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"We can cook kosher pilaf"

Alexander Levintal, governor of the Jewish Autonomous Region, tells the EastRussia portal why, even in difficult times, one should not abandon national color, local cadres and far-reaching plans

- Alexander Borisovich, you are now the governor of the Jewish Autonomous Region ... Do you feel bored in Khabarovsk?

- Well, as you say ... I did not live all my life in Khabarovsk. I was born in Birobidzhan, grew up in Birobidzhan, studied and graduated from the Jewish Autonomous Region ... My parents are buried there and my sister still lives, she is a teacher. Working in the embassy, ​​I was constantly in Birobidzhan, and in the Khabarovsk Territory government was responsible for interaction with the EAO. Often there was - plus to the grave of parents went to his sister. There was no such thing as to leave - and how to cut it off. For me it's home. And on the other hand, and Khabarovsk is also the second small homeland, I lived there for 40 years. My daughter is there. From any business trip to Moscow, you still need to fly to Khabarovsk, and then get to Birobidzhan by car. So, probably, I do not miss - because I do not lose links.

"We can cook kosher pilaf"
- Let's move from personal affairs to state affairs. Do you have enough space for activities after your previous posts? What tasks do you set for yourself and what problems does EAO have most urgent, priority?

- You know, I'm not thinking about the scope for activity, but how to manage everything. There are paramount questions that relate to the elementary life support of the EAO. The importation of coal into boiler houses, the preparation of social facilities for the winter (and it comes here quickly and for a long time), and so on. All these pressing problems are complicated by the general crisis situation. The money supply is contracting, incomes are falling, budget opportunities are less than planned ... Expenditure obligations are already deployed, and there is not much revenue to the treasury. We have to cut something and sacrifice something, and nobody likes it. But the same import of coal should be performed at 100 percent, otherwise it is simply impossible. In addition, we have an agricultural area, but now there is a rather tense period when it is decided what the peasants will enter in the winter, whether they will be able to repay the loans taken and look more or less confidently into the future.

And in parallel with everyday worries arise the main questions: how to restart the economy of the region as a whole? In which direction to move and which motion vector to ask? We started developing the strategy, even without waiting for elections, so as not to lose precious time. There are a lot of directions, but you need to choose the priority ones, that is enough money for.

- Do you plan personnel reforms and managerial revolutions?

- I have to carry out a number of reorganization measures in the administrative structures of the region. This, too, does not tolerate delay. I see that in the former government there were many duplicating functions, the work was not very effective. We now need to strengthen investment programs, stimulate the development of industry - all of these functions clearly "subsided" earlier. We are now developing the mining industry - but there is practically no one to deal with it, it is difficult to find specialists. And, of course, I need to form a new team that will work in today's conditions. Very, I must say, difficult, because in the country and in the world the situation is crisis. Therefore, there is an acute lack of people who, figuratively speaking, could push off from the bottom and show direction to the sun ...

- Will you invite the "Varangians"?

- In the least degree. We want to focus on local personnel to make the most of them. But it is clear that some part of the top management should come from the side, in order not to “learn,” not to sway, but to immediately begin the implementation of the most important tasks. We now have a program called Far Eastern Challenge, which will contribute to this. We have already received a data bank of several dozens of people who would like to move to Birobidzhan from other places in the JAR, from other regions and even from abroad. We did not expect such a reaction. The motives of the candidates are different - someone wants to make a career, someone needs to prove himself ... We will consider all options. By the way, it’s not so easy to invite cadres - people need not only an apartment and a normal salary, but also the cultural environment to which they are accustomed. Professional theaters, good schools and clinics, and so on. Otherwise, people quickly give up.

But I repeat once again: we want to rely primarily on local personnel, on those who previously could not find a worthy use for themselves. The trouble is that the former leaders of the autonomous region clearly did not pay attention to the need to form a personnel reserve. For objective reasons (low salary, lack of personnel work for a long time, etc.) it is not in the autonomous region. And from nowhere people do not come, they should grow gradually. As a result, it is impossible to select candidates now either for the state administration or for the top management. The problem is also that in the JAR there are practically no enterprises, especially large ones. In the Khabarovsk Territory, as well as in other territories, the power has always been fueled by people from business, where there is a highly developed corporate culture. And there are no large enterprises in the region - accordingly, there are no necessary competencies. Small business, of course, is present. But it’s impossible to put a person who led a maximum of fifteen employees at the head of a team of many thousands ... However, the leading cadres I’m talking about are just a few of those we need. And the main core will be drawn from local natives, to teach, to promote. We have personnel, they just lost the habit of working. They did not set serious tasks. The region has always been famous for its natives - they had a good level of education, they quickly made a career.

