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Oleg Kozhemyako: "We must keep our word"

The Governor of the Sakhalin Region told the readers of EastRussia how to make life in the island region comfortable, interesting and prosperous

Oleg Kozhemyako: "We must keep our word"
Photo: TASS (
- The answer to the question of how Sakhalin differs from other regions of Russia consists of one single word - “island”. Oleg Nikolaevich, what can one do in such conditions on one’s own resources, and what can one do without the help of the “mainland” (that is, the federal center)?
- Until 2020, we have a clear and understandable program for the development of the Sakhalin region. The most urgent tasks are to provide ourselves with basic types of food (meat, milk, vegetables, eggs), to put cities and settlements in order and, finally, to develop not only the oil and gas sector but also other spheres of the Sakhalin economy. In particular, regional tourism, which we have high hopes for. All this should serve the main goal - to achieve in our region a good quality of life, and not just some planned quantitative indicators.

Frankly, in quantitative terms, whatever we do, we will still get a "breakthrough" forward, because we have to start from scratch in many areas. Until now, the development of Sakhalin has been "tied" solely to commodity projects, but for the stable and normal development of our region they are not enough. The sharp fall in oil prices, the devaluation of the ruble, the sanctions regime - all this makes us seek new reserves in new circumstances. Naturally, the oil and gas complex will still dominate the structure of Sakhalin industrial production: today it is 90% of GRP and about 80% of tax revenues to the treasury. It is clear that such projects as Sakhalin-1 and Sakhalin-2 are state-wide, as well as the development of hydrocarbon deposits on the shore, which are conducted by the largest Russian companies. But there are areas in this area that fall within the competence of the region. For example, the construction of oil refineries, autonomous gasification of remote settlements (including the Kuril Islands), the development of gas chemistry and much more. The Government of the Sakhalin Oblast has already signed agreements of intent with Japanese investors during the Second Eastern Economic Forum on the feasibility of building a methanol plant on natural gas from the island, and there are a number of projects in the coal, energy, construction, precious metals and others.

- In many ways, on your initiative and with direct support, it was possible to "de-bureaucratize" the system of coastal fishing. This allowed hundreds of residents of Sakhalin villages to get a job and a stable income. But how will the new fishing law affect the situation, which regulates the relationship of the state with major fishing grounds, but for small ones creates serious problems?
- It was not by chance that we made a decision to reorganize the fishery system in the six-mile zone adjacent to the coast of the Sakhalin Region. Fishery rules obliged captains to keep strict records of harvested biological resources on board the vessel, to ensure sorting and weighing of the catch, and to keep a logbook after each operation. But technically it is impossible to fulfill such requirements on small vessels. Therefore, the actual volumes of aquatic bioresources often did not correspond to the documentation, captains and shipowners received penalties. They demanded that fishermen “in any form” return to the sea by-catch exceeding the established standard. But after the extraction by trawl or snururvod, this meant in essence to throw dead fish overboard - in this case it loses its viability. And the resource does not save, and for its intended purpose not to use it - a wonderful wise decision! It is clear that all this was unprofitable and uninteresting to industrialists. The essence of our experiment was to minimize bureaucratic barriers, give fishermen the opportunity to work effectively, and provide the population and coastal processing enterprises with fish and seafood.

In August 2016, Sakhalin citizens and Kuril residents received the right to fish for bioresources in the coastal zone using all the instruments, vessels and boats permitted by the Fishing Rules up to 24 m. From 20 August we issued 746 of such permits. Now in all regions of the Sakhalin region there are points of reception and sale of fish and seafood, we purchase containers and equipment for making ice, we will develop a network of small shops for the production of culinary and gastronomic fish products, fishmeal and fat for agriculture. Soon, I hope, the cooled fish on the Sakhalin shelves will be enough. What is more important: the price tag will not only indicate the final cost, but also the selling price from the manufacturer and information about who and when this fish was mined. The trading margin can not exceed 15% plus transportation costs. While we see that the experiment was successful. It is already ready to adopt the neighboring regions of the Far East.

