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Republic of Sakha (Yakutia): results - 2015, trends - 2016

East Russia continues the cycle of analytical publications devoted to the results of the past year and the analysis of the situation in the current year in the socio-economic and political spheres of life in the regions of the Far East and Eastern Siberia

The events taking place in and around Yakutia continue to leave an ambivalent impression. On the one hand, there is an active struggle of the republic for their interests and their advancement. The Republican leadership demonstrates a principled position, constantly interacts with the center, strives to achieve profitable decisions and preferences for the region.

Republic of Sakha (Yakutia): results - 2015, trends - 2016

Rostislav Turovsky

Doctor of Political Sciences, Professor of HSE, Scientific Editor East Russia
In this sense, the situation somewhat resembles the traditional struggle of the Yakut elite for power, resources and independence. On the other hand, contradictions arise in this process, both within the region and in relations with various federal structures. As a result, there are no fundamental changes and breakthroughs. Many projects that are important for the republic remain in limbo, or are implemented very slowly. Perhaps this is due to the peculiarities of intra-elite relations in the region, and to the weaker positions of Yakutia in bargaining with the center versus the middle 1990-x years.

Underwater stones for federal projects

One of the notable plots here are the territories of priority development, in relation to which disagreements arose from the very beginning. Several projects were proposed, none of which were perceived as indisputable and unconditionally promising. In the end, Yakutia received only one TOR, with a small amount of planned investments (1,2 billion rubles, including about 200 million rubles of budget funds) and not promising any breakthroughs in terms of diversification of the Yakut economy, development of innovative industries. The TOR “Industrial Park Kangalassy” was created in the republican capital of Yakutsk and is a series of medium-sized industries where the emphasis on building materials production is still visible (agreements signed with 9 residents). The public field talks about the multitude of interested players and bright prospects, however, nothing really breakthrough is planned.

In the meantime, other, more original or more promising investments in the Torah for various reasons have not taken place. TOR "Basalt - New Technologies", which suggested the development of relatively innovative materials, does not appear in the plans. The “diamond valley” (diamond cutting and tourism) is still spoken about, but in the latest version, voiced by Yakutsk mayor Aisen Nikolayev, as a potential, moreover, hypothetical project within the framework of an already established TOP. The project "Zarechye" provides for the construction of a gas-chemical plant and causes protests of residents of the Megino-Kangalassky district, who fear for the environment. In general, we note that the active Yakut public has become an important factor in the processes occurring in the region, protesting against those or other projects that could disrupt the environment, ethnic balance, etc.

The most vivid example of the contradictions surrounding the implementation of the federal decision in Yakutia was the situation around the "Far Eastern hectare", which so far has not been resolved. As is known, both part of the republican elite and the public were skeptical about the prospects for implementing this bill in the territory of Yakutia. Fears about the violation of ethnic balance and the influx of migrants (both in respect of rural areas where the Yakuts live, and for the territories of the indigenous small peoples of the North, which are constantly shown in Yakutia) have become widespread. The question of what to do in a situation if on a site there will be found out stocks of minerals, for example, alluvial gold, diamonds and so forth has appeared not absolutely clear also. It is obvious, that nobody has desire to begin in the republic "gold fever" and give resources in the hands of those who will receive free land in accordance with the norms of the federal law and, in essence, for other purposes. Protest actions began to be held in the republic, first of all, by the social movement "Sir" ("Earth"), some politicians (for example, the deputy of the Yakut parliament Ivan Shamaev) joined the protests. A popular topic was the complete exclusion of the republic from the scope of the law.

The authorities of the republic, for their part, have developed proposals and amendments to the draft law. Strictly speaking, there was no refusal to participate in the project from the side of Yakutia, and the republic, like other regions of the FEFD, chose its pilot region, which was the Namsky ulus, relatively “safe” from the point of view of risks of violation of certain interests. At the same time, the authorities of the republic insist on imposing various restrictions, such as a ban on the implementation of the law on the territories inhabited by indigenous peoples of the North, on specially protected natural territories, on territories of traditional nature use, and also on taking into account possible occurrence on “free hectares” of mineral resources. Thus, Yakutia is trying to defend its special status and special interests, which has always distinguished and continues to distinguish it from other regions of the Far East.

However, with this approach, the region also needs effective lobbying, which, while articulating its particular interest, would be able to achieve success with the adoption of certain financial and organizational decisions. In Russia, Tatarstan succeeded in this, and Yakutia clearly lags behind it. In order to attract federal investments, the republic recently began actively interacting with the Far East Development Foundation, offering a variety of projects for co-financing, primarily in the agro-industrial complex, transport infrastructure, and forestry. One of the key ideas is the construction of a transport and logistics center in Nizhny Bestyah, near Yakutsk, at the final point of the railway linking the republic to the "big earth" (the project is estimated at 5,6 billion rubles). But in addition to the logistics center, there is a need for a bridge across Lena, whose construction is constantly postponed, and the project of which has been attempted for a year by the head of the republic E.Borisov (recently there are negotiations with Chinese investors). But so far, no specific decisions on federal funding have been made.

New features of the Yakut commodity sector

To a greater extent, the republic has to hope for the arrival and investment of large federal financial-industrial groups, many of which are also able to independently lobby for support for their projects at the federal level. At the same time, for the republic, this means profitable diversification of the economy, but, true, within the framework of the commodity sector, which was previously traditionally focused on diamond mining.

