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From tradition to innovation

The head of Yakutia Aisen Nikolaev - about how the republic achieved significant positive changes in two years

From tradition to innovation

Aisen Nikolaev

Head of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia)
Special project Yakutsk Initiative

- Aisen Sergeevich, Yakutia has become the only Far Eastern region that entered the TOP-20 of the National rating of the state of the investment climate according to the Agency for Strategic Initiatives. Three years ago, the republic was on the 58th place on this list, the decline continued, no comforting forecasts were heard. Last year, Yakutia took 22nd place, now it has moved even higher. How did you manage to reverse negative trends and achieve tangible results?

- First, about how the ASI rating is formed. This is an independent assessment of the investment climate in the constituent entities of the Federation, which is derived from surveys of regional entrepreneurs and indicators of the region's economic development. The formula takes into account 44 indicators, grouped in four main areas. 35 of them are the results of polls, an objective assessment of the efforts of regional authorities in various areas, the state of the competitive environment, the investment climate, and so on.

We have achieved the results that ASI has recorded due to constant and systematic improvement of the investment climate. No sensations or sharp turns. Normal daily work that does not need loud words. First of all, we strive to simplify all administrative procedures, remove unnecessary barriers. We develop electronic services that contribute to the prompt and high-quality provision of public services. According to entrepreneurs' estimates, the average registration time for legal entities has decreased from 11 to 7,5 days. It now takes almost half the time to connect to power grids - on average 48 days instead of 81. And this is exactly the case when for a businessman time is money.

Also, entrepreneurs note that scheduled inspections are now four times less, and unscheduled ones have decreased by 7%. This not only makes it easier for companies to work, but also introduces a dialogue between authorities and business in a constructive direction. The Project Office for Improving the Investment Climate and the Coordinating Council for Entrepreneurship under the Head of the Region work effectively in the republic. The work of the Agency for Attracting Investments and Export Support, which accompanies investment projects on the principle of "one window", was positively assessed. With his assistance, last year 12 enterprises signed export contracts for a total of USD 1,4 million. Entrepreneurs also highly appreciated the work of the investment portal Invest Yakutia and the updated portal for small and medium-sized businesses

Much is being done in the republic to support small and medium-sized businesses. Through the center "My Business" we provided SMEs last year with more than 30 thousand consultations and information services.

We must take into account how important this is for a region with vast distances and a harsh climate. The electronic format of any service is always a significant saving of time and effort.

And, of course, the entrepreneurs gave a "plus" to investment infrastructure facilities that were created in priority development areas. For these purposes, we have allocated almost 105 million rubles from the budget of Yakutia. The funds were used for the construction of universal industrial buildings for renting out to residents of the ASEZ. We laid an asphalt road to the site of LLC "Sabiem" and carried out the improvement of this territory. These are all separate steps, each of which leads to the goal.

- This year, many plans have been mixed or canceled by the coronavirus. What will happen now with the implementation of the most ambitious projects? Such as work at the Elginskoye, Tomtorskoye and Chayandinskoye fields? Will it be possible to build a bridge across the Lena River and modernize the road network a year earlier than expected? Will mining companies begin to adjust their plans?

- We tried to minimize the negative effect of the spread of the coronavirus. We had to adjust the timing of commissioning facilities at the Inaglinsky GOK - they were postponed to September instead of May, and literally in the coming days these facilities will be commissioned. The project for the development of the Elginsky coal deposit is being implemented as a whole according to the developed program, an intensive plan for its development is envisaged. The development of the Tomtor field also does not require special amendments for the pandemic - the main work is planned after 2022.

The crisis affected the work of ALROSA, the main budget-generating company. But we will be able to gradually compensate for all this, there are enough reserves and resources. I would like to emphasize that thanks to our close work, tax revenues from Gazprom have increased by an order of magnitude this year. Starting this year, Gazprom is increasing payments to the republican budget by eight billion rubles. Previously, this amount was only 200-300 million rubles. This is very important for the budget of the republic during a pandemic, and I am grateful to Gazprom for this. Just the other day, the first detachment of Yakut builders went to the construction of the second stage of the Power of Siberia. Organized work began on the employment of residents of the republic at the Chayandinskoye field, gas production at which began at the end of 2019, and in 2024 it should reach the design level of 25 billion cubic meters per year.

But in any case, we have one and the main priority - people. Their life and health must be safe. That is why I declared quarantine on the territory of the Chayandinskoye field from April 17 to June 1. There are 34 shift camps, where ten thousand people work. We have done everything to prevent the spread of the infection. We created living conditions, provided people with personal protective equipment, and regularly disinfected. Now medical equipment has been organized there - a large special hospital unit, a laboratory and a mobile MRI machine have been allocated, the work is going on as usual. It is very important here that we have worked out a mechanism of action that helped prevent the development of the situation according to such a scenario at other industrial enterprises. Now in the republic there is serious work on the quarantine of shift workers before the start of work. For all large industrial enterprises - gas workers, coal miners, gold miners - the situation is monitored almost on a daily basis.

