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Primorsky Krai: results - 2015, trends - 2016

East Russia launches a series of analytical publications devoted to the results of the past year and the analysis of the situation in the current year in the social, economic and political spheres of life in the regions of the Far East and Eastern Siberia

The Primorye Territory in 2015 and the beginning of 2016 turned out to be in an extremely controversial situation, which at the same time clearly reflects the features and problems of the Far Eastern regional policy as a whole.

Primorsky Krai: results - 2015, trends - 2016

Rostislav Turovsky

Doctor of Political Sciences, Professor of HSE, Scientific Editor East Russia
On the one hand, it was Primorye that became the main and the largest beneficiary of decisions taken by the federal authorities aimed at improving the investment climate in the Far East and ensuring sustainable economic growth. On the other hand, the actual processes recorded not an improvement, but rather a worsening of the socioeconomic situation, not to mention the total absence of the sought out advancing growth. Thus, new mechanisms of social and economic development in the region have not yet been made, and the introduction of these mechanisms is very slow. The old reserves of the region, connected with the Soviet legacy and the transit function of Primorye, meanwhile are completely exhausted.

During the year, with regard to Primorye, the adoption of new decisions by the federal authorities continued, and this determined the vector of regional development. It was the Primorsky Territory that eventually became the owner of the most complete list of all kinds of projects initiated by the center. Here there is the largest number of territories for outrunning socio-economic development, the first and so far the only free port has been created, the special economic zone continues to operate, the gaming zone begins to function. But with the implementation of each project, serious problems are also connected, caused more by external circumstances - general deterioration of the financial and economic situation in the country, a weak interest in Russia from foreign investors. However, Russian bureaucratic delays also became a significant negative factor for the regional projects last year.

Points of growth - the first steps and the first results

In this regard, the most notable, one might say - textbook situation was the free port of Vladivostok, which is seen in theory as a breakthrough pilot project that started exactly in Primorye, which has all the necessary economic and geographic prerequisites for this. As you know, the idea of ​​a free port was declared by V.Putin in his presidential message 2014, and in 2015 the necessary federal law was enacted and at a very fast pace, which took effect on 12 October.

The free port is a version of the territory of advanced development that is improved from the point of view of fiscal and administrative conditions and administrative procedures, which is clearly focused on cooperation with the outside world. It is difficult to call it an analogue of the known from the world practice "porto-franco", since in this case it is not a single port or even a purely coastal territory, but actually the whole southern part of the Primorsky Territory, where there are not only seaports, but And the airport, land border crossings. At the same time, during the discussion and adjustment of the relevant draft law, some of the working conditions of the free port were made even more favorable: the territory increased from seven to 12 municipal entities, and the division of the free port into zones with different specialization (industrial, port, technical, innovative, tourist) was excluded. In general, unlike the previous law on the TOR, the law on the free port caused much less controversy and controversy.

However, at the same time, the implementation of the free port project in practice encountered a number of obstacles. One of the key ideas - turning the coastal part of the Primorsky Territory into a territory with the lightest possible regime of the state border remained on paper: to quickly implement this idea in Russian conditions turned out to be difficult. The visa-free eight-day stay of foreigners on the territory of the free port did not work. The regime of the free customs zone is also not functioning. In other words, the “gates to the outside world”, which can be created at the expense of a free port in the Primorsky Territory, remain closed.

Without a foreign economic component, the free port is not so much different from the territories of advanced development, and therefore it faces the same problems - a slow influx of investors, mainly represented by Russian business, most often regional. Strong prospects for investment growth in such conditions are still not visible. It is noteworthy that at the first meeting of the supervisory board of the free port in October, only one application was approved (the Pacific Investment Company with the hotel construction project), and only eight more applications were prepared and approved by the second meeting in December. The concession made by the authorities is also characteristic: if at first it was said that the free port would include only new projects, then in the end, five supported projects are among those that are already being implemented. Beyond the free port, there is still potentially the largest new project - the "Big Port" Zarubino, which the Suma Group is engaged in.

