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Ivan Abramov: "I am wary of the Chinese investor"

A deputy of the State Duma believes that today in the Far East there are not enough strong governors - not those who can put an acute question to the head of the country.

On the rattling projects, problems and tools for the development of the Far East, the ER correspondent talked with Ivan Abramov, deputy of the State Duma, first deputy chairman of the State Duma Committee for Regional Policy, Problems of the North and the Far East. 

Ivan Abramov: "I am wary of the Chinese investor"

 - Ivan Nikolayevich, a question for you as a representative of the Amur region. Already this autumn, construction of the Amur Refinery, a Chinese investor’s project, will begin in the Priamurskaya TOR. What do you think are the positive aspects of this project? What are the threats?

- The appearance of this plant on the territory of the Amur region will, of course, have a beneficial effect on the region. There will be new jobs and taxes. The threat itself is the investor of the project itself - according to the information of a number of experts and experts of the oil industry, he is not very trustworthy. I will say it directly - not only in this case, but always, when Chinese investors take part in this or that project, I'm rather wary of this. Since I always have great doubts about how they will subsequently influence the project's implementation, conduct its business in the framework of it, what technologies and labor force it will use, how it will comply with safety techniques.

Of course, the Chinese investor is better than the absence of any kind of investor. But in all respects it would be better for the project if its implementation was carried out entirely at the expense of Russian investors. For example, if the same Rosneft invested, which is currently far away on the poorest company, invested. And China, in turn, could have already delivered finished products.

- And how can you describe the project of the automobile bridge Blagoveshchensk-Heihe, the implementation of which also involves the participation of the Chinese side?

- Of course, this infrastructure project is of great importance for the Amur region, and as a result of its implementation, the economy of the region will be given a definite push. Not as powerful as planned, as the situation in the economic interaction between the Amur region and China has changed somewhat. The big tourist flow, as it was before, today is no longer between them. The freight flow in both directions also decreased. Previously, a significant amount of consumer goods was imported from China to the Amur Region, but now they are practically not delivered from there.

The success of the construction of the bridge largely depends on what kind of fare will be set in the future. If it is prohibitively high, then about any movement on it and transportations, it's not even worth thinking about. In these circumstances, what you need to worry about first of all is that this project does not put additional burden on the regional budget. He has already been credited for all 100%.

Unfortunately, such a threat lurks us in the implementation of many regional megaprojects. Enormous funds are spinning in them, they give a good impetus at the construction stage, and good earnings. However, ordinary taxpayers suffer from them later. After all, the shortfall in income from a large project automatically means, for example, an increase in a tax collected from the population, a reduction in the size of subsidies, a reduction in material support for social facilities.

"And construction?" Spaceport, oil pipeline, gas pipeline - large construction projects give momentum?

- Megaprojects are a separate story. Let's take, for example, how the construction of the Cosmodrome Vostochny is currently underway. Local residents in the project are involved only as much as, for example, a watchman or drivers. The same situation is with the oil pipeline project "Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean". Of course, for the implementation of a number of complex operations, companies of high competence and narrow specialization are required, such may not be in the Far East. But in practice, an absolute majority of the work is done by visiting workers of non-local companies. All contracts in one way or another win the Moscow companies, and the work as such is ultimately performed by regional companies that are far from being the first subcontractor. And even for a penny.

In order to somehow change the current state of affairs, it is necessary to make sure that the companies of the regions where the large project is located have the opportunity to participate in them, it is necessary that all the works on these projects be broken into small lots. Local companies have the full right to participate in these projects, as their employees are able to perform all the services ordered in their work no less qualitatively than visitors.

- A year ago, commenting on the Government's report, you noticed that it is premature to talk about the good pace of economic development of the Far Eastern subjects, as the problems in them have not diminished. Over the past year, something has changed?

- Measures taken today for the development of the Far East, including the main ones - the formation of TOPs and the distribution of the Far Eastern hectare - do not yet give a serious push. And all these measures are clearly not enough: in the Far East, there is no significant change in the economy or in the social sphere. As there was an outflow of population, so it remains now.

A variety of state plans in the Far East, unfortunately, today are becoming worse and worse. In particular, because the program "Economic and social development of the Far East and the Baikal region for the period up to 2025 year" is annually severely cut - the funding envisaged for it is decreasing at times. As a result, we observe stagnation, and in some areas even decline. A good illustration of this is the terrible state of health in the Amur Region today. All of its hospitals are completely credited, overgrown with a lot of debts and work, saving on everything that is possible, including medicines, supplies, and nutrition. The situation is no better with the resettlement of the population from dilapidated housing - the buildings intended for this purpose have been built in the region for a lot of money, but they are exactly capitalized. In fact, it is no less than emergency housing, than the dilapidated, from which people must migrate.

The only exception to the current state of affairs in the Amur Region is agriculture. But the dynamics of its development is conditioned by the situation with the dollar exchange rate, as soybean and some other agricultural crops of the Amur Region are related to exchange commodities.

- But the state program is changing?

- In the new edition, as in the previous one, the program is practically the only creation and development of transport and energy facilities. Whereas, it should mainly be a program for the development of the economy, including the attraction of small and medium-sized businesses. It is clear that today, without an appropriate level of infrastructure, it is difficult to develop an economy. But at the same time, small and medium businesses, which mainly today need to count on in the development of the Far East, are enough of the capacity and scale of the infrastructure that exists in the region. Of course, in order that he could work in full force and in all directions, such large infrastructure facilities as, for example, BAM, need to be engaged. But do not forget about the main needs of small and medium businesses, in particular - the massive provision of benefits.

- What do you think you should do? Do you have a prescription?

- Radical measures are needed for the development of the Far East. For example, a weakened tax regime throughout its territory, and not just in the TOR and the Free Port. In addition to the free hectare, preferential loans are needed for the creation of infrastructure, for housing construction. As well as such new measures as, in particular, a deliberate reduction in the cost per square meter of housing, the establishment of a much higher wage compared to Central Russia, the introduction of a delay in the army for young people living in the Far East, a drastic reduction in the cost of air travel.

- You are the initiator of the draft federal law on special conditions for the accelerated development of the Far East. In a nutshell, do you believe that you will be able to accept it?

- The very text of the bill has been in existence for several days. And it is not accepted until now because it does not have political will for today - there is no corresponding signal for its implementation.

In essence, the law is the granting of certain privileges and preferences, as well as the easing of the various categories of taxes levied on Far Eastern residents to achieve various purposes, for example, successful housing construction or the use of mortgages. The result of the application of this law is seen as a definite push in the development of the Far East. The downside is the temporary loss of a significant portion of budget revenues. It does not seem to me that this draft law should be adopted in the short term, but the discussion is proceeding.

- You are talking about political will. The development of the Far East is declared a national priority - is this not a demonstration of political will?

- Currently in the Far East there are not enough strong governors - not those who can put an acute question to the head of the country. There is an interesting collision - reporting to the federal center, the leaders of the Far Eastern subjects at any opportunity try to embellish the picture in their regions. After such reports, it is not surprising that the center not only does not increase, but also reduces support. Here, perhaps, such a measure as how to try to separate the subjects of the Far East might go along with some of their neighbors could work, for example. Such integrated regions in the Far East would be independent, capable of generating great profits and with the optimal size of the administrative apparatus.

- And you would not embellish the picture?

- Regional problems of the Amur Region, including those stemming from insufficient funding. It is necessary to closely link the development of the regional budget to the federal budget, and also to rely on it when compiling it for federal funds. Tighten tight belts and save on medicine - this is not an option. You need to talk about problems and you need to solve them consistently.

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