Gradually, but still advancing the issue of the development of South Yakutia, which in zero years was seen as a comprehensive megaproject, but in this capacity did not take place due to high prices. However, the project is gradually being implemented at the level of individual subprojects. One of the directions remains the coal industry that is usual for Yakutia, but with a good prospect of growth. Here, the driver was the company Kolmar, with its influential co-owners Gennady Timchenko and Andrey Bokarev, who plans to increase coal production in their fields and export it through a terminal in the Khabarovsk Territory. Colmar received support from the federal government, which will invest part of the infrastructure of the Inaglinsky GOK (according to plan - 560 million rubles), where the main production growth is expected (it is also planned to increase production at the Denisovskoye field).

However, another key player in the coal industry of Yakutia, Mechel has not yet coped with its difficulties, and gradually resolves its problems with creditors. Mechel, unlike Kolmar, did not get state support for its Elginsky deposit. It is assumed that part of its assets (including the railroad to the field, which can not be sold by JSC Russian Railways) will pass to creditors and first of all - Gazprombank. Therefore, while the prospects of the Elgin project remain not completely clear, but at least inspire optimism projects of the politically more influential "Colmar".

But if the coal industry is still familiar to Yakutia, the launch of the production of iron ore can somewhat diversify its raw materials sector. The Evraz Group’s Taiga GOK project (co-owner of the asset is ALROSA) also received federal support, and the state will finance the construction of energy facilities and a railway station (at 1,6 billion rubles). But at the same time, a lot of complaints have accumulated in the process of implementing this project, since the company works extremely slowly.

Along with the extraction of iron ore in front of Yakutia, the prospect of developing a large gold deposit, Nezhdaninsky, again dawned. The last years about this project began to be forgotten, as he remained without movement. Now he talks about the creation of a joint venture between two largest and related players - the Polymetal and Polyus Gold companies to develop this field, which is among the most promising in the country (the country's fourth largest in terms of reserves).

Other projects in the mining industry are gradually being implemented, reminding of the diversity of the riches for which the bowels of Yakutia are famous. As you know, Rostec and the ICT group began work on the Tomtor deposit of rare earth metals, which was also known in Soviet times, but which was started only now. Prospects even appeared in such an industry, which turned out to be in a deep crisis after the collapse of the USSR, like tin mining. The authorities of the republic and Chinese investors are deciding whether to start work on the Tirehtyakh Creek field, which will probably begin in 2017.

So far, of course, it's too early to say that the raw material sector of Yakutia is experiencing a second birth. Nevertheless, the prospects for developing reserves of various minerals become more tangible. However, much more important for the region is the state of the two main "whales" of its economy - the old (mining of diamonds) and the new (oil and gas sector). And here there is a feeling that the opportunities of the "old" support sector, which the region has benefited from well last year, are at the same time close to exhaustion. The new sector promises more prospects, but it does not develop so quickly, depending on international relations and limited investment resources.

ALROSA as a mirror of republican prospects

In a company that is traditionally associated with Yakutia, ALROSA, meanwhile, had its own uncertainty, and at the same time potential trends unfavorable for the republic are outlined. Last year, ALROSA retained production, despite a sharp drop in demand. And although the company worked at the warehouse, it was good for the republic, since it received both an increase in industrial production and considerable tax revenues. However, this option does not work for the future.

The company changed its management again, and ALROSA drifts further and further from Yakutia. As you know, the president of ALROSA was Andrei Zharkov from the Ministry of Finance, the interests of both governmental structures and natives of a number of FIGs (Nafta Moskva, Rosneft) were represented in the governing bodies of the company. Very controversial and controversial was the issue of privatization of the company, which was actively discussed at the beginning of 2016, in the process of developing a "large" all-Russian privatization project. Before the region, the question arose how not to lose its blocking stake, and in this regard, the authorities of Yakutia announced their firm intention to keep it in their hands. Otherwise, the influence of Yakutia on ALROSA will be lost completely and irrevocably, and this is not only an economic loss, but also a painful blow to the image.

In any case, ALROSA, under the influence of the federal center, is already reviewing its strategy. It is assumed that with 2016, diamond mining will start to decline. Yakutia is increasingly seen in the role of the raw materials center of ALROSA, dependent on Moscow, with a decrease in its influence (and the influence of the Myrninsky branch) on decision-making. Much is said about the rate for the lapidary business, but its key center for ALROSA is the operating plant in Barnaul (and not the further development of the cut in Yakutia, where the business has already formed). To promote diamonds to the Asia-Pacific market, which is another key element of the updated strategy, Vladivostok will most likely be used, with its diamond exchange project and free port.

However, at the same time, of course, ALROSA remains the most important economic entity, with which the prospects of the republic are still connected. From this point of view, a positive development is the launch of an investment project to develop the Verkhne-Munskoye ore field, which received support from the Far East Development Fund. It is assumed that the center will invest in this project 8,5 billion rubles (ie, much more than in Inaglinsky and Taiga GOKI), and the company itself - 63 billion. Thus, the Upper-Munsky ore field will become one of the most capital-intensive projects in the republic.

Oil and gas chances of the region

As for oil and gas, which, from a financial point of view, promise no less prospect, there is still a struggle for more favorable conditions for the implementation of projects. For example, Rosneft has spent a lot of time and effort searching for partners to develop the Srednebotobu deposit. It already has a small production (less than a million tons of oil per year), but without foreign investors a sharp expansion of production is unrealistic. For some time, Chinese companies appeared in this capacity, but it was not possible to reach an agreement with them. As a result, a decision was made to transfer part of the shares to Indian companies, relations with which Rