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Primorye in 2016: the edge of contradictions

Rostislav Turovsky on the development of the eastern regions of Russia

Among all the Far Eastern regions, the expired 2016 year had perhaps the most controversial results for Primorsky Krai. On the one hand, the region continued to deploy large-scale projects, including the successfully developing Free Port project. A number of earlier decisions were made, promising large investments in the region. On the other hand, there were no obvious positive results at the end of the year, and there was a clear deterioration in many indicators. In addition, the region was distinguished by tense intra-elite relations, and more than once found itself at the center of public scandals.

Primorye in 2016: the edge of contradictions
Photo: In the photo - Vladimir Miklushevsky, the governor of Primorsky Krai. Photo TASS

Rostislav Turovsky

Doctor of Political Sciences, Professor of HSE, Scientific Editor East Russia
State of health low level
As the statistics show, the authorities' efforts to develop the region and improve its investment climate have not yielded any immediate result. Given that these efforts have been going on for more than a year, one could expect that the shifts are about to begin, but they never began. The "old" economy of the Primorye Territory, which was established earlier, has exhausted its potential in the meantime. This was indicated by the decline in industrial production, the index of which was only 95,9%. As is known, in the region on the verge of a stop were some enterprises of the coal industry and Lermontov GOK. There were no positive shifts in agriculture, although, for example, much of the effort in creating a TOP was undertaken in this direction. But in agriculture there was a decline (the index was 98,8%). Thus, the region did not approach the task of ensuring its food security, let alone exporting products to foreign markets. But the most sad in this series was, perhaps, a sharp decline in investment, which does not fit in with the widely advertised figures of the expected capital investments. Instead, according to the data available to date, for January-September 2016, the investment volume index in Primorsky Krai was catastrophically low 72,9%. However, the formation of a reserve for the future (although today it is difficult to say how far the future is) is evidenced by an increase in the volume of construction work by 8,5%.

It is not surprising that the social well-being in the region is at a low level. Once "by" the population of the region there was preparation for the APEC-2012 summit, in which huge funds were invested. It is not surprising that the current activity encounters similar skepticism. The real monetary incomes of Primorye residents declined in January-November 2016 by 6%. Slightly slower, but also decreased retail trade (by 3,1%). It is difficult to expect social optimism from Primorye residents if the region has taken a stable first place in the country for wage debts. In particular, for a long time the issue of huge debts at the Radiopribor plant in Vladivostok has been solved. The federal authorities tried to contribute to the solution of this problem by agreeing on the allocation of the state defense order to the plant, and also by "attaching" it to the Moscow AFK Sistema and its Dubna machine-building plant (although it is difficult to say whether Sistema needs this load, and on what conditions It will agree to support the plant "afloat": this is clearly not the most important area for this FIG activity).

Some mining enterprises have also become pain points. Lermontovsky GOK, a unique producer of tungsten concentrate, stopped. For some time now, it is a burden for regional authorities (since it belongs to the regional state unitary enterprise Primteploenergo), who are trying to help him financially. It is expected that, over time, new deposits will be made, but the current situation in the village of Svetlogorye looks very bad.

The coal industry is in crisis, its prospects also look very weak, considering, in particular, the gasification of the region. Luchegorsky coal mine has become another center of protest sentiment. His employees even went on a hunger strike, while law enforcement agencies began investigating criminal cases of abuse in the enterprise. Meanwhile, RAO ES of the East, which controls the coal mine through the Far Eastern Generating Company, was forced to change its leadership.

The reduction of coal production is also noted at Primorskugol, which is part of SUEK. Primorsky Krai is not a priority region for SUEK, and the decrease in demand from power engineers explains this easily. Meanwhile, the mine management at the Lipovetskoye field is being closed. However, the new incentive may be the commissioning of Artemovskaya CHP plant-2, planned for 2020 year (although, considering the fate of other similar projects, the launch of the power plant may be postponed), in connection with which there will be a demand for products of the Pavlovsk brown coal deposit. But again, in the current situation, the coal industry of Primorsky Krai is "on the brink".