The previously launched TOP project from a formal legal point of view is also developing very successfully in Primorsky Krai. The region becomes the leader in terms of the number of TOPs, which can also be explained by its most favorable economic and geographical position in the Far East. During the 2015, two TORs (Mikhailovsky and Nadezhdinskaya) were approved, and at the beginning of 2016 the region broke out into the leaders, having already received the third TOR ("Big Stone"). At the same time, more or less realistic projects of two more TOPs appeared on the horizon, about which the speech was conducted earlier - "Russky Island" (instead of the failed project of the special economic zone of tourist-recreational type of the same name) and "Neftekhimicheskiy".

At the same time, the “filling” of TOR by investors is not without difficulty. For the time being, the Far Eastern business is primarily interested in the opportunities of TOR, seeking to reduce the tax burden and take advantage of federal budget resources. Relations with major federal investors are more difficult to form, as was shown by the situation with the leading Russian agroholding RusAgro, which announced it was refusing to enter the Mikhailovsky TOR, but then continued to work. However, without anchor investors, seaside TORs do not remain. In the same “Mikhailovsky” this position was taken by the company “Mercy Trade”, in “Nadezhdinskaya” - “Inkom DV”, “Primorsky Pastry” and “Nevada-Vostok”.

Of great importance for the prospects of Primorsky Krai is the beginning of the annual Eastern Economic Forum (VEF) in Vladivostok. Vladivostok has an excellent opportunity to consolidate the role of the leading center of cooperation between Russia and the APR countries, thus using the potential created earlier during the APEC summit. But the first WEF was clearly familiarizing nature, and there was no breakthrough in the relations between Russia and the APR. The Primorsky Territory used this platform to conclude investment contracts, but mainly with Russian companies. Just at the forum, agreements were signed with investors Mikhailovsky TOR (for 45 billion rubles) and TOR "Nadezhdinskaya" (7 billion rubles).

It can be said that the mechanism of TOP in the region began to work, albeit not on the scale that could radically change the social and economic situation in Primorye. And while a significant part of the investment is planned in the agro-industrial complex, which is not a profile direction of the coastal economy and is unlikely to have an export perspective.

It is noteworthy that in Primorye, probably, the tendency will spread when the federal government starts to "offer" TOR to a large federal FIG, primarily to state companies for their projects. In the case of Primorsky Krai, this means strengthening the positions of Rosneft in the region. Firstly, it is in its interests that the TOR "Bolshoy Kamen" (in the ZATO of the same name) has already been created, its new facility will be the new shipyard Zvezda, which is seen as the leading Russian manufacturer of offshore equipment, tankers for the transport of liquefied natural gas, and so on. . Secondly, in the future, the future position on the volume of investments will clearly be the future TOR "Neftekhimicheskiy", also created in the interests of Rosneft - to reduce the tax burden on its project of the largest in the Far East oil refining and petrochemical production in Nakhodka (VNKhK, Eastern Petrochemical company). Earlier, Igor Sechin tried to knock out funds from the NWF for the projects of "Zvezda" and VNKhK. After a long hardware battle, however, a compromise decision was made to use the TOR regime, both for the Star and for the VNKhK. In addition, in late December, the government approved a plan for the implementation of the strategic investment project of the Eastern Petrochemical Complex (which, in particular, assumes the creation of a TOP in 2017). Against this background, however, the controversial issue of transferring a large and possibly controlling stake in VNKhK to the Chinese side, represented by China National Chemical Corporation (ChemChina), was not resolved. Since such a decision belongs to the category of political and can be called unprecedented, it is not surprising that it has stalled.

