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What needs to be changed in the image of the Far East?
Moses FurshchikManaging Partner, FOK Company
The widespread perception of the Far East, as a very problematic area, is now one of the key constraints for its development. Moreover, the current increased attention of the state to the DFO in the eyes of many external observers only underlines its negative image (they say, if the government is so concerned about this territory, it means that everything is really difficult there).
And what thoughts do most people have when thinking about the Far East in general? Of course, there is a positive, concerning the unique nature and rich resources. But approximately at this point it ends, especially since for many it all seems abstract and inaccessible ... Therefore, negative theses have a greater influence on the general perception, for example:
high cost of goods and services;
inadequate and almost complete lack of cultural life;
isolation from the rest of Russia;
massive desire of residents to leave the region;
unobvious results of state support, which is constantly and loudly announced;
extremely disadvantageous comparisons of the FEFD regions with dynamic countries of the Asia-Pacific region, which suggest themselves because of the close proximity of these states;
high criminal risks;
the difficulty of doing business due to northern surcharges, extended vacations, lack of personnel, a small domestic market with huge distances, high cost of resources, etc.
Some of these theses are not so unambiguous, but they are almost universally accepted and have been shaping the negative image of the Far East for many years. Such clichés especially affect the perception of the territory by foreigners who have less opportunity and desire to dive into details.
This situation is reflected not only in the investment attractiveness of the FEFD. The potential tourist flow decreases. Trade and cultural ties are developing less actively. Even the outflow of the population is partly stimulated by the self-perception that people live somewhere not there, but real life passes by (first of all, it concerns young people).
Having such a difficult starting position, is it possible to achieve significant improvements in the foreseeable future? After all, public perception is a very inertial thing ...
Modern history shows that in a number of cases it was possible to drastically improve the image of a particular territory, although this did not happen very quickly.
For example, relatively recently, Ireland was considered a very backward country, the backyard of Europe. In 1991, its per capita GDP was almost 30% lower than the UK (Fig. 1).
Figure: 1. Dynamics of GDP per capita in Ireland and Great Britain in 1990–2017, US dollars (in current prices)
But only 8 years later, in the 1997 year, the most authoritative The Economist dedicated the cover of the magazine with the title “Celtic Tiger: The Bright Light of Europe” to this country. And then the situation developed incrementally. Ireland gradually began to be perceived as a country with the highest level of personnel, an ideal place to accommodate high-tech enterprises, a bridge between Europe and America. And now, according to Forbes magazine, Ireland is the best country in the world to do business.
Moreover, changes in the image were accompanied by real economic achievements, as a result of which, in 2017, the average per capita GDP in Ireland exceeded Great Britain by about 70 (and they became equal when the millennia changed). Over the past 20 years, more than 1150 international companies, including Google, Facebook, Twitter, Airbnb, LinkedIn, Dell and Intel, have chosen Ireland to host their European headquarters and facilities. In this case, the improvement of the perception of the country went in tight conjunction with the actual development, or rather, these factors constantly strengthened each other.
Here you can also give an example of Australia, which from an unrealistically distant country of convicts and kangaroos has become one of the world leaders in quality of life and education, has become a dream for the most skilled migrants. Although in this case, the transformation of the image was slower than in Ireland.
But is an attractive image always a clear-cut reflection of economic achievements?
Of course, it can not occur from scratch. If a territory has big real problems, then they cannot be hidden by any marketing. But on the other hand, an average region in terms of indicators may well be seriously "unwound."
An example is Kenya, which has a stable image of the most progressive and attractive state for businesses in Black Africa (perhaps with the exception of South Africa).
But if you look at the key macro indicators, the results of Kenya are not so outstanding. As can be seen from Figure 2, the country is not at all among the leaders in either per capita GDP or its growth rates. That is, it is neither the richest nor the most rapidly developing country. Moreover, according to some indicators, it is noticeably inferior to such problem states as Ethiopia, Sudan, Angola.