But, as it often happens in modern Russia, negative social and economic trends can be combined with an improvement in the financial and budgetary situation. From this point of view, the situation in the Primorye Territory continues to look quite decent. However, it is worth noting that support from the center is significantly reduced. The federal government, creating in Primorye new economic regimes, does not "spoil" the region with transfers, pushing it to life at its own expense. As a result of the year, the volume of federal transfers amounted to only 76,6% of the level of the previous year. And the sharpest decline occurred in the distribution of subsidies, which are usually allocated to the region for these or other projects - the index was only 64,6%. The region managed to maintain only the same level of subsidies for equalizing the budget provision.

However, the growth of own revenues in the Primorsky Territory was very significant - at 14,7%. This allowed, in conditions of falling volumes of federal aid, still slightly increase budget revenues - by 4,5%. The volume of the regional budget remained the third largest in the Far East (revenues - 112,9 billion rubles), while the degree of financial independence of the region grew to 84,6% (which he was unlikely to be happy about). The growth of budget revenues was due to the profit tax (by 20,5%), which is, of course, not a very large share in budget revenues (16,1%). It is interesting that, despite the debts on wages and the decrease in the incomes of the population, the revenues to the regional consolidated budget from the income tax paradoxically grew and very significantly - by 13,1%.

The good situation with budget revenues allowed the authorities of Primorsky Krai to successfully reduce debt dependence, for the growth of which they were criticized some time ago by the federal authorities. Edge fully repaid bank loans, which in itself is an achievement. In general, the public debt amounted to 6,2 billion rubles and decreased over the year by more than 20%. Such a positive situation with debt load cannot be compared with the neighboring Khabarovsk Territory. The municipal debt, which is 4,9 billion rubles and decreased by 6,6%, has also become less.

Having increased revenues, the regional authorities conducted a restrained expenditure policy, and the volume of expenditures did not change as compared with the previous year. As a result, the region ended the year with a noticeable surplus of its budget. In deciding on their spending priorities, the authorities paid particular attention to utilities, the costs of which grew by one and a half times. Probably, the region was trying to solve the problems of housing and communal services, among other things, in order not to cause complaints from the federal center. However, the social budget items did not grow at all. On the contrary, in the direction of "social policy", the Primorsky Territory reduced expenditures for the year by 23,3%. Expenditures on education remained almost at the same level, expenditures on health care decreased by 3%. Therefore, previous statements of the regional authorities on the priority of social spending this year have not been confirmed.

Simultaneously, Primorsky Krai also reduced road construction costs by 5%. And this was done against the backdrop of high scandals caused by the fall of bridges and the violation of road traffic in some areas. But the expenses for agriculture increased significantly - by 14,3%. Although there were no any quick consequences for the growth of production, there was no such sector in this sector. In general, there is a feeling that the authorities of the Primorsky Territory have not badly balanced their budget as a whole. But the redistribution of costs between the articles indicates some kind of conjuncture shifts - increased attention to housing and communal services, but a decrease in attention to social policy. In the end, it can hardly be concluded that the inhabitants of Primorsky Krai felt some improvement in the situation following the results of this redistribution.

In special modes
Meanwhile, the Primorsky Territory continues to create or expand the special economic regimes operating on its territory. In this regard, he is the leader of the Far Eastern Federal District. At the same time, attention is drawn to the growing role of Rosneft, which is gaining ground in the region in the process of making decisions on the creation of new ASEZs. First, in the interests of Rosneft, it was decided to approve the Bolshoy Kamen TOR in the town of the same name in Primorsky Krai, where the modernized Zvezda shipyard will be the main facility. Subsequently, the boundaries of this ASEZ were expanded to implement a project for the construction of housing for workers (which has become one of the most visible areas for investment, although in other ASEZs this is not given such attention), as well as the probable diversification of the ASEZ due to the fishing industry, at least through creation of storage facilities for fish products. Igor Sechin was able to secure the support of Vladimir Putin, who visited the facility, with respect to this TOP and "Zvezda", and for his part made promises to actively participate in providing the shipyard with orders, without which it risked becoming another empty project. It is assumed that the shipyard will fulfill a pilot order for Rosneft in 2019. In addition, Rosneft has created a joint company with UMMC, another influential player in the Primorsky Territory, to supply the shipyard with metal products (there is no talk of building its own metallurgical plant yet) ... With all the costs and doubts, the Big Stone began to resemble a growth point.