Thus, the implementation of really large-scale investment projects in the Primorsky Territory is gradually beginning. Moreover, these projects are connected with the interests of one financial-industrial group - Rosneft, and their form nevertheless becomes TOP. But for the time being it is difficult to assess their prospects, since their demand for products (especially in relation to the shipyard) is far from obvious. In any case, positive decisions on them have been made by the state, and this creates an important perspective for the region, at the same time contributing to the transformation of the Primorsky Territory into a new Russian fuel and energy complex and related industries. Gazprom’s project to create LNG production in Vladivostok, on the contrary, appears to be suspended and may be canceled (contradictory information was received during the year about Gazprom’s plans, from promises to launch the plant at the end of 2018) to hints that that the plant will not be at all).

Therefore, all possible "tekovskie" projects to implement in Primorye is unlikely to succeed, but even one of them, such as VNKhK can have a huge impact on its economy. The same applies to port projects. Here we see our obvious (but also for now still future) leader in the person of Zarubino, whereas, for example, the coal terminal in Sukhodol Bay, which caused environmental protests and discontent of regional authorities, is probably not completed. The issue of financing such a powerful transport hub near the Russian-Chinese border, which Zarubino sees, has not yet found a definitive solution. Nevertheless, the project of the international transport corridors Primorje-1 and Primorje-2 with the exit from the northeastern provinces of China to the ports of Primorsky Krai (with the expectation, mainly for the transshipment of grain and containers) continues to be developed, and the chances of Its launch is growing. This will make it possible to realize the transit potential of the region in yet another new version - for the transit of Chinese goods.

Projects that are not related to the fuel and energy complex and seaports find themselves in a crisis in a more difficult situation, and this is clearly demonstrated by the situation around the new special economic zone in Vladivostok. The crisis in the Russian automotive industry could not affect its functioning. As a result, not only the main, but also the sole partner of Sollers in this project remained the Japanese Mazda (Toyota and SsangYong left), cooperation with which continues (a memorandum on the establishment of a plant for the production of engines was signed). In order to retain this, in essence, a small, but significant for the Far East production, D. Medvedev signed in August a decree on subsidizing the transportation of cars produced in the Far East to other regions of the country. The company Sollers - Far East has been included in the official list of the most important for the Russian economy, strategic enterprises. Then the plant was decided to provide subsidies for the payment of utilization fee. Thus, the federal government did everything possible to prevent the car plant from stopping, and the lobbying abilities of its owner, Vadim Shvetsov, played a role in its preservation.

Finally, among the various growth points created in Primorsky Krai, last year the gambling zone finally began to operate. However, the process of its creation and expansion also does not promise to be fast. It could just accelerate the introduction of a visa-free regime. In the meantime, the first casino started operating in this zone, and against this background there were repeated promises of large-scale investments (it is said about their volume in the amount of up to 2,2 billion dollars). In the development of the gambling zone, not only Russian but also foreign (primarily Chinese) businessmen take part. Although, of course, to turn Vladivostok into the second Macao clearly will not work.

In the last year, the Primorsky Krai was also transformed into the leading organizational and production center of the fishing industry of the Far East, and in fact, the entire country. During the year, at the highest level, many meetings devoted to the fish complex were held, and one of the key decisions was the establishment of a fishing cluster in Primorye. But in this case, the specific organizational forms remain undeveloped.

New development tools against current negative trends

As already mentioned, the rapid process of creation in the Primorsky Territory of all new development institutions was combined with unfavorable current trends in the regional economy. Especially striking is the decline in the physical volume of investment in fixed assets, which, according to the data for January-November 2015, was 4,6%. This is by no means the worst dynamic in the Far Eastern Federal District, but still in the Primorsky Territory at the same time created a torch, earned a gaming zone, opened a free port, and all this did not affect the real investment process. The former economic potential of Primorye is clearly exhausted. This is clearly shown by the decline in industrial production (at 12,3% for the year, one of the worst in the DFO) and a very noticeable reduction in the volume of construction work (by 20,4%). The latter fact underscores that the construction of new facilities related to the TORs, etc., has not yet begun in the region, and the entire new infrastructure exists mainly on paper. There are no positive trends in agriculture, which in the future should experience rapid growth in connection with the agro-industrial specialization created in the region of the TOP. Meanwhile, the decline in this industry amounted to 6,3% for the year.