- Did the fish market justify the hopes?
- The idea is embodied in life is quite difficult. We still can not attract non-residents as partners - and fish and seafood are bought mainly by foreign companies. Now we are changing the organizational form of the fish stock exchange and we hope that next year it will be easier. In general, such a platform will be able to earn in full force, when the whole cluster in Korsakov will be fully created. It will include not only an auction, but also everything necessary for storage, transportation of caviar and fish, its delivery to the airport or to customers-owners of restaurants. Working with restaurants is one of the most important moments. So far, orders are coming to us unintentionally, and there is no single supplier who could display products, organize auctions, select lots of goods for a particular company and send them to Moscow or Peter. It would be much more logical to set up logistics for such supplies on a common basis. And we are able to supply restaurateurs not only with fresh Sakhalin catch, but also goods from Japan - tuna, lakedra, other types of delicacies. When the customer does not need to receive certificates and customs clearance, the delivery time of fresh seafood is reduced to a minimum. We can provide freshness and quality by one hundred percent: oxygen treatment plants, liquid ice and special cameras for storing goods at the airport will be assembled, if the flight is delayed. By the way, the cost of air transportation can also significantly decrease with such an approach due to the shipment of large consignments in one direction and small ones in the opposite direction. Approximately - about 70 rubles per kilogram of goods.

- The sea at the Sakhalin coast is generous. But the earth here is far from black earth. Is it possible today to seriously talk about the development of agriculture in Sakhalin and to think about self-sufficiency in products in the foreseeable future?
- Yes it is possible. It's just that the slogan of the famous commander "not by number but skill" fits the agriculture perfectly well. To provide people with quality products at affordable prices, we need to make serious efforts, create modern agricultural production, implement scientific developments and attract investors. In and of itself on Sakhalin, nothing will grow or mature.

What is being done now? I can list. The livestock population is about 5 thousand heads today, and this is 165% of the level of last year, we have brought in more than 1,5 thousand animals of excellent meat breeds. The annual production of meat from them is about 300 tons. By the end of 2016, we plan to milk 28,5 thousand tons of milk, receive 133 million eggs - more than in previous years. We carried out technical re-equipment of farms, purchased new equipment for the preparation of feed. They harvested one third more potatoes than in 2015, vegetables - 17 percent. At the same time, the yield increased by 39%. From these dry numbers, a conclusion follows, which gives reason for pride: by the end of June 2017, the Sakhalin Region provided itself with vegetables and potatoes. You won't have to take them "from the mainland" in winter. And this is a real victory. In addition, we used to produce less than half of the greenhouse vegetables for the needs of Sakhalin. Now we have crossed a very important milestone: 59% of such products are our own production.

In our region, active construction of agro-industrial complexes has begun, where they will produce pork, milk, beef, delicious meat products, grow vegetables in greenhouses and contain milch herds, process and store agricultural products. In 2017-2018 most of them will reach full capacity. As a result, we expect to create 2,8 thousands of jobs, the tax contribution to the Sakhalin budget will be more than 50 billion rubles, the contribution to the GRP - almost 200 billion. Investors in these projects are such large companies as Merci Agro Sakhalin, Green Agro-Sakhalin, Teplichny State Farm, Ostrovnaya Poultry Plant, Krasnogorskaya Zaimka JSC, etc. In addition to the production workshops and equipment installation, Residential houses are being built for employees of agricultural complexes, kindergartens and all necessary infrastructure. This is very important: we are not just “ensuring food security” of Sakhalin and the Kuriles, as recorded in our program. We are fighting for the normal, high quality of life of Sakhalin residents who need not only work, but also all the benefits of civilization.

- In the times of your predecessor, there were periodic discussions about "where to put money" - what to spend the surplus budget of the region. What do you think about it?
- We seriously rethought the investment policy of the region. The main thing that needs to be done now is to ensure the growth of the economy on the basis of its diversification. Not Sakhalin should be alive with oil or gas alone. It is now necessary to accelerate the development of industries that do not relate to the export of hydrocarbons. First of all, we are talking about fishing for the island, fish processing, ship repair, agriculture, coal and timber industry complexes, manufacturing industry, and in particular, the production of construction materials. But no less promising promises us the development of tourism.

On Sakhalin, something interesting for themselves will be found by those who love extreme, ethnographic, health and gastronomic tours. Travel for every taste is our huge advantage over many regions of the Far East and the whole country. It is clear that for tourism will require a whole infrastructure - transport, hotels, service, trade, a network of catering. Investment projects in the sphere of tourism will become a new impetus to the development of cultural and educational spheres, health care and so on. All this will be an invaluable contribution to the "human capital" of our region.

Again - nothing comes and does not happen by itself. We are going to make maximum use of the opportunities given to us by new programs for the development of the Far East - in particular, the TOSER system and the new financial instrument - the Sakhalin Oblast Development Corporation. Under the decision of the government of the region, it finances investment projects that are aimed at diversifying the economy, import substitution, building up domestic production of goods and services. In the Corporation's assets today, more than 20 projects totaling 117 billion rubles. All of them, before being approved, have undergone a thorough check and multi-stage selection. The business has already announced its needs for the Corporation's funds, of which the largest part (64 billion rubles) is the investments that it managed to attract to the region "from the mainland" and from abroad.