The next step of Rosneft is the implementation of an even larger project of the Eastern Petrochemical Company (VNKhK) in the Nakhodka area. In connection with this project, the next TOP - "Petrochemical" will appear. In the meantime, Rosneft has finally finalized agreements with the Chinese, and China National Chemical Corporation (ChemChina), with which it signed a cooperation agreement, will be able to receive up to 40% of VNKhK. Of course, investments are expected from it, and the Chinese market can be used to export the products of the VNKhK. Simultaneously, this decision will facilitate the loading of the ESPO up to its end point in Kozmino.

Another politically influential federal-level business group that began to strengthen its position in Primorye was the group of Arkady Rotenberg. Her project is also related to Nakhodka, where it is planned to build a plant for mineral fertilizers and other chemical products (carbamide, ammonia, methanol). And although the project was recently launched, it has strong support, and it is assumed that the plant will start working in 2019, and in 2022 it will reach its design capacity.

For its part, the Development Fund of the Far East demonstrates support for coastal TORs and allocates funds for projects related to large federal business. Among them, for example, is the construction of a residential complex in the Big Stone and the infrastructure of the Mikhailovsky TOR, where Rusagro operates (the creation of a pig complex). The potential for expanding the number of TOPs in the region is, but not yet obvious. The fact is that Primorye could claim to create a number of TOPs in problematic monocities (Arsenyev, Dalnegorsk, Yaroslavsky, etc.), but it is likely that the presence of a large number of existing and emerging TOPs will be an obstacle to the solution at the expense of TOPs and the problem of single-industry cities in the region. Although this should not be ruled out, since the federal government intends to extend the TOR regime to almost the majority of Russian single-industry towns.

But if new TORs are in the process of becoming, the main actual process of the past year was the formation of the pool of residents of the Free Port. At the same time, a decision was made to expand the boundaries of the LWP at the expense of the Lazovsky district, although most companies are still registered in Vladivostok, and the need to include practically the entire southern part of the Primorsky Territory in the PWS has still not been confirmed.

Thus, during the year, the supervisory board of the SST was actively working, and dozens of decisions were taken on its residents. So far, the Free Port looks somewhat "omnivorous", it has both relatively large and small projects, and the specialization of SPV does not have a clear profile. In particular, there are prospects for the creation of industrial enterprises in SST, for example, for assembling Chinese buses or small ships. The emergence of infrastructure projects - warehouse complexes (including for fish products, which is very important for the Far East), a terminal for transshipment of liquefied petroleum gas, etc. - is logical. It can be said that the potential of SST is already emerging to organize the extraction and storage of fish products, and their delivery to other regions, i.e. solving a problem that has repeatedly been set at the highest level. Perhaps, the project of the medical cluster will still be able to be included in the structure of the PWV.

True, as one would expect, against the background of TOR and SPV, the former regime of special economic zones (SEZ) was “lost”. Within the framework of the policy of the center for the elimination of ineffective SEZs, the tourist and recreational SEZ on Russky Island ceased to exist. Although there is an alternative, and, according to the instructions of the president, the concept of creating an international scientific-educational and technological cluster on the island should appear in 2017, which is in the interests of the DFU. But the growth of problems in the industrial production special economic zone in Vladivostok, which probably exhausted the possibilities for development, is alarming. So, due to problems with finances and land use, the Ministry of Economic Development agreed with the proposal of the Accounts Chamber not to allocate funds for this SEZ.

The slow development of the gambling zone is also criticized, the potential of which is also very limited due to weak demand. While in the gambling zone works the only complex Tigre de Cristal. New facilities - regular hotel complexes with casinos are planned to be put into operation in 2019 and 2021.