- In fact, in recent years, the Jewish Autonomous Region seems to have been forgotten. Last year, she turned 80 years, but the media almost did not cover this event. Judging by the statistics for the 2014 year, the region was, among other regions of the Far East, in the last place in terms of development, in the penultimate one in terms of the social sphere ... Has anything changed for the better this year?

- This is not exactly accurate information. Just last year, the growth rates of industry in the EAO were among the highest. Only this, I agree with you, does not say anything good - because in the past such failures were noted, that against their background even a small growth seems to be "active".

In the region, it is really the lowest per capita GRP in the Far East. The gross regional product is usually higher in the northern territories, where gold is mined, and the population is even smaller than in the EAO. And we have agriculture with all the ensuing consequences. And the dying industry.

For the last 10-15 For years, all the basic industries that existed in the region have practically collapsed to zero. There was a powerful light industry here, shoe, garment, and knitting factories were working — there was no such concentration of production in this industry in the Far East. Yes, it arose artificially, in Soviet times in order to occupy the “second family members” of the settlers. It was necessary to find a job for their wives or daughters. Everything worked and made a profit for many years. But next to us is China, and, naturally, these productions could not stand the competition with it. There are no raw materials, markets too, but next door is the cheapest Chinese market. The same thing happened with the engineering industry: there is no Dalselmash in the JAR now, which produced the only tracked harvesters in the USSR, the power transformer plant turned into a small enterprise. And after all on each such enterprise thousands of people worked. Now the number of staff of our factories does not exceed 100-150 people. Almost animal husbandry curtailed. AT 90-x years there were 96 thousands of cattle, now - only 8,9 thousands, that is, 10 times less. Neither its own milk, nor meat — there is nothing. More or less, only crop production is developing, which has finally begun to increase in volume and approach the indices of Soviet times. On the one hand - good. On the other - not very. This is mainly soybean, which is exported to China without much benefit to the region and its population. Is that some people give the land to the Chinese in the sublease, and something from this receive personally for themselves. We had cases when peasants took the land at the price of 70 rubles per hectare, the Chinese were sublet for 3, 5 were thousands, the difference was in their pockets. And the region has no mutually beneficial relations with China. We estimate that approximately 25% of land is leased from us by the Chinese, while 97% of arable land is used by Chinese enterprises for growing soybeans and only 1, 6% for grain crops. It would be in our interests to develop the processing of this soybean, pig breeding, poultry farming, etc.

- How do people live then? And what about the inevitable unemployment?

- And unemployment, oddly enough, we have a relatively low. In some ways, small and medium-sized businesses solve the problem. There are a lot of trade space per capita in the EAO - despite the fact that the income level for the same soul is the lowest in the Far East. In addition, people began to work part-time on a rotational basis, it's good to give us a hand to Khabarovsk, where there is no unemployment. In the same Magadan region, the mobility of people is limited: if the enterprise is closed, then you are sitting still. Within an hour or two, you can not even get anywhere by plane from the house. We have a bus and car service, so the compactness of the area is its competitive advantage. Even from remote rural settlements, where a farm or factory was closed, an hour and a half drive to the city.

There was a demand for our workforce among the Chinese, who built small enterprises here - for example, wood processing. Machinists there work "their", but the unskilled labor buses bring from neighboring villages. As soon as the yuan grew, and the ruble fell, it became more profitable to hire Russian laborers than to take compatriots here. For our villagers 18-20 Thousands are already decent money, and Chinese cadres are asking for more. Unlike the agriculture already mentioned, where there are all kinds of distortions, I consider this interaction to be completely normal and useful.

- During the Eastern Economic Forum, you said that in Birobidzhan there was an agricultural fair, which was visited by 40 Chinese companies. Have you managed to conclude any specific agreements? Are there projects that are already being implemented?