Fig. 2. Volume and dynamics of the nominal GDP of some African countries in 2017, billion US dollars (the area of a circle is proportional to the absolute value of GDP)
But at the same time, Kenya, which does not have large natural resources, very successfully promotes in the world community the positions where it is relatively strong - the quality of institutions and human capital, a developed financial market and logistics, the introduction of modern technologies, stability and security. And the main thing is that it is done systematically. And then you get such a wonderful result. And one of the most important elements of this promotion policy is the active support of tourism, since visitors from developed countries are the best advertising agents for any territory.
Thus, international experience shows that active marketing, based on the real advantages of a territory, can produce significant results in the time horizons that can be seen even for relatively complex territories.
And in this sense, what can be done with regard to the Far East in the near future? That is, without waiting for the large-scale results of state support, which will become apparent only in a few years ...
FAR EASTERN DRIVE
The most rapid and effective measure to improve the image is the fight against negative myths, prejudices and delusions. In this case, the information campaign does not even require changes in real life, it is enough to build the correct “educational” work. And around the Far East just got a lot of misconceptions that are widespread ...
But such denials should not wear a dull academic form. It is advisable to dethrone typical delusions brightly and with specific examples. As our practical experience shows, for many people the “explosion of consciousness” is such simple facts about the Far East:
Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky is located south of Moscow, and Vladivostok is located south of Sochi (about the prejudice that the Far East is north and cold).
Khabarovsk is the sunniest of the regional centers of Russia.
Yakutia is among the top five regions of the Russian Federation with minimal criminal risk according to the region's investment attractiveness rating, compiled by the RAEX agency.
Khabarovsk is a multiple winner of the contest “The most comfortable city in Russia” (on the issue of an uncomfortable urban environment).
The Amur Region is the Russian leader in soybean production, and in Primorsky Krai, 4 is the top rice producer (about the myth of extremely unfavorable conditions for agriculture).
Yakutia and Kamchatka have the maximum number of civil airports among the regions of Russia (on the issue of lack of infrastructure).
The unemployment rate in the DFO in 2 is higher than in the Central Federal District (about the prejudice about the lack of labor for new projects).
The share of employed people with higher education in the Far East is higher than in Siberia, the Urals and the Volga region (on the quality of the workforce).
2 of 10 federal universities are located in the FEFD.
DFO leads in the number of hospital beds and ranks 2 in the number of doctors per 1000 among federal districts.
Also a very promising, albeit rather subtle topic for domestic consumption is dispelling the myth of the "invasion of the Chinese" in the Far East.
But in general, the idea that the Far East is not as homogeneous as is commonly believed can be a leitmotif for a refutation campaign, and here you can find a region that is most suitable for a specific task.
And on the basis of a bright “enlightenment” campaign, it is advisable to unleash a more complex subject of the Far Eastern perspectives with a second plan. This topic should focus on the promotion of elements for which the region already has quite convincing advantages. First of all, these are the following factors:
High availability of resources (minerals, forest, fish and seafood).
Good logistics with leading APR countries.
Huge tourist potential.
Favorable conditions for agriculture in the southern part of the Far East.
Massive government support.
Of course, the above factors can be called fairly obvious and recognize that propaganda work on them is already underway. But now this work immediately rests on the wall of prejudice, so even the most reasonable arguments about excellent prospects do not evoke proper confidence and are often rejected without detailed consideration. And a bright campaign of refutations can break through such a wall of mistrust, after which a wave of pragmatic messages should flow into the gap.
In order for these messages to be better perceived, it is very important to strengthen the arguments about the prospects of the Far East with beautiful and memorable "success stories." And these options are enough now. Examples include the high-tech sea terminal Daltransugol of SUEK in Vanino, the Vityaz-Aero airport in Kamchatka, the manufacturer of unique natural substances from Ametis larch in the Amur region, the Mazda Sollers automobile plant in Primorye, etc.
And one more important point. If the “educational” campaign should be universal and aimed at the widest public, then information packages about the prospects of the Far East should be made specialized and focused on specific target audiences.
Thus you can achieve a combination of bright images and specific proposals. Such a complex impact will significantly change the image of the Far East in the foreseeable future, which will be a strong support for all ongoing work on the development of this territory.