Finally, the chronic problem has acquired the problem of long-term construction in the region, which also weakly fits with attempts to demonstrate its bright prospects. In particular, many contradictions caused decisions on additional regional financing of Hyatt hotels, which were initially supposed to be put into operation for the APEC-2012 summit. Apparently, one of the two hotels is not built at all. In the process of completion, a new configuration of forces has developed: the federal structure "Roskapstroy" controlled by the Ministry of Construction will itself be engaged in construction. Regional authorities still broke through the local deputies a decision to allocate funds for construction, while replacing the leadership of the controlling and controlling chamber that protested against this (its new head was the former pro-rector of the FFU, I.Vatutin, who headed the regional company "Our Home - Primorye" and the State programs and internal state financial control, that is, directly related to the policy of the regional administration regarding long-term construction). It should be added that in the meantime the work on social objects - the oncological dispensary and the psychiatric hospital - was delayed in the region. And, by the way, some violations in the sphere of housing and communal services became an occasion for activization of the regional prosecutor S. Besschasnoy, who introduced the idea to the governor.

Meanwhile, the development of the SST allows Primorye to acquire new economic specializations, and the emergence of the diamond industry in the region was a vivid example. The Eurasian Diamond Center created by ALROSA has become a resident of SPV. In addition to the diamond trade, it is planned to create a faceting industry on its territory with the participation of the Indian company KGK Diamonds Private Limited. Thus, the idea of ​​turning Vladivostok into a flagship center for trade in Russian diamonds is gradually becoming a reality, and ALROSA, with its current leadership, actively supports this process.

Along with new manufactures, modernization of old ones is also possible. For example, foreign investment can come to the timber industry complex of Primorsky Krai: the Japanese holding Iida received 25% of Primorsklesprom, the leading enterprise in the region. Perhaps this will increase the chances for the development of a full-fledged wood processing in the region, stopping the practice of exporting unprocessed forest to China.

As before, the strategic importance for the Primorsky Territory is the development of infrastructure that allows the region to fulfill its transit function. Slowly, but still, the issue is moving forward with the creation of transport corridors "Primorye-1" and "Primorye-2". A related ring road project around Vladivostok (VKAD) stretching 22,6 km appeared, which was developed by the South Korean company (its construction should be completed in 2018-29 and cost 1,2 billion dollars). True, the "beautiful" plans were somewhat spoiled by media reports about the collapse of bridges on the existing roads.

But the turnover of seaports, which are constantly increasing the volumes of transshipment of various cargoes, looks very positive. Oil and coal. The port of Vostochny, of course, is in the lead, but the smallest Posiet shows the best dynamics. In particular, in connection with the actual cancellation of the project for the construction of a coal terminal in Sukhodol Bay (which caused protests due to environmental problems), the UDS coal company began to increase supplies through Poset. Kuzbassrazrezugol is building the third stage of the coal terminal in Vostochny and has agreed on transshipment of coal produced in Yakutia by Kolmar. It is not ruled out that the new coal port Vera, which Rostekh is engaged in for exporting coal from the Amur region, will also appear (state expertise gave him a positive conclusion). However, at the same time the group Evraz, which has slowed down considerably in recent years, is going to sell its port in Nakhodka. And not everything is now clear with the large-scale projects of the Suma Group, whose enterprises are experiencing financial problems (these problems became acute in the shipping company Fesco and provoked protests by the dockers of the Vladivostok Commercial Sea Port). Nevertheless, the large grain terminal in Zarubino is being designed, the first start-up complex of which is expected to be completed before 2021, and the project of the Vostochny-Nakhodka transport hub, which Suma is engaged in, will receive support from the NWF.

In addition, the protracted epic with the change of owners of the Kievichi airport in Vladivostok has finally ended. There were no surprises, and the airport passed into full ownership of the alliance of FIGs of Oleg Deripaska, the Russian Direct Investment Fund and the Singapore company Changi Airports International. Perhaps the arrival at the airport of the operator of one of the best airports in the world, located in Singapore, will have a positive impact on the work of the Kievites.