The pandemic also affected the work of contractors, which attracted labor for the construction of roads. Now they were able to reorient themselves to local cadres, the issue is no longer so acute, and they were able to catch up. By the end of 2020, it is planned to bring more than 186 km of regional highways and over 23 km of the street and road network in Yakutsk to a standard state. As for the bridge across the Lena, its construction was supposed to begin next year and be completed in 2025. But we are ready to speed up the construction, and in agreement with the federal structures, the dates for putting the bridge into operation can be postponed to 2024. We are now discussing funding sources and engineering aspects of accelerating construction. This project is very important: it will connect three federal and five regional highways, the Amuro-Yakutsk railway, a river port and an international airport with a year-round transport network throughout Russia. You can't hesitate.

- At a recent meeting of the government commission for the development of the Far East in Blagoveshchensk, where Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin was present, you spoke in detail about the development IT-sectors in the republic. But what kind of return can all these “smart cities” and technoparks in a huge, northern, predominantly resource-based region give? What are the prospects in Yakutia for the development of non-resource and "creative" economy?

- Times are changing, it's just not immediately noticeable. Our republic has been successfully developing the IT sphere for a long time. Technopark was founded in 2011 as a starting point for the implementation of innovations. Today in Yakutia there is a single innovation ecosystem, which includes local high-tech companies and institutions. The republic has become a leader in the export of IT services among the Russian regions of the Far East. And Technopark entered the top five in the country in terms of investment attractiveness. This is evidenced by the results of the V National Rating of Technoparks of Russia, which were summed up by the Association of Clusters and Technoparks. Now 119 resident companies are located there. An IT park has been operating in Yakutsk for two years now. In general, in the Far East, Yakutia takes a confident first place in this market segment, the volume of export of IT services has doubled and in 2019 amounted to about two billion rubles.

We have high hopes for the "tax maneuver" for the IT industry, which the president announced. This will allow developing high-tech companies and entire clusters at an accelerated pace, and will reduce the tax burden on the industry. And since the tax maneuver in Russia implies one of the lowest tax rates in the world, it will help stop the outflow of innovative enterprises to the jurisdiction of other states.

At a meeting of the government commission on the socio-economic development of the Far East, which has just been held in Blagoveshchensk under the chairmanship of Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, I proposed a number of measures that will make it possible to actively develop the IT sector. In particular, to provide investors with the opportunity to implement a project not in relation to a land plot, as in the TOP mode, but remotely. Provide incentives for reimbursing research and development costs. Provide projects with innovative infrastructure.

Of course, Yakutia will not cease to be the largest exporter of raw materials. But we are also actively aiming at the development and establishment of a non-resource export-oriented sector. In particular, the so-called creative economy. This is a response to the demand of the times, when the region's economy is unthinkable without a set of modern creative and technological businesses and a rich cultural life. The creative economy is at the same time a tool for attracting tourists and highly qualified personnel, an effective way to develop territories and solve social problems, and a driver for the development of small and medium-sized businesses. By the way, at the end of last year, the Government of Yakutia approved the Concept for the Development of the Creative Economy, and the republic became the first region in the country where a strategic document of this nature was adopted at the government level. Until 2025, according to our forecasts, about a thousand new jobs will be created in this area, and the share of creative sectors in the GRP will increase to 2%. Up to ten thousand people will be trained to acquire creative and entrepreneurial skills. And in Yakutsk, we plan to create a Creative Cluster, which will have all the opportunities for the work of innovative companies and laboratories.

- The federal center and regional authorities are now paying special attention to social policy. What is being done in Yakutia to support the inhabitants of the republic? Is there enough budgetary funds for this?

- All social support measures requiring annual re-registration in the republic have been extended until October 1, 2020 inclusive. Otherwise, people simply cannot cope with difficulties. Provided assistance to residents of Yakutsk and Zhataya over sixty-five years old in self-isolation. About 47 million rubles were allocated for such payments. All payments are accrued proactively, so that elderly people do not go to the social security authorities with applications, this also applies to payments upon reaching 70 years of age, and payments to the 75th anniversary of Victory.

This year, families with children received great support, first of all, these are unprecedented "presidential" payments, benefits for low-income families for children from three to seven years old. 2,3 billion rubles have already been allocated for such benefits, almost 38 thousand children received them.

We also provide support to citizens who have lost their jobs, and those who have children are entitled to supplements to unemployment benefits. It was also decided to support school graduates during the pandemic, they were paid five thousand rubles each. In order to keep the situation under constant control, we organized a hotline on social protection issues and promptly responded to all appeals.

