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"While everything is done in order to start at least some kind of activity"

The new head of the Institute of Economics of the SB RAS Valery Kryukov on the development of the Far East

Corresponding member of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences Valery Kryukov headed the Institute of Economics and Industrial Engineering of the SB RAS this summer. Today this institution located in Novosibirsk Academgorodok is the largest scientific center of economic profile beyond the Urals. Kryukov's sphere of interests is an oil and gas complex and resources in the broad sense of the term, the scientist has long been head of the Center for Resource Economics and is the editor-in-chief of the authoritative journal EKO (a number of articles from which EastRussia readers could already appreciate). On the eve of the Eastern Economic Forum, we talked with Valery Kryukov about how to develop the Russian Far East.

Photo: Valery Kryukov's archive
- Valery Anatolyevich, why does the Far East in Russia always develop?
- The problem of the development of the Far East is not new, it has more than 100-year history. There is a book, it was published back in 1906, and was called "Yellow Russia as the buffer territory of Russia". Even then, before the center of tsarist Russia, the question of integrating the economy of the Far East into the Russian economy was acute. And one of the ways, which was then discussed - the involvement of Chinese workers and their assimilation. This was, in fact, the essence of the project "Yellow Russia". But it remained just a design, as geopolitical subjects prevailed: the CER, Port Arthur, the war with Japan, etc. And then, in the years of the USSR, development projects in general became different.

Now everything has resumed due to the fact that China has approached our borders - but already with a very dynamic economy that surpasses the economy of the border areas of its northern neighbor. And so the tangle in the Far East is woven from the problem of interaction with the economy of neighboring Siberia, still raw, focused on the first redistribution and, in part, the solution of the tasks of the military-industrial complex, and also from the problem of interaction with the more balanced economy of Manchuria. What the research of our colleagues, especially from Chita, shows, the existing relationships are far from equal. We supply raw materials for export, and all attempts to change this trend are not very successful so far. Those projects announced today in the framework of cooperation with the PRC are also exclusively raw materials.

At the same time, it seems to me that much of what is currently being done in Northeast Asia is increasingly based on the need to formulate a strategy for the development of this macroregion, based on the complementation of the strengths of each participant. And the key question, of course, which we care about in this connection - what is the economy of the Far East of Russia? If this is part of the Russian economy, then this is one story. If - a part of the economy of Northeast Asia and, especially, the Asia-Pacific region, then, in many ways, another.

- While seemingly obvious movement to this, another story?
- No, so far the third plot prevails. The Far East is a raw material appendage of China and neighboring countries: South Korea and Japan. Sakhalin has long played this role thanks to LNG projects (based on production sharing agreements - PSAs). These projects are implemented using American and Japanese technologies, and they are 95% raw materials. And, what is much sadder, these are projects - economic enclaves, that is, these are local territories covered by the development of economic activity. Of course, part of the gas goes to the needs of the Primorye economy and to Khabarovsk, gas pipelines have been built. This removed a number of environmental problems, and made it possible to resolve issues related to the reduction in the cost of production. But what kind of products? Here, for example, in your EastRussia, I saw publications about the prospects for projects in oil and gas chemistry - the Amur GPP, the Eastern Petrochemical Plant. Yes, we will manufacture large-scale petrochemical products. Again, not finished products, but semi-finished products, not of a high degree of processing, but only higher in relation to pure raw materials. This is the first step, the first redistribution. There seems to be demand in the countries of the Pacific region, but there is also strong competition from the same China, Qatar, and the Middle East countries, which are rapidly increasing the production of the same mass (large-tonnage) petrochemicals.

"Then what should I do?"
- I think it is worth looking at the economy of the Far East, at least in conjunction with the economy of Siberia. It is necessary to form domestic economic relations, build our own technological chains and enter foreign markets with high-value-added products. And not pure raw materials. These should be unique products, not large-tonnage petrochemicals or, for example, coking coal. Especially against the background of the decarbonization program in China, under which they are already beginning to tightly regulate the use of coal (for now low-calorie). All this creates serious risks for our projects in the medium term.

- That is, the rate for the development of the Far East as a raw material appendage of China will not give a qualitative growth?
- This rate will only help stabilize the situation for a while. But now it is more important to create preconditions for long-term development. Of course, there are a number of limitations on this path. This is also the problem of labor resources: the Far East has lost and is still losing qualified personnel, especially skilled workers. This is the catastrophic underdevelopment of infrastructure: port terminals, railways, road corridors, etc. Especially in the context of inclusion in foreign economic flows. This is the absence of an internal market from the Urals to the Pacific Ocean. In Soviet times, the same fish from the Far East was transported everywhere, especially not taking into account the "cost of the issue" - but now everything is different. Finally, this is the system of making economic decisions that has developed now. If earlier there were ministries, there was State Planning Committee, strict coordination, now we have either narrowly focused state corporations or private concerns with their own private interests. How to link and shape the interests of an entrepreneur inclined to take economic risk and the state is the most pressing problem. We have forgotten how to do it. More precisely, they did not learn outside the framework of the Soviet economy.

- But wait, the Far East has its own plenipotentiary and vice prime minister in one person, and the ministry is separate, and a lot of development agencies. It seems like the management system is created ...
- All efforts so far are directed towards zones of initial economic activity, which, as a rule, develop as enclaves. This is done in order to do something. To start at least some activity - smelting metal, gold mining, the production of ships. Here were, if you remember, ambitious plans for the production of equipment for offshore oil and gas production. Then it turned out that we do not have the competencies, experience, and knowledge for this. And they switched to the production of auxiliary vessels for the same works. Although the main cost, the main money comes from the production of technological complexes, but all this requires a different qualification (for example, the filling of many vessels made in Asia has Finnish or Norwegian “roots”, while the vessel itself is Korean or already Chinese) .

The main problem is that such enclaves do not liaise themselves with other enterprises and industries. They just do not yet have the internal capacity, the power to pull this out. It's time to honestly admit that building a new economy within a purely market approach is almost impossible. Here, measures of internal protectionism and, at the same time, a considerable degree of freedom for external investors are necessary. Especially - coming to those areas of activity, where there are no domestic competencies and financial opportunities.

- But for the Far East came up with a huge number of such stimulating measures ...
- Yes, they have appeared. But a lot of problems still have to be solved in manual mode. Let's say an icebreaker gathering. It's nonsense! We have an icebreaker fleet, the maintenance of which is worth something, and some clever head within the framework of the reforms that were carried out, figured out that all the costs should be attributed to these transportations, for the implementation of which this fleet was created. Carriage is falling - the ships are standing. The amount that their content costs is fixed. At the same time, with a decrease in the volume of traffic, the specific rate of the ice collection is increasing. It turns out that the less traffic, the more the ice tariff (an individual approach was applied only recently, a couple of years ago). So much the worse for those who are left who pay it. Therefore, the transport of timber and small tonnage cargo has already completely collapsed. Only concentrate is brought from Norilsk (for subsequent melting on the Kola Peninsula), now they will start to carry LNG. That's the whole stream along the Northern Sea Route.

Everything ultimately rests on the degree of economic freedom. The Far Eastern economy can be budged by the presence of a strong state in structure-defining projects and investments — roads, ports, and energy. But at the same time, everything else should be given to the will and propensity to risk of those who are ready to realize themselves and get a high result (as a risk payment). The main thing that is not yet visible is what is being done in the Far East - a business that is prone to taking risks (as a rule, small and medium-sized productive businesses), which will form the stability of the trend towards the development of the regional economy.

- Is it possible to ensure that large-scale raw material projects do not become enclaves, as happened, for example, with Vankor in the Krasnoyarsk Territory?
- Gazprom will build a large helium storage facility, will receive monomers and trade with them. To produce plastics and products of high added value, Gazprom will not, it's not his profile. And as a commercial structure, he will be interested in selling at the prices that seem reasonable to him, based on the prices of the foreign market.

