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Space is difficult to comprehend

Pavel Minakir: The Far East is not a statistical line

Space is difficult to comprehend
Special project TORA and Free Port

Director of the Institute for Economic Research of the Far East Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences Pavel Minakir told about the benefits and the number of economic programs of the Far East.

- Pavel Alexandrovich, the Far East is declared a zone of priority development, high-ranking guests are constantly visiting them, and the head offices of large companies and departments are to be transferred to the Far Eastern Federal District. In your opinion, are not these plans too grandiose and formal, insofar as they are realizable, in the current conditions? And what kind of rational grain is there in these programs (of which you spoke 4 a year ago rather ironically)?

- The priority development zone is a strange wording. The fact that the Far East is among the priorities that are being formulated for the investment and budgetary policy of the state is understandable and rational for only one reason. Since the early 2000s, it has become clear that Russia is not able to stay on the European market alone as the main platform for economic expansion. This market is competitive, and it has certain dimensions for its expansion, and they are determined, first of all, by the internal dynamics of the European Union.

Therefore, in order for the open economy of Russia to develop, it needs new directions. And one of the most powerful destinations is East Asia. Russia's pivot to the East is a strategic shift; it is objective and explains the visits of distinguished guests. This is not new: for example, in 1987, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, in order to indicate that Russia needs new markets, came to Vladivostok and made a big speech in which he indicated that Russia was turning towards the Asia-Pacific countries and considered itself, among other things, an Asian power. All this is common phraseology, but I am somewhat confused by the fact that it generates phrases like "The Far East is a priority zone for the development of Russia." If we translate this into a public language, then we get the following: everything else is secondary, and we will raise and develop the Far East.

There are two theses, which only at first glance follow one another: we need to go to the east, and for this we need to accelerate the development of the Russian Far East, and for this we need to increase the population. This is a false logic. The first one does not follow the second one. When the economy of a large country is unfolding in a new direction, it needs new main corridors. Therefore, the country needs a developed railway network, new pipelines, an energy system, modernized port complexes. But this is a program for the development of the network of highways, for the development of the region (if we understand this as an increase in the population, the quality of life, the structure of the regional economy), it has nothing to do with.

And an increase in the population - also one of the plans of the authorities - is a treacherous thing. Up to 1990-ies in the Far East, there were about 8 million people, and now - 6,5 million. First, the army has become smaller, and secondly, the military industry has decreased. To restore the population, all this must be brought back. Consequently, huge funds are needed, and besides, we just need to turn the economy of the country into a giant state military-industrial complex. Spending money on infrastructure is necessary, everything else is a deduction of funds from other articles. There must be iron proof that this deduction will lead to an increase in wealth here and will not lead to a reduction in the rest of the country. And this can very well be, because the economy's efficiency in the Far East is lower than the national average. Doing maneuvers in the Far East with your own well-being is dangerous. Therefore, I do not see rational grains here.

- The economy of the Far East is not in a better position now. Stagnation, depopulation and other similar "-actions" to the Far East are familiar not from textbooks, but from their own experience. What of these trends are most dangerous now, with what the state can and should fight? Are there forces, means, and clear understanding of goals for such a struggle (and not just slogans about a "breakthrough")?

- Where do these persistent errors come from? After all, they were not born today. In the Far East there is no depopulation - a situation where the population dies. There is negative migration here, and it is typical not only for the Far East: in Russia there is a very limited number of places where it is positive. Problems with migration existed in the Far East always. Until 1991, people came here and for a year, and 10 people left 9, but remained alone. Today the situation is different - almost no one comes, because there is no need to go, but they continue to leave.

In recent years, negative migration from the region has decreased. At the beginning of the 1990, there was a volley outflow, but now the situation has stabilized. Young people leave from everywhere, and come to the millionaires, it happens all over the world. In this there is nothing strange, it is impossible to change this situation and it is simply not necessary. From the fact that another power station or road will be built in the Far East, young people will not come here. These arguments are based on the desire to simplify the situation, describing it in accessible terms and examples. But, for example, in Khabarovsk, the price per square meter is almost like St. Petersburg, and in Birobidzhan it is two times lower. In the village of Lazo, Primorsky Krai, you can buy five apartments, selling one in Khabarovsk. Therefore, such reasoning makes sense only when they are taken out of context.