The projects are different, but some of them are for us an object of special concern and, if you like, a matter of honor. For example, we are striving to attract tourists to Sakhalin and the Kurils, we are going to build a new tourist object "Mountain air". Here for three to five years the length of the ski runs will increase to 75 km, modern cableways and lifts will be built. To extend the season, we will use the artificial snowmaking system of mountain descents, as it is done at many well-known resorts in Europe. New hotels, restaurants and service ski centers are already under construction (some of them, by the way, due to the funds of the Development Corporation just mentioned). We take as an example the Austrian-Alpine model, when there are plenty of opportunities for entertainment around the ski slopes, evening skiing, recreation, discos. The resort joins a fairly large (by the standards of the Far East) city, which has its own nightlife. I think that tourists will like it.

And foreign partners like this idea right now. Japanese businessmen have shown interest in our resort: next to Mountain Air, the Hanoka company is going to build another balneological center - onsen - at its own expense. To do this, the region allocated them a plot of 20 thousand square meters free of charge, and will provide all the engineering infrastructure and communications. Mitsui will advise us on the construction of the new airport. We will definitely need it: we expect that by 2025 the number of tourists visiting the Sakhalin Region will grow to a million a year.

- Will they be able to get here? We all know what the prices for Far Eastern air tickets are at the height of the season ... So far, the Sakhalin Region alone has dragged on itself the financing of Aurora Airlines and has subsidized other transportations. You are not going to share it with anyone.  burden?
- The Government of the Sakhalin Oblast financed all intraregional air transportation earlier, so it will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. In addition, the decree of the government of the Russian Federation obliges us to participate in financing regional transportations from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk to Blagoveshchensk, from Okha, Shakhtersk and Noglikov to Khabarovsk, so in 2017 we will continue this practice. This significantly expands the airline's transport network and increases the mobility of the population of Sakhalin and neighboring regions of the Federation. Primorsky Krai also co-finances Aurora on 12 routes. And we, of course, will only be happy if other constituent entities of the Russian Federation decide to enter the airline's capital on an equal footing. But so far no such proposals have been received.

A separate task is to provide transport accessibility to the Kuril Islands. This is important, of course, not for tourists, but for permanent residents of these islands, the farthest in the Far East. Within the framework of the federal program, we continue to update all machinery on transport lines in the direction of the Kuril Islands. We plan to purchase 2 helicopter and 2 regional aircraft, 2 cargo-passenger high-speed vessels. When the runways on Shikotan and Paramushir are built, it will be possible to link these islands with direct flights from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.

"They do not know much about the Kuril Islands-basically scraps of news reports, data from textbooks and echoes of a recent scandal at the fish factory, reached the general public. And what actually live and breathe now the inhabitants of these islands?
- The population of the Kuriles, for today, is just over 20 thousand people. Basically, as before, these people, one way or another, are associated with catching and processing fish and seafood. But in addition, the islands are now beginning to implement projects related to the extraction of precious metals, developing construction, energy and transportation. Gradually, the sphere of services is created, focused primarily on tourism. In recent years, the country's leadership has paid considerable attention to strengthening the borders of Russia, therefore new military towns are being built on the Kuril Islands and the border infrastructure is being updated.

The main thing that the Kuril residents insist on from the authorities is to establish regular transport connections with the Big Land, to build normal roads and solve housing problems. As for roads, we "attack" immediately on two fronts. Simultaneously, lay the main (for example, South Kurilsk-Golovino or Kurilsk-Burevestnik) and we arrange small roads, thoroughfares, city streets. Much is being done to resettle the smokers from dilapidated and dilapidated housing. Houses are being built for rent, a special program of preferential lending for three municipalities in the Kuriles has been launched. On it you can take money to build housing at zero per cent per annum - that is, an interest-free loan without an initial installment. The social sphere remains at the center of our attention: the regional program envisages the construction of almost two dozen social and cultural facilities - kindergartens, nurseries, new schools, polyclinics, sports complexes, etc. I think that in the end they will be the best in their equipment in the entire Sakhalin region. So far, I can note very good news: the Kuril Islands has finally begun to grow in demographic terms. People show a desire to gain a foothold on this land - a lot of people wishing to take a mortgage or land for rent.