For Russia, these steps are clearly premature, politicized, economically ill-founded. It is believed that the market these proportions will equalize. China's example - the country 30 years engaged in building the foundations of modern economy, and only after they were created, began to open to the world (for example, attending the WTO, but not especially following its "regulations"). The peculiarity of the Chinese policy of entering the world - they are built not into the markets of goods, products or services, they are built into chains. Horizontal communications there dominate. We in Russia believe that we must form a vertical chain and at its end have high-tech products. The Chinese did not do this and do not do it. This does not mean that we need to repeat the Chinese way, but we need to have some flexibility.

Now, when the train has already left in many directions, it is necessary to consider issues not so much the admission of Chinese investors and companies to our markets, as the questions of the exit of Russian companies to ... Chinese markets! The conversation should be conducted approximately like this: we let you into the development of mineral and raw materials resources - you let us into the production of high added value products. And then we part of the proceeds from the sale of more expensive products are reinvested in the territory that is the source of these resources. This is a rather complicated swap scheme (in other words, exchange). We do not own these schemes. But I can not build it all myself. A vivid example of Zapsibneftekhim of SIBUR in Tobolsk. Yes, this is already a redistribution - the release of semi-finished products from gas raw materials, but not yet products from it. In itself, this production in no way contributes to the expansion of the use of this product within Russia (while the share of imported chemical products in domestic consumption exceeds 80%). But the Tobolsk petrochemical plant 30 years ago was conceived as a center for the production of science-intensive plastics and rubbers (in particular, for medicine). Now, for the time being, everything is reduced to the fact that bags with polyethylene and polypropylene crumbs are shipped there for the countries of Europe.

- What do we lack in this case? Competencies? Can not or do not want?
- Inertia taxis, lack of determination. Let's say that the Amur Gas Processing Plant is essentially a gas preparation plant, the output will be the receipt of primary products. The subsequent redistributions are connected with the market, and require an answer to the questions - where and how to deliver? And we must look beyond the borders of Gazprom. Why can we use such products? Integrate it with projects in wood chemistry or the production of building materials? How to enter this into the building requirements? This is a difficult, time-consuming, painstaking work. Before, there was the State Planning Committee, now there are only financial forecasts of the Ministry of Economic Development, in which material and physical indicators are given little space and attention. Now a different understanding of the economy, it is dominated by the services sector ... At the same time, in the long run, we still have a lot to do in Russia in the sense of simply completing industrialization. Go "smoothly" to a market economy on an existing basis can not - in the end we get a decline, the primitivization of technological chains. We have to finish what we did not finish in the previous technological order.

- And stop perceiving a resource as a curse?
- The world will always use raw materials, the question - at what price. The world will not be able to get off the oil needle for a long time. The sun, wind, other RES, of course, will occupy their 15-20% in the total energy balance by the middle of the century. But hydrocarbons will remain more affordable, because they are almost everywhere. If you look at the spectrogram of the upper layers of the earth's atmosphere, you can see that they are saturated with hydrocarbons. The earth emits them constantly, the bowels "breathe" ... Now oil and gas are being extracted in America, Argentina, and China has huge potential. They are extracted from reservoirs that were not used to "productive" before. Do hydraulic fractures and create artificial deposits. They get it where they did not think before. This changes the whole picture of commodity markets.
Information technology, intelligent systems, leading to a sharp reduction in costs, come to the forefront. When you mine gas in Yamal, you have a large cost of delivery in the price. In the new reality, this will not happen. But in Russia, while approving the reserves of deposits - coal, gold, oil, everything else - the systemic scientific approach historically dominates. This means - coordination and, as a result, a long approval of the project. And in Australia and the world, for example, the approach is completely different. You can not do what can not be done - to damage the environment, health and create the preconditions for future catastrophes. All the rest - at your discretion, you are an investor, you risk, you invest money, but you get the result. Our approach complicates everything and becomes more expensive. For some reason, you need to approve the balance of stocks. And who cares, how many stocks are there? Then you need to calculate how many years they will be enough. But stocks are not a cup of coffee. Nobody knows how many of them there are (the price has changed - the idea of ​​stocks has changed, it is important, of course, not to confuse reserves with resources!).

