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You just have to believe and work hard

There are no impossible tasks - there are those for which only more effort is required. The Governor of the Sakhalin Region Valery Limarenko sums up the difficult 2020 and talks about plans for 2021.

Isolated systems are considered more vulnerable than those that are tightly integrated with each other. Solving problems and even everyday tasks in such isolated and remote locations like an island always requires more effort and resources, and mistakes are much more expensive here than on the "mainland". However, such conditions make the people living here special, and therefore Sakhalin overcame the shocks of 2020 with minimal losses, which means that plans for the future have a solid foundation. The Governor of the Sakhalin Region in an interview with EastRussia talks about challenges and victories.

You just have to believe and work hard
Photo: press service of the Governor of the Sakhalin Region

- Valery Igorevich, summing up the results of 2020, how do you assess the economic and social situation in the Sakhalin Region? How did the coronavirus pandemic affect her?

- The past year was difficult for the economy of the Sakhalin Region. After all, what is a pandemic? People stop going on holidays, travel less on business trips, and work more remotely. Accordingly, the number of flights decreases, the railway reduces the load, and so on.

All of this influenced the cost of oil, which turned out to be significant losses for us in the regional budget. But, despite the difficulties, we tried to do everything to save enterprises, jobs, provide people with wages and continue our plans for the development of the region. For this, a whole range of support measures was implemented.

Among other things, we have lowered taxes, interest rates on loans from the Sakhalin Entrepreneurship Development Fund, and provided businesses with an extension of rent for premises. We worked with each entrepreneur individually, and, as a rule, we were able to find a solution to complex issues.

- Sakhalin Oblast is one of the leaders in the country in terms of the number of social support measures. Has the pandemic affected this area?

- We pay special attention to the social support of the region's residents. And 2020 is no exception. Moreover, the package of measures has not only not been reduced, but the family has been enlarged. A total of 16 billion rubles were allocated to provide social support in the region. More than 240 thousand people received help.

Let me remind you that the population of the Sakhalin Region is slightly less than half a million people. That is, we helped almost every second Sakhalin citizen. These are families with children, pensioners, disabled people, people in difficult life situations and in need of special support.

For many Sakhalin residents during the pandemic, employment issues have become relevant, and here we also did not stand aside. With the help of the employment service, 17 people found jobs last year, which is 250% of the total population of the region. More than a thousand people have undergone vocational training and retraining.

All this as a whole made it possible not only to preserve the existing enterprises, but also to ensure the lowest level of registered unemployment among the regions of the Russian Federation - 0,8%. While on average in Russia at the beginning of December 2020, it was 4,2%, in the Far East - 3,6%.

- You started our conversation with the difficulties in the oil and gas industry - the main source of income for the Sakhalin region. Are there any areas for which the past year was more successful?

- Certainly. Even if we talk about the oil and gas industry, then yes, the volume of oil production has decreased by 7%. But at the same time, gas production increased by 6%. In addition, there are good achievements in the coal industry. Almost 14 million tons of coal were mined, which is 7% more than in 2019.

Thanks to the creation of new fish processing facilities, the renewal of the fishing fleet, the construction of salmon fish hatcheries, we were able to increase the catch of fish and seafood by 7,6%, and fish products were processed by 16% more.

We also managed to make serious progress in solving such an important issue for the island region as ensuring food security. New meat and dairy complexes have significantly increased their turnover. This allowed us to increase production of meat by 19,6% and milk by 15,8% against the level of 2019. The gross harvest of vegetables has also grown - by almost 3%.

A record number of housing was built in 2020 - 436 thousand sq. m. This is 100 thousand more than in the previous one. This year we are planning to overcome the bar already in half a million. Unfortunately, the housing stock in the Sakhalin region is badly worn out, hundreds of kilometers of engineering networks need to be replaced. People are tired of living in, frankly, difficult conditions. That is why I set the task of continuously increasing the volume of construction of new comfortable housing.

- What other tasks are facing the Sakhalin Region today?

- Every year the Sakhalin Region is becoming more and more comfortable territory for business development. According to the results of the National Rating of the Investment Climate for 2020, we entered the TOP-30 Russian regions. We managed to make a serious leap: to improve our position by 13 points at once and move from 43rd to 30th place. This year we expect to advance even higher in the rating of investment attractiveness and enter the top 10 regions of Russia.