Or one more term - stagnation. The curve from 1990 to 2014 production in the Far East will be lower than the average for Russia. Another curve that shows how the pace varies every year. It turns out that in the Far East for three years the pace is higher, then three years go to a decline. And so constantly. This is due to the fact that in the region the extractive industry mainly operates, and at the same time almost entirely to the foreign market. Its work depends on two things: first, how reserves change, and secondly, how demand varies in foreign markets, and it is cyclical. In the Far East, it is such an economy, it has its own structure and its own growth characteristics. In other regions, other patterns.

What trends are dangerous in the Far East? I do not see specific dangers, there are problems, but they are not exclusively Far Eastern and not quite economic. From this point of view, it would be utopian to draw up some programs that would solve all issues. The economy is distributed unevenly in the Far East: it is centered around cities, and the north, for example, is generally empty and will always remain so.

What is meant by the Far East? 36% of the territory of Russia can not be turned into an ideal economic zone, it's like talking about the accelerated development of Alaska - it is not necessary and useless. Therefore, I refer this to the bureaucratic standard: the title of the Father of the nation is transformed in the Father's consciousness of the territory, and this is not the same thing. Moreover, the responsibility for the economy to function normally does not mean that you build it as you see fit. A thoughtless large-scale imposition of good wishes on a differentiated territory will not be of use. This is evident, since the 1987 programs are constantly being developed for the development of the Far East: they are dated to 1987, 1996, 2001, 2002, 2007, 2013, 2014 for years. Maybe we should stop? The economy develops independently of these programs, at best they do not interfere.

I can not say that they are absolutely meaningless, but we must understand what this meaning is. There are special solutions that can not be realized otherwise, as in the form of a program. For example, to build a pipeline across half of Siberia and the entire Far East (and this is a program), you need to know the extent: for some time the program is good, but when you start to inflate it to the scale of a universal shell, it becomes harmful. In addition, through programs can build schools or maternity homes in villages, which local efforts can not be done.

- In 1930-ies, volunteers actively agitated to move to the Far East (which was involved in the power of the propaganda machine). What are the most effective ways to reduce the outflow of people from this region today? The climate will not be better, the distances will not decrease, prices will not decrease, roads and infrastructure are also unlikely to become much better in the near future. Then what again "will invite volunteers to the Far East"? And which ones?

- There are not many ways to reduce the outflow of population. It's not just a faceless mass. It consists of two extremes - people of older ages who have become obsolete and move to more comfortable regions, and young people who go for careers, expected incomes and a more concentrated and diverse environment. And this does not change - Khabarovsk does not turn into a multi-million megapolis and an area where low prices for housing and a good climate. But we need to understand that in the Far East there remains some nucleus of people - it means that everything is not so bad here. No population moves completely from one place to another, it also happens in people.

And how can you attract people? On Sakhalin began to develop offshore fields. People came there because there was demand and money. There appeared infrastructure, huge factories, and these are not yesterday's fishermen, but highly qualified specialists. Or in Khabarovsk began the reconstruction of the refinery, it makes including the Turks. It's all about demand.

- You put forward the idea of ​​making "free cities" Khabarovsk and Vladivostok, removing all the border barriers. The idea of ​​the porto-franco is not new, it was at one time Odessa, Barcelona, ​​Feodosia, Batum. Vladivostok bore this status from 1861 year on 1909 year. How do you see the implementation of such an idea in modern conditions in relation to our cities in the Far East? What will this give and what risks will a free status have in itself?

- Once I talked about this, but such a proposal has long been irrelevant. This idea is partly reflected in the idea of ​​territories of advanced development (TORs).

The concept of TOR should consist in creating favorable conditions on the basis of large centers - first of all Khabarovsk and Vladivostok - not for foreigners, but for local active population.

It seems to me that it is necessary to give the same active population opportunities and technological skills in small start-ups to work out new products on new technologies. I know they are in Russia. In small areas, within large cities, such zones can be laid. On the Ussuri island - an empty territory - you can make this zone. There are 200 people who are able to make new projects, you could prepare land for them, build a road, stretch the power line, water and just do not touch them for five years. In three to five years they will fill the budget and create a candy from this territory.

- How do you assess the proposal to create territories for advanced development in the Far East and special economic zones? In what improvements do you think the legislation regulating the sphere of public-private partnership, taxes, etc., needs in relation to these plans?