- So far, I do not have information on agreements signed after the fair. But so far not much has passed. But the project for the construction of a pig complex in the EAO, negotiations about which we started in May with the leader of the CCP, the first person of the Heilongjiang Province, has already begun. The Chinese are doing the preparatory work. The complex will be designed for 28 thousand heads of pigs. There are also talks about the construction of a soybean processing facility that will be located in an industrial park near the bridge over the Amur that is under construction: we submitted this project as an application for participation in the TOR.

- And how did the last year's negotiations with the Israeli company end?

"It was not so much an Israeli company as its representative, together with our Russian resident, who planned to build a dairy complex together. But while the question "hangs up": our compatriot could not find financing for his part of the project - about 20%. Only then could an Israeli company join the project. Completely take it upon themselves they are not ready.

"Since it's about Israel and the Israelis, clarify the question that many people are having." In the region now about 170 thousand people of the population, of them Jews - less than 1 percent. Does it make sense to preserve the region in its current "national" status or is it easier to abolish it due to economic inexpediency and merge with the Khabarovsk Territory?

- If we talk about economic indicators, then in terms of fiscal capacity there are worse regions. For example, Kamchatka, where "their" money in the budget is only 30%. But no one proposes to unite it with the Sakhalin region. We now have the ratio of 50 to 50, this is also, I think, wrong, the situation needs to be improved. Even a primary analysis (in-depth, we plan to do in the near future) shows that in the coming years 5-7 we we will be able to reach 70% level of self-sufficiency through the implementation of such projects as Kuldur, GOKI, the "reset" of agriculture and the primary TOR.

As for the national factor, I am convinced: it is at this stage that the Jewish Autonomous Region should be preserved. There are traditions that, given all economic difficulties, allow our region to create a certain "aura", its own special color. For various reasons, I believe that we have at least twice as many Jews as official statistics, although this does not fundamentally change the essence of the matter. More importantly, the region still preserves Jewish traditions, learns Yiddish and Hebrew, dances Jewish dances and sings Jewish songs, prepares Jewish cuisine, and conducts international and all-Russian festivals to which actors, musicians or team members come with pleasure KVN. This is a cultural layer, which is important to preserve and multiply. My consultations with the Israeli ambassador in Moscow and a number of representatives of the Jewish diaspora, as well as Israeli state structures, say that there is interest on their part to our region. Recently, by the way, we signed an agreement on cooperation in the cultural sphere at the inter-confessional level - with the participation of the rabbi, Muslim and Orthodox clergymen. One more step towards peace and harmony. We even had a paradoxical notion such as "kosher pilaf" - in everyday life these are incompatible concepts, and we Jews and Muslims stood together at the same pot with cookers and fed all comers. On the basis of the Birobidzhan Youth Center, we opened a summer children's camp, and during one of the shifts the children studied different religions, cultures, customs, dances. In my opinion, this is a good undertaking and it is worth continuing.

Of course, you can not raise the economy by any national factors. To do this, we will use completely different methods and mechanisms. However, if economic indicators improve, this color can give an additional incentive to new immigrants. Yes, and involve Israeli investors in the Khabarovsk Territory, you will agree, is somewhat more complicated than in the Jewish Autonomous Region. All these image moments we will take into account in building the strategy of our development - naturally, without trying to "inflate the pink ball" and assessing the situation realistically.

- There are many such "balls" (and often "soap bubbles") in the form of projects for the accelerated development of not only your region, but the entire Far East. Now, it seems, it is finally decided to turn to words and slogans. How do you assess the current efforts of the federal government, which proclaimed its development a political and economic priority? Is there, for example, particularly attractive investment projects in the EAO, and what fate can wait for the TORs?

- I will remind you that when the president said about the "turn to the East", no one meant withdrawal from the West. Simply in previous years, Russia concentrated all its major efforts on the western direction: oil and gas pipelines, cooperation ties, investment inflow, education - everything was deployed to Europe. And we were famous in Soviet times except that our Pacific Fleet and army units. The share of the Soviet Union in the ATR markets was about 1%. Now we are there, to put it mildly, do not wait with open arms. Nevertheless, given the Siberian and Far Eastern potential and the state's efforts to develop it, we are getting a rather tempting chance today to advance in these markets. Although, of course, many mistakes have already been made in the past, for example, when on the eve of the crisis of 2008 the customs duties on the forest were raised and as a result the market lost: Japan began to buy timber from New Zealand, Canada and other countries, China also partially reoriented. Now, in my opinion, Minvostokrazvitiya and Yuri Trutnev are taking meaningful steps to finally move on to a new model of the development of the Far East.