And, of course, we paid special attention to the support of doctors and other medical workers who are at the forefront of the fight against coronavirus. Those who rescued patients in the ambulance and in the “red zones” of hospitals were looked after in hospitals and through social services. Incentive payments were transferred not only through federal channels, but also from the republican budget. The money was transferred without delay.

- Yakutia is one of the leading regions in the issuance of Far Eastern mortgages. A typical Yakut family that took advantage of such benefits - what is she like? Are there any plans for the further development of such a mortgage lending system?

- By mid-August in Yakutia, under the Far Eastern mortgage program, 2359 agreements were concluded for a total of 9,053 billion rubles. This is one of the best indicators in the Far East. Families are very different, they are united by the desire to live and work in Yakutia, to gain a foothold here for a long time.

True, urban residents prevail among such borrowers. Of all the contracts concluded, only 142 are mortgage lending for individual housing construction. Banks are very reluctant to issue mortgage loans for individual housing construction. The villagers do not have a collateral that would satisfy the requirements of the creditor. For example, few people have a private house on a concrete base - they are hardly ever built in Yakutia. The situation requires careful consideration. It is already clear that banks should soften their requirements. Only then will the Far Eastern mortgage help the construction of not only multi-storey but also ordinary private houses. And we can talk about the expansion of this practice.

- The Far Eastern mortgage is one example that any benefits should be applied taking into account the specifics of specific territories. This also applies to such a macro-region as the Arctic zone of Russia. What impact on the economic development of Yakutia can have the preferences that are now being introduced for the entire Arctic?

- On August 28, the federal law "On state support for entrepreneurial activity in the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation" came into force, providing for benefits for investors who plan to implement their projects in the Arctic territories. Investors receive unprecedented tax benefits - the entry threshold, the requirement for the volume of capital investments of investors is only one million rubles. This means that the new law makes it possible to implement not only large projects, but also projects of small and medium-sized businesses - in the field of agriculture, food and processing industries.

The new law is a tool for spatial development, when the entire Arctic, in fact, receives the status of an economic zone. We expect that the law will stimulate the creation of new enterprises and high-paying jobs in the Arctic, thus attracting and consolidating the population, improving the quality of life and reducing poverty.

I would like to note that the republic took an active part in the development of this law. The Yakutsk Arctic is 1 million 600 thousand square meters. km, a huge territory, a large number of hard-to-reach settlements, the absence of year-round roads and infrastructure. And for us, the development of this territory is a strategically important task.

On August 14, I signed a decree on the Strategy for the Socio-Economic Development of the Arctic Zone of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia). The main goal of this document is to improve the level and quality of life of people. For this, a wide variety of measures are envisaged - from the construction of roads and the modernization of airports to the provision of affordable Internet communications, from the comprehensive renovation of regional centers to the renovation of agricultural enterprises.

At the same time, we perfectly understand how fragile and vulnerable the Arctic is, how important it is to respect its unique nature, to the traditions of the indigenous population. A large layer of cultural traditions of the indigenous peoples of the North has been preserved in the Arctic zone of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia). In places of compact residence, the Evenks, Evens, Yukagirs, Dolgans, Chukchi, Northern Yakuts, the Russian old-time population (Russkoye Ustye and Hikers) - the descendants of the first Russian explorers, Cossacks and polar explorers - conduct traditional economic activities. The strategy provides for the creation of favorable socio-economic conditions for the sustainable development of the indigenous people of the Arctic zone, the preservation and development of traditional culture and the promotion of employment and self-employment of the population in the agro-industrial complex, the creation of infrastructure (trade and logistics centers, the purchase of transport for transportation), the modernization of production by creating complexes for deep processing of reindeer husbandry and fishing products. We look forward to additional incentives to promote organic food in the consumer market, including accelerating international certification, branding, and exporting local products.

- Yakutia is a unique region of the world with a law on the protection and protection of permafrost. Yakut parliamentarians have developed a draft federal law. How relevant is this problem for all northern regions of Russia? What steps are required in the near future?

- The first decree that I signed after I took office as head of the republic was a decree on its environmental well-being. We are the only region where the law "On the protection of permafrost" has been in effect since 2018. There is a huge territory in this zone, and Yakutsk is the largest city in the world, which is completely built on permafrost. Environmental safety issues are extremely important to us. On the example of the disaster in Norilsk, we see how severe the consequences of violation of environmental standards can be. We also managed to face the consequences of the degradation of permafrost. In 2010 and 2015, residential buildings collapsed in Yakutsk, recently in the Srednekolymsky ulus - due to thawing and subsidence of the soil, fuel flowed out of the tank of a diesel station. Serious contamination was avoided, but in itself this case is a very alarming signal.

To prevent such emergencies, constant system monitoring is necessary. And, what is especially important - a clear legal outline that ensures compliance with all norms and rules in this area and establishes responsibility at all levels.