All our actions to attract investments, launch new projects in various sectors of the economy are aimed at providing additional income to the budget, as well as fixing people on the islands, giving them the opportunity to get a good job and receive high wages. The more high-tech jobs are created, the more people will feel stability and connect their future with the Sakhalin Region.

- How important and felt is the support of the federal government?

- The budget of the Sakhalin Oblast is still heavily dependent on the oil and gas sector. As I said, due to the drop in oil prices last year and this year, we have lost a significant amount of funds. Therefore, we absolutely need the support of the federal center.

First of all, when modernizing the energy complex. The energy system of our island region is isolated from the federal one, so we cannot count on help from our neighbors during peak loads. And special weather conditions: typhoons and blizzards - add complexity. Therefore, it is important to do everything to make the system work reliably and without interruptions.

Support is also needed in the construction of transport infrastructure. And we are grateful to Moscow for its understanding and assistance in resolving the issue of transferring the Okha - Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk highway to federal ownership. In 2021-2022, additional funds are planned for the maintenance and asphalting of the main Sakhalin highway.

It is also important for us to help in the construction of a new runway at the Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk airport and a wave protection structure at the Kitovy port on Iturup Island. I have already voiced these topics to the Plenipotentiary of the President of the Russian Federation in the Far Eastern Federal District, Yuri Petrovich Trutnev. And we count on the support of the federal center in solving these and other issues.

- With what success are national projects being implemented in the Sakhalin Oblast?

- We are implementing national projects in 11 directions, and we managed to achieve many indicators ahead of schedule. Behind this phrase is not just dry reporting, but real steps to improve the quality of life of Sakhalin and Kuril residents.
Take healthcare, for example. According to the national project, we purchased two mobile complexes for two regional hospitals, performed more than 300 ambulance flights, re-equipped the regional vascular center of the Sakhalin Regional Clinical Hospital and the primary vascular department of the Yuzhno-Sakhalin City Hospital named after I. F.S. Ankudinov.

Within the framework of the national project "Culture" we managed not only to overhaul many rural clubs, but also to build new ones. And today we are pleased to see how the creative and sports activity of rural residents is growing.

Successes have been achieved in education. Since last year, all educational organizations of the Sakhalin Region have been provided with high-speed Internet. The number of educational centers for the humanities and digital profile "Growth Point" has significantly increased - there are 33 of them in total, and they are located in almost every district of the region. Also, a children's mobile technopark "Quantorium" was created. More than 80% of our children have already been enrolled in additional education.

- Did the Unified Subsidy provide tangible assistance in the construction of social facilities? What facilities have been launched?

- We received 2020 billion rubles from the federal budget for the implementation of the Social Development Plan for Economic Growth Centers in 4,9. Another 14 billion was allocated for these purposes from the regional budget. This allowed us to launch nine social facilities. Including three schools and a kindergarten, a feldsher-obstetric center in the village of Dubovoe on the island of Kunashir and a sports and recreation center in Severo-Kurilsk.

This year we will continue work on the projects already started. Among the most significant are the second building of the polyclinic number 4, the medical and diagnostic building of the Consultative and Diagnostic Center and the ambulance station in the regional center. As well as 31 residential buildings, seven schools for 3 children, a boarding house for veterans in Korsakov, a boarding house for the elderly and disabled in Nogliki and Shakhtersk.

- One more question on a social topic. Last year, the Russian president gave instructions to provide all primary school students with hot meals. How is it being implemented in the Sakhalin Oblast?

- We have been solving this problem for a long time. Primary school students in Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands have been eating free of charge for several years. In addition, this privilege applies to certain categories of families and representatives of the indigenous small-numbered peoples of the North. In total, this academic year, more than 37 thousand schoolchildren are provided with free hot meals in the Sakhalin Oblast - this is 62% of all students in the region.

We pay special attention to the quality of food. This is strictly monitored by a special commission. From September 1, 2020, Public Oversight Boards have been operating in each school, and parents can control the quality of the prepared dishes themselves. In order to increase the availability of healthy food and expand the assortment, we constantly conduct a survey of children and parents.

