhabitants of the island. For example, I'm really proud of the fact that in recent years we managed to put into operation 23 social facilities, to put things in order with kindergartens. They created 2270 new places, built 15 new kindergartens, and this we do not stop. We will open nursery groups. There remains a problem with schools - about 6 thousand children are studying on the second shift. In the winter it's not very good, too dark and cold. Therefore, we set out to build 3 new schools within the next 4-11 years and minimize the number of children forced to study on the second shift due to lack of space.
Gradually we solve the most acute problem - housing for orphans, who were brought up in orphanages. Last year, 271 was given such apartments to young men and girls, there were no waiting lists. Funds for these purposes are also included in the budget of future years.
- Information appeared in the press that it was decided not to postpone the idea of a bridge to Sakhalin from the mainland, and the feasibility studies of the "construction of the century" will be updated in the near future. It's true?
- Scientists-designers at the end of last year transferred their documentation to the Ministry of Transport. I think that soon drafts and estimates will be prepared. The process has started, but it is not yet possible to name the precise terms of its implementation. I hope that the idea will come true.
We just need to understand that other strong, reliable bridges are necessary, with which Sakhalin must be connected both with the rest of Russia and with other countries. We are just now directing them. Confidence and calm of investors, clear rules of the game, successive steps towards the goal are no less important than any bridge supports or steel beams. And maybe a lot more.