Now an audit of potentially dangerous objects will be carried out, information about them will be systematized. And, of course, we will continue to improve the legal framework in the environmental sphere.

- The subject of special pride in Yakutia is its original culture and traditions, from Olonkho to modern cinema. What is being done in the republic now to support the Yakut language and national traditions of other peoples who live here? Does the Sakha government plan to support the Yakut cinema?

- Our culture and traditions are priceless wealth. We do everything to preserve and increase it. With the support of UNESCO, 24 long-term projects in the field of education, culture, sports, environmental protection and communication have been developed and are operating in the republic. They help to develop the national arts and crafts, conduct classes in nomadic community schools in the north of the region, update and replenish museum expositions, and preserve linguistic diversity in our vast territory. On my behalf, as the head of the Sakha Republic, I present annual prizes in the field of preservation, study and development of native languages. There are regional programs that contribute to this.

And we are really proud of our cinema. It is no coincidence that they talk about him on prestigious film sites, not only in Russia, but all over the world. Up to ten feature films are released annually, and each of them is a real event. In terms of room occupancy, we are twice the average Russian figures. There are frequent cases when the Yakut cinema surpassed foreign films in the republic.

Of course, we will continue to support cinematography. For 2020, subsidies are provided for this - about 80 million rubles. The emphasis is on tapes based on the Yakut classics and authors, on children's films, animation. Several Yakut films are being prepared for the premiere screenings - "Private Chaerin", "Heart of a Soldier", "Beyberikeen-2", "Hara Haar", "Setteeh sir. Yyaakh ”,“ Brothers by Blood ”,“ Tygyn Darkhan ”- about six thousand Yakutians took part in the filming of this film, dedicated to a real character of Yakut history. I am sure that viewers will appreciate these films - sincere, bright. They talk about what is close to every person who loves Yakutia and feels a spiritual connection with it.

- The inhabitants of Yakutia have really always been and remain patriots of their republic. And 2020 has been declared the Year of Patriotism. How does it go?

- We have collected all the most interesting projects proposed not only by ministries and departments, but first of all by public organizations and youth associations. One of the largest projects is the Youth Civil-Patriotic Forum “Our Future is in Russia”, to which representatives from all regions of the country will be invited. They were going to hold it in November-December. But we will take the final decision depending on the situation with the coronavirus.

The Year of Patriotism is an opportunity to implement their ideas for those who are engaged in the restoration of historical monuments, the study of the history of the Great Patriotic War and the exploits of our heroes-fellow countrymen, the development of folk crafts, and the improvement of cities. It gives scope for a variety of initiatives that we will try to support. These are expeditions that follow the routes of pioneers who discovered unexplored lands in the Far East and the Arctic, and a huge amount of work to support the search movement and establish the names of the Yakutians who fought during the Great Patriotic War and died in the Novgorod, Tver, Kaliningrad regions, near Moscow, in other regions of the country.

In August, we opened a military-patriotic camp near Rzhev, which was named after the great son of our republic - Hero of the Soviet Union, "sniper without a miss" Fyodor Matveyevich Okhlopkov. We plan to make the collection of search engines permanent, and the camp - a support base for their work. During the first shift alone, 20 soldiers and two soldier's medallions were found. This work will continue after the end of the Year of Patriotism, it is aimed at preserving the memory of the heroes, the spirit of unity and friendship of the peoples of our great country - about what helped to withstand the terrible years of war.

- Many residents of Russia now have the opportunity to get to know Yakutia better and love it. Rostourism develops travel programs around the country, including the Far East. What can the republic offer tourists and are they ready to receive them in the conditions of quarantine restrictions?

- There are many wonderful routes in Yakutia - from classic sightseeing tours to exciting hikes, rafting, hunting or fishing. It is interesting to visit the Lena Pillars National Park. It is a stunning sight - high sheer cliffs that seem to grow out of the ground. Or sand dunes - tukulans - like a fragment of a desert in the middle of the taiga. Many tourists dream of visiting the Pole of Cold, in the Kisilyakh mountains - Northern Shambhala. See the Labynkyr lake or kimberlite pipe in the city of Mirny. Yakutia is unusually diverse and beautiful. In order to attract tourists here, we have developed a number of targeted programs and identified key facilities that will receive government support. These are the Lena Pillars cluster, the Oymyakon-Pole of Cold and the Russian North of the Arctic projects. We also count on grant support from the Federal Tourism Agency and assistance from the federal budget. These are very interesting and promising projects. I am sure that many tourists will come to us with pleasure.

- If funds allow.

- I think that the prices for such tours will not be the highest. We are working to make them more accessible. And we are waiting for everyone who is interested in getting to know Yakutia better. We want as many people as possible to know and love our republic. And I'm sure it will.

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