- I want to make territories of advanced development - do it, just do not create 20-30 such territories, this will result in a bureaucratic rush. Create two to start and see what happens. After all, today the situation is paradoxical. In the TOPs, according to officials, amazing conditions for business development will be created. But for what and what business?

When China created its first six free economic zones in 1979 year, they had a clear position: empty land, unlimited manpower, provision for 49 years in renting land at preferential rates, tax relief, comfortable legislation in concluding labor contracts. The Chinese have created a clear business concept, and there are concentrated giant industrial sectors.

What do TORs offer? The abundant and cheap labor in the Far East is not and will not be. Consequently, it is impossible to produce large amounts of labor-intensive products. Tax relief is good when something is produced. But a businessman is interested in the volume of sales, not tax benefits. The proposal to move capacities and capital in the hope that in the new place he will find the same opportunities for production and production that were on the old, but with tax benefits, does not justify itself. There must be either a decisive advantage in the price of production factors-for example, labor-or no one will perform such feats.

In addition, under the sites are offered quite exotic places - Vanino, Komsomolsk-on-Amur, Lazo district. In the Soviet harbor already has a special economic zone, and it does not work.

- Today Russia is regarded in the markets of the APR as a supplier of raw materials only. Under what conditions can it get out of this role, are they possible now? Is there, in your opinion, a world experience, which in this case we should take into service?

- In order to become not just a supplier of raw materials, you need to have technology. Even in the field of extraction and processing of raw materials, we do not have sufficient technology. In connection with the Ukrainian crisis, it became obvious. In this area, we have lagged behind the developed world for a very long time. Therefore, it is necessary to implement the program of targeted technological re-equipment of the country's economy. The last 20 years in Russia are debating whether the country needs an industrial policy? The official point of view claims that it is not needed.

It is impossible to change the structure of such a large economy in a short time. China needed more than 30 years to change the industry, and they did it very objectively and clearly. We need just such an industrial policy. Without technological re-equipment, Russia will remain an exporter of resources.

- You criticized the government plans to boost the Far Eastern economy, calling them “the search for the philosopher’s stone,” and explained what measures you consider adequate. Do you (and the expert community in general) find understanding at the level of the country's leadership, or do your words simply “take note of”?

- It is difficult to be an adviser, but easier than making decisions. The difference in the following - the solutions can be issued continuously, such is the work. And what will happen if decisions are not taken?

Approximately 70% of those ideas and recommendations that we put into circulation, eventually (but almost never one into one) are realized. From the moment you throw an idea, to the moment of response - five to seven years, sometimes faster. I published my first proposals on the formation of model arcs in 2007. Seven years later we see the process of creating TOPs.

- What do you think Moscow does not want to understand at all, can not understand and will not understand about the Far East? What is fraught with such a misunderstanding?

- Moscow - it's really difficult to comprehend - does not understand that space matters. When they say "Far East", they mean a statistical line, a point on the map, which has its own indicators. But this point unfolds into a giant space with completely specific conditions. When you look at a simple statistical line, it's very easy to fantasize.

In addition, there are certain standards, for example, in terms of the number of people. A certain number of people should be built a certain number of schools and hospitals. When you 100 people live on a square kilometer, everything is fine, and when one per kilometer? 50 people live in the village, and the next settlement is in 200 km from it. And unless in this village there should not be a school and a medical center? And they often do not. This is the specificity of social standards that are superimposed on funding standards.

- Is there any risk that in the future the Far East will finally "separate" from the rest of the country if not administratively, economically, socially, according to the level and quality of life of the population?

- No, this will not happen. From a purely economic point of view, it could exist as an independent territory, and such an experience was in the 1920-ies. But there are no ethnic, political and humanitarian conditions in the Far East for this. In addition, all this is possible for a very narrow strip in the Far East, it will stretch along the Amur and along the Ussuri railway to the Khasansky district of Primorsky Krai. This can also be attributed to the south of Sakhalin. Here, a situation may arise where the standards of life, humanitarian, economic and financial ties with China, Korea and Japan will be closer than with central Russia. And I do not think that it would be bad, naturally, while maintaining political sovereignty.

It is much better and more economical to firmly connect the Far Eastern centers with Tokyo, Seoul, Harbin, Beijing and Dalian. It is more natural and more efficient than with Siberian and European cities. In a political sense, nothing bad will happen from this. But here we must step over our statehood. 

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