Turbulence inside
As we have already noted, the contradictory situation in the region's economy was combined with no less contradictory political trends. The Primorsky Territory regularly found itself in the center of high-profile scandals, and its governor Vladimir Miklushevsky was repeatedly expected to resign. However, at the same time, the current ruling team managed to strengthen its positions in the region, while the “alternative” elite groups could not declare themselves and, despite all the rumors and assumptions, remained rather abstract values.

The anti-corruption campaign was carried out in the region and, in fact, more intense than anywhere else in the Far East, representatives of various elite groups became its "victims". On the one hand, deputy governor O. Yezhov, who was in charge of the construction complex, was arrested, and Sergei Sidorenko, the curator of the agro-industrial complex and the fishing industry, accused of abuse, resigned. The rector of the Far Eastern Federal University Sergei Ivanets was also arrested, which led to the change of the rector, who became another representative of the Moscow university environment. On the other hand, the leader of another group of influence, the mayor of Vladivostok Igor Pushkarev, who was considered one of the main competitors of Vladimir Miklushevsky, is also under arrest. Political conflicts and scandals also flared up in the territory that is the base for Igor Pushkarev's group - in Spassk-Dalny and Spassky districts (leading to weak results for United Russia in local elections, replacing Spassk's city manager, etc.). The mayor of Dalnegorsk I.Sakhut was under the criminal case, the sharp struggle of the elites distinguished Nakhodka.

But, despite the extremely high political turbulence, the team of Vladimir Miklushevsky strengthened its control over the region's legislative assembly, of which former Vice-Governor A. Rolik became the speaker. Loyal to the governor L. Talabayeva was elected a new senator from the region instead of the famous Vyacheslav Fetisov, who passed to the State Duma. During the Duma elections, a good configuration of forces was created for the governor, when relations were established not only with the municipal elites (Artem Mayor V. Novikov, loyal to Vladimir Miklushevsky, became one of the State Duma deputies), but also with prominent representatives of the "old" elites - V. Nikolaeva and S. Sopchuk, who also won elections in the constituencies. V. Pinsky remained a deputy, who does not have close relations with the governor, but plays a noticeable role in United Russia at the federal level and has become the head of one of the intra-factional groups, where there are many deputies from the Far East. The governor's team was able to establish control over the "Fair Russia" in the region, but, however, failed with the "Yabloko". Regular and numerous personnel changes in the regional government did not indicate the presence of a stable and strong team. But on the other hand, in a number of cases, Vladimir Miklushevsky himself made it clear that he did not intend to reckon with officials who did not carry out his instructions, and thereby emphasized the due rigidity in working with subordinates.

Anyway, but neither the staff leapfrog nor the anti-corruption campaigns led to a change of power in the region. From the point of view of public mentality, the Primorye Territory remained a relatively oppositional region, but with a positive dynamics for the "party of power". Support for United Russia in the region in comparison with past elections grew (the party scored 39% of votes), and the main opponent in the face of the Communist Party, weakened by internal splits, fell (18%). Communists, as in other regions of the Far East, bypassed the LDPR with 19,7%. "Fair Russia" weakened and gained only 5,2% of the vote. Voter turnout was only 37,3%, which corresponded to the specifics of the Far East. In the elections to the regional legislative assembly, in addition, a new player, the Russian Party of Retired Persons for Justice, was able to become a local parliamentary party. In general, the Primorsky Territory did not stand out for the support of any parties in the Far East, did not show extreme measures.

Thus, Primorsky Krai was the region with pronounced contrasts by the end of 2016. One of them was the contrast between the launch of many projects and the absence of any visible results for the regional economy. Many federal decisions were made in favor of the region, but financial assistance to the region was declining. In political life there was a lot of tension and scandals, but now the ruling elite has quietly retained its positions, and in the public opinion, for all that, there has been no growth in opposition sentiments. Probably, this situation was the result of a combination of circumstances, and new changes, evidencing the formation of a more intelligible logic, in the region will occur further.
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