The territory of advanced development is a good economic mechanism, for the Far East with its long distances and poorly developed infrastructure they fit well. As shown by the WEF, these sites are of interest to investors. But they also need to be able to be interested and, most importantly, to keep. The desire of investors to invest money in Russia certainly does not exclude the consideration of serious political risks, high inflation, expensive loans. We must understand that a massive influx of investments will not happen yet. It is necessary to create conditions for the future and form a "field" in anticipation of the future warming of the investment climate and the political situation, too.

Compared with special economic zones, the TOP system is more flexible and mobile. In 2008, we made an application for the creation of the SEZ in the Soviet Harbor. It was supposed to be the first sea port area. We submitted documents and won the contest. But since then the final decision was never made. In today's TORs investors have created much more attractive conditions, and the implementation scheme is much clearer. I hope that these factors will still work as a plus. Our application for the creation of the TOP has already been submitted to the Ministry for the Development of the Far East, as far as I know, there are no claims to our materials. We are waiting for the decision.

There is work on all projects that we announced. I have already met with representatives of the company "Garant", which is engaged in the preparation of a logistics park project near the future bridge across the Amur River (it is also included in the TOP). We discussed the issues of synchronizing the construction of the bridge and the park. We work closely with the companies "Graphite" and "Kuldur". We are looking for opportunities for the development of processing enterprises. We will build a plant for the production of rods for batteries, which are used in electric vehicles. We are soon launching the Kimkano-Sutarsky GOK. There are a number of projects in agriculture for processing meat and milk. We are preparing to develop and tourism to the extent that it is generally possible now.

- Do you plan to allocate a hectare of land for everyone How do you feel about this idea for migrants to the Far East?

- The idea itself looks attractive: future large-scale plans, including TORs, require huge human resources, the Far East can not cope with its own forces, it is necessary to attract new people. This hectare is one of the ways to create conditions for life. But we must scrupulously work out the mechanisms for such allocation of land, so that there are no problems and distortions. In addition, good agricultural land has long been dismantled, are in someone's lease or put up for auctions. Free quality land, which can immediately plow and sow, no. Even after obtaining a hectare, a person will have to invest a lot in its ennobling. And what is one hectare, even four (if the family consists of four people) for agriculture? Almost nothing. For a simple house construction it is a bit too much, and for effective agriculture hundreds and even thousands of hectares are needed. So there are more questions than answers. It is necessary to think everything over so that a good idea will work.

- You were born and raised here. Can you, as a true patriot of your small homeland, name some of the most interesting sights of the Jewish Autonomous Region, which could attract, if not immigrants, then at least tourists?

- Of course. This is primarily the city of Birobidzhan with its beautiful granite embankments, the river and the hills, the station where the carriage stands - the monument to the first settler. We even have our pedestrian "Arbat" (the same Khabarovsk can not boast of such a street).

Our city is a fusion of religion. On the same street (by the way, bearing the name of Lenin) stand next to a synagogue and an Orthodox church, in which artists from Moscow region recently made murals. There are wonderful beauty Lake Lotos, there is a resort "Kuldur" with a unique healing water and amazing conditions for recreation. There is a sanatorium, where even the menu for the 21 day never repeats. And, of course, it is impossible not to name the Volochaevskaya hill among our sights. The one about which is sung in the famous song “Through the valleys and hills” ... It was there during the Civil War that the key battle of the Red Army with the White Guards took place. Relatives of Blucher even put a stone at his place in memory of him. Most recently, we held a meeting there, and before that I had a conversation in Moscow with the Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Medinsky. We will repair the monument on the Volochaevskaya Hill, have already built a chapel, we will put in order the burial. Part of the money gives the military-historical society, the rest will find themselves.

- “And in the Pacific Ocean you will end your campaign”, if we speak not only about the museum, but also about all your plans for the future?

"We are not going to make global revolutions." It is important for us to improve people's lives and raise the economy. Let not immediately, but at least in the foreseeable future. It is more difficult than agitating, fighting, overthrowing and destroying. But the result is much more pleasant and useful.
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