Thus, the real economic situation of Primorsky Krai continues to worsen. So far this has not affected, however, the social situation in the region, which, by inertia, remains at a good previous level. For example, real money incomes in the region even increased, although by 1% (for January-November). There was no decline in retail trade (annual growth of 0,8%). The growth in consumer prices in Primorsky Krai, of course, was significant (by 11,9% for goods and services in general and 12,8% for food products, as of December 2015, compared to December 2014), but it roughly matched All-Russian trends and even a little from them lagged behind.

Although point-based reasons for the growth of social protest in the region are already beginning to emerge. The past year was marked in Primorye by the growth of protest activity, and in this process the trade unions played an important role. The main points of protest were the monocities. A tense situation developed in Dalnegorsk, where employees of the Mining and Chemical Company Bohr held protest rallies in connection with the accumulated debts on wages. On the main city-forming enterprise - Dalpolimetall was also uneasy. Both Dalpolymetal and Bor are going to cut staff. Assets of "Bora" will, apparently, be transferred to a new legal entity. All this is fraught with an increase in unemployment, and a decline in production indicators. In an unstable situation there are also coal miners: the big resonance has received meeting of workers of Luchegorsky coal cut which too are afraid of mass dismissals.

Thus, the small “traditional” mining economy of the Primorsky Territory is on the verge of closure, which, of course, adversely affects the indicators of industrial production and social tensions in single-industry towns. However, in the southern, "seaside" part of the region, where business is more developed, social well-being has not deteriorated so dramatically, and people there have long been used to cope with problems on their own, not relying on the state and its projects. Although in this part of the region where the majority of the population lives, not everything is all right, as evidenced by labor protests at the Radiopribor plant in Vladivostok.

Not bad is the situation with the regional budget, although in the financial policy of the region there are also weakly expressed negative trends. Primorsky Krai considerably outperforms its traditional rival in the last year - the Khabarovsk Territory by the size of the budget (revenues amounted to almost 108 billion rubles, yielding only to the obvious "raw materials" leaders - Sakhalin and Yakutia) in the Far East. Budget revenues of Primorye, as in most regions of the country, increased, but this growth, again, like almost everywhere, was lower than inflation. It was 2015% for January-December of 5,2 (hereinafter data on the execution of the consolidated regional budget for the indicated period and related calculations of the author are used).

But attention is drawn to the fact that the growth of budget revenues in Primorye was largely due to the support of the region by the federal center, which is interconnected with the region's actually privileged status in federal Far Eastern politics. Federal transfers in the region increased by 7% (while in Russia as a whole they declined), and own revenues - by 3,8%. In particular, Primorye has become one of the leaders in the country in terms of the dynamics of the inflow of federal subsidies (an increase of 28,2%), and this is a direct indicator of both special federal support and lobbying opportunities. True, the volume of subsidies and subventions decreased (by 5,2% and 2,8%, respectively), but subsidies more than offset this decline.

As for the region's own revenues, their growth is mainly due to good financial indicators of business structures operating in the region. Income from income tax, depending on the work of large enterprises, grew by a solid 12,6%, taxes on aggregate income, which are an indicator of the work of small businesses - by 9,2%. As expected, according to the income tax, there was no such dynamics (an increase of 1,5%). The revenues from excise taxes and land tax decreased in absolute terms.

Real needs of Primorsky Krai

Thus, federal subsidies and taxes paid by business have not badly supported the regional budget. However, given the considerable needs of a large region, Primorye needs much more money. In the end, the regional budget turned out to be very well balanced, and was reduced to a minimal, almost zero deficit, as the region clearly supported the growth of expenditures (they increased by almost 2%), and saved some of the funds on socially significant items (see below).