In short, raw materials will always be in demand. But the intellect develops so quickly that the reserves are formed where previously it was not mined. The same gas hydrates are cold gas, which the Japanese are currently mining at the seabed. But the priority in the discovery of this gas belongs to Soviet scientists. The raw materials business will be more intellectual, less centralized and less subordinated. And this is already visible throughout the world. We, unfortunately, are dominated by the practice that everything is under the wing of Gazprom, Rosneft, and other giants.
The question is how to bring intelligence to the Far Eastern economy ... Do not be afraid that this will be a raw-material economy, we must make sure that it is a raw-material, but intellectual-intensive economy based on the activity of risk-prone and creative entrepreneurs. Can we provide such an approach or not? This is what is happening in the mineral sector in the world. Pipe gas is more efficient when there is a pipe and large deposits. And when mining begins to fall, a strategy based on the efforts of smaller and more dynamic companies is more effective.

- And what do you think about measures to attract the population, for example, about the distribution of "Far Eastern hectares"? How do you rate?
"It's just a political decision, which has little economic substance." Any farmer will tell you that the farm in Siberia, which in the Far East is effective only with an area of ​​1000 hectares. This is one farmer with seven or nine employees. The size of such a "wedge" allows you to level weather, financial, price risks (due to the diversity of cultures and technologies of cultivation and cultivation). And have confidence in the future. And one hectare is a garden, which has nothing to do with farming. This is a PR-step connected with attracting attention to the Far East ... For the sake of a hectare, very few people will go. Well, if only to live out or have hunting for "the soul."

- If you read reports Minvostokrazvitiya, then there's just insane positive. Agency for the Development of Human Capital in the Far East is building plans to attract 250 thousand employees ...
- I do not own real statistics, but I think that all this at the initial stage. Remember the slogan 1980-x - the economy should be economical. I think it is still relevant today, with the amendment that the economy must be competitive. Production for the sake of production no one needs. Budgets will not tolerate such happiness. "Restore" the production of gold, LNG, coal, tin - all this is a dubious task. Technological schemes are outdated, environmental damage is huge. Look at Yakutia: the role and importance of diamonds is falling, but it is being replaced by oil. And they say that this is diversification. Need this economic activity or not, first of all, the state?

If the Far East is a place where people are comfortable living, then it is hardly necessary to open all the bowels of the earth. Unfortunately, we have made many mistakes. For example, in Yamal, there is a question of "dropping the herd" - the elimination of almost 200 thousand heads of deer. Earlier, the elders regulated the herding of reindeer, they knew where and how many reindeer could be grazed. Then in the state farms the deer were counted. And now people have come for whom the antlers are the most valuable thing. And overproduction began. The Yamal tundra will be able to feed 450 thousand heads, and there are now from 650 to 750 thousand deer. Overgrazing, black sands appear, landscape degradation. This is wild capitalism at the "side" of "Gazprom" (which for good intentions provides very significant support to the indigenous peoples of the North).

The main thing for Siberia and the Far East is to learn how to manage land and natural resources. To manage is not to immediately get and make a profit. This means understanding their present and, most importantly, tomorrow's value for future generations. And form on the basis of this understanding a different economic environment. This is done everywhere in the world - in Norway, Canada, Greenland, Finland and further south. But for this, it is necessary to include regions and municipalities in the work - to decentralize the decision-making process and not be afraid to involve local communities. In the meantime, we see a paternalistic approach. We will develop everything for you, we will attract everything to you, we will develop everything for you ... And should we? If the Far East had a reputation for a territory conducive to investing and implementing the most fantastic ideas, people would come themselves. Now in the conditions of an open information society, everything is just being done.

Once upon a time in Russia there were unique communities - Cossack, Old Believer, and family. All Russian capitalism from there grew. Then, of course, all this was destroyed. And we have to rebuild everything. We must trust, not be afraid ... If we pay attention to the local specifics and the need to create an environment based on trust - the results will not slow down. Without people, without the appearance of interest and stimulus from them, without realizing that this is both the territory and the place where their children will live, nothing will move.
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