- To what extent have the Far Eastern hectare and Far Eastern mortgages become relevant in the Sakhalin Region? Are residents of the region actively using these support programs?

Both programs are in demand among Sakhalin and Kuril residents. More than 9 thousand contracts have already been concluded for the "Far East Hectare" for a total area of ​​almost 6 thousand hectares. And interest in the program is only growing. The most demanded spheres of activity for which the land was provided are agriculture, individual housing construction and low-rise buildings.

As for the "Far Eastern Mortgage", almost 900 mortgage loans were issued on the territory of the Sakhalin Region for a total amount of over 4,1 billion rubles. The average loan payment is 4,65 million rubles. Currently, banks have approved more than 1100 applications, and families are looking for housing with the necessary layout from developers.

In addition, for young families, we have provided an additional regional support measure in the form of social benefits. We expect that this year 1380 young families will be able to use it. The need for financing is over 2 billion rubles. This is one of the measures designed to stimulate housing construction in the Sakhalin Oblast.

- Another topical issue, along with housing, is the construction and reconstruction of roads. How is this program being implemented in the Sakhalin Oblast and what do you pay special attention to?

- In our region there are almost 5 thousand kilometers of highways. And only slightly more than half of them are hard-surfaced. Therefore, the development and improvement of the road network is a task that requires our special attention. First of all, we are focused on the repair and construction of roads where people live - in cities and villages.

In 2020, after reconstruction, 65,5 km of roads were commissioned. Of these, 98% are asphalted. Including, almost 8 kilometers of road were introduced on the Kunashir island. A 2,8 km long pedestrian zone was built along the sea coast on Iturup Island. 30,6 km of roads were modernized within the framework of the Safe and High-Quality Highway National Project.

In addition, in 2020, as I said, we achieved the transfer of the main Sakhalin highway, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk - Okha, to federal ownership. The freed up funds were redirected to the modernization of local roads and the road network in the region.

- Active discussion of the issues of creating a Far Eastern airline continues. How is the Sakhalin Region taking part in it? And what, in your opinion, will this give the region and the entire Far East?

- The Government of the Sakhalin Region is taking an active part in the creation of the Far Eastern Airline, which will carry out all types of transportation in all subjects of the Far Eastern Federal District. I believe that it cannot be created from scratch; it must be done on the basis of a successfully operating enterprise.

For example, the Avrora airline successfully carries out air transportation throughout the federal district. Yes, we have invested Sakhalin money in the company. But at the same time, this is the property of the entire Far East.

We have already received a stake in Aurora, previously owned by Aeroflot. Now the region is the sole owner of this strategically important carrier for the country.

The main task of creating a Far Eastern airline is to make available settlements in which people live and work. Therefore, the state provides for subsidizing these flights. There are more than 500 such air routes, and in the next five years, as far as I know, the volume of traffic is planned to double.

- Are there plans for the Sakhalin Oblast to modernize and build new airports?

Certainly. We are actively developing airport infrastructure in the region. Thus, the reconstruction of the Okha airfield continues, within the framework of which the length of the runway will be increased from 1300 to 1600 meters. Work is underway to reconstruct the apron at the Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk airport.

Last year, we also repaired the landing site in Aleksandrovsk-Sakhalinsky and equipped the airfield in the Zonalnoye village. This allowed us from the end of 2020 to organize regular flights to these settlements from the regional center. This year we plan to launch landing sites in Poronaysk, Smirnykh and Severo-Kurilsk.

Sakhalin is an extreme region, moreover, the whole is located on the islands. There is no other such thing in Russia. There have always been many problems here. Do you regret that you got here? What helps to overcome difficulties?

A healthy lifestyle, playing sports, good health helps to overcome difficulties, which I try to follow. You know, in terms of workload and work, my life has not changed at all. I used to work a lot, seven days a week.

I have been living in this rhythm for more than a dozen years. I am happy when I manage to solve very difficult problems, such that many seemed impracticable, even fantastic. Therefore, I set the highest standard for myself and my subordinates.

For some, plans seem unrealizable, for others skepticism and distrust are born. But I know: the road will be mastered by the walking one. I am sure that everything that has been planned will be carried out, we will succeed. You just have to believe and work hard.

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