In the Far East, everything is expensive - both products and services. Difficulties with the delivery of goods to the Kuril Islands always affected their final price. Therefore, now there is a program of subsidies for reimbursement of transportation costs for small and medium-sized businesses, and these are quite large amounts: for the areas of early delivery of goods - 70% of transportation costs, for the rest of the region - 50%. In 2017, entrepreneurs engaged in trade in the Kuriles will be provided with a reduced tariff for electricity (the cost of a kilowatt-hour was three times the cost of Sakhalin), this should help reduce prices. The same concerns the reduction of tariffs for transportation of cargo by sea on the North-Kurilsk-Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky line. Now, for a ton of cargo, an entrepreneur pays 1093 a ruble, and before that he had to spread 3940 rubles. At the same time, by the way, the economically justified tariff is 22188 rub / t, so judge for yourself, to what extent we cover such expenses.

Already now, social shops for low-income citizens began to operate in the Kuriles, where prices are lower by an average of a quarter. New greenhouses and poultry houses will be built, which will also help to replace imported products with own ones. There are plans to establish dairy production on the basis of the Iturup farm.

And, of course, the question for the Kuril Islands is a quality of communication. All available Internet traffic is now going through the satellite channel. Weather conditions affect the stability of the signal, and such a connection is worth a lot of money. It is expected that by the end of 2018, an underwater fiber-optic cable will be laid before the Kuril Islands, which will help reduce prices and provide island residents with high-speed Internet.

Naturally, the opportunities are not limitless and they are shrinking against the background of the crisis. But none of the planned objects from the program is not excluded. If priorities are aligned, they cannot be abandoned. The state in our person is obliged to keep the word and keep promises.

- And how did the scandal around the "Ostrovnoy" combine ended, where people were not paid for months for months, until they complained personally to the president?
- There is a prosecutor's check, and I will not rush to conclusions with its conclusions. One thing I can say: this situation became possible in many respects precisely because people were hired for work, imported to the island - and actually held hostage, because it's difficult and expensive to leave there. In the period of peak loads, the company required more workers, at the rest of the time - less, but the released personnel still could not leave or earn anything. Now there is no such thing: every owner of the enterprise is responsible for those who are invited to work. In the "Island" is now working in 2 times more people, the plant in the future goes to the year-round cycle of work. He has about 2 thousand tons of fish in warehouses and in the sea as much - that is, raw materials for 10 million cans of canned food. People get 40-45 thousand rubles a month and look confidently into the future.

- And what about the future? What do you want to see the Sakhalin Region in five years and in the more distant future?
- Strong, self-sufficient, beautiful, comfortable for residents and profitable for business. And I am sure that there are all prerequisites for this - in spite of any difficulties and crises. We expect that new projects within the framework of the TOR and the Free Port will give the region additional jobs and increase the amount of tax revenues to the budget. This will significantly reduce the dependence on the oil "needle". I am convinced that the implementation of all our large-scale plans will allow increasing the population of the region in the coming 2-3 of the year. And if we, as we plan, manage to cover the internal needs of the region in basic foodstuffs, it will be possible to closely deal with the export of agricultural products to the APR countries. By 2020, we are waiting for an increase in the number of tourists to the island several times - there is no doubt that this will immediately give impetus to the development of small and medium-sized businesses. And finally, we are counting on a return on oil and gas projects, but we are ready to deploy hydrocarbon processing systems (especially natural gas) directly in the region, not just “pumping raw materials from the earth”, but also processing it and thereby increasing the export value.

- Is there any hope that Sakhalin will nevertheless become not quite an "island" - will the old project of the railway and automobile bridge be reanimated to him across the Nevelskoy Strait? About this opportunity, representatives of RZD cautiously hinted on the sidelines of even the very first Eastern Economic Forum, but so far no further intentions have moved ...
"For us, that would mean a colossal breakthrough ahead. The project itself was prepared and developed in detail 10 years ago, and the situation began to be studied with 2000. The bridge from the mainland to Sakhalin would link the transport systems of Japan, Russia and the EU countries in a single network. According to the calculations of specialists from the Ministry of Railways and Railways, for the creation of such a line, large-scale work would have to be required - from reorganizing the Sakhalin railway to a network-wide track length of 1520 mm to laying rails, bridges and transitions with a total length of almost 600 km. Investments were estimated at almost 400 billion rubles in 2013 prices. The entire package of payments was sent by the Ministry of Transport to the government of the Russian Federation, but the decision has not been made yet. Now, Sakhalin is reconstructing railroad tracks for common dimensions for Russia, of which 806 km have been reconstructed from 600 km main run. RZD is considering the possibility of accelerating the work and, perhaps, the first stage of this "century project" will still be completed in 2019-2020. The government of the Sakhalin region is ready to partially finance the work through the Development Corporation of the region, providing a concessional loan.

We will be realistic - such projects still apply to the competence of the federal center, and not one of the subjects of the Federation. Our tasks are somewhat more modest. But we are fully responsible for them and we are sure that we will cope.
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