For the first time, she began to alarm the situation with the public debt of Primorye, which even provoked criticism from the federal authorities. Objectively speaking, this debt is still small and not critical. The state debt on 1 in January 2016 was 7,7 billion rubles (only sixth place in the DFO), and the amount of state and municipal debt is only 16,2% in relation to the regional budget's own revenues (which is much lower than the average Russian indicators and better than all DFO regions, except Sakhalin). The reason for criticism was a sharp increase in debt on budget loans (15,8 times - it was a Russian record), caused by the fact that Primorye borrowed money from the federal government. But the region has reduced its debts to banks (more than four times, which almost became a Russian record, already in the good sense of the word). In general, the public debt of Primorsky Krai actually even decreased over the year (by 3,4%). A slight increase in debt was noted in municipalities (by 7,8% - to 5,9 billion rubles, and also mainly due to budget loans). Thus, it is not yet possible to talk about an unbalanced budget situation. But it is worth noting that the financial problems of the Primorsky Territory last year began to be solved to a slightly greater extent at the expense of federal resources. Expenditures on servicing state and municipal debt showed an increase immediately by 24,6%, although they remain a very small part of budget expenditures (total 0,9%).

It is also interesting that Primorsky Krai began to spend more money on the budget for "economic" rather than "social" articles, which is partly due to its obligations when implementing new projects. For example, expenditures on road maintenance increased by almost 15%, for agriculture and fisheries - by 11,1%. On the contrary, the costs that directly affect the social sphere and the well-being of citizens, the region begins to cut. In particular, the cost of education fell by 2,6% (due to a reduction in the cost of preschool education by 8,3%, but with a slight increase in the cost of general education at 2%), in the housing sector - by 1,7%. The expenditures on health (by 4,1%) and social policy (by 4%) slightly increased.

The regional authorities have the right to believe that they fulfilled their obligations to state employees to 2015. But at the same time it becomes clear that this was the limit of their possibilities, and they can do nothing more now. In the region it is often said that the regional budget has a social orientation, but this simply corresponds to the all-Russian trends. The main budget items are, like everywhere else, education (25,3%), social policy (19,8%) and healthcare (15,7%). For many items of expenditure Primorye is close to the average Russian values ​​(but in terms of the share of expenditures directly to social policy, in fact, it became the leader of the Far Eastern Federal District and one of the Russian leaders). However, while the share of housing and communal services has already fallen to 7,1%, but the authorities are clearly increasing spending on roads (they amounted to 10,5%, and Primorye was among the top ten Russian leaders in this indicator).

Confrontation of elites continues

The political situation in Primorsky Krai as a whole also remained stable, but there was no need to speak about the complete absence of conflicts. The latent confrontation of the “new” and part of the “old” elites of the region continued, manifested in the complex relationship of the governor Vladimir Miklushevsky and the mayor of Vladivostok I.Pushkarev. In many ways, it has affected the sharp and quite open conflicts over the municipal elections in Spassk-Dalny and Spassky districts, from where the Pushkarev influence group originates. Conflicts in the municipal elites also affected Nakhodka. These processes are the result of a deliberate policy of the governor, who is gradually trying to take control of power in the municipalities, but running into obstacles in the face of dissatisfied with this administrative elites and businesses.

Perhaps by now the region has already formed a balance of power within the elite, by the way, not so bad for the governor, if you do not set the goal of subjugating everything and everyone in the region. Although this has become more controversial information about whether Vladimir Miklushevsky himself will want to continue working at his post. The year before last, in connection with the gubernatorial campaign, Vladimir Miklushevsky nevertheless definitely worked to consolidate his position in the region.

Thus, the numerous decisions taken by the federal structures with respect to Primorsky Krai have not yet been converted not only into accelerating the pace of its social and economic development, but even to maintaining the status quo. The regional economy is beginning to noticeably "sag". Stability, but having an inertial character, remains in the financial, social and political spheres. Apparently, the region is waiting for when new projects will finally work, and hope that it will happen all the same. Last year clearly showed that the existing opportunities of the region in both the economic and social spheres have been exhausted. Powerful elites of the region successfully maintain their positions by supporting the center and working for the future. Nevertheless, the pace of promotion of new projects is too slow for the Primorye Territory to easily survive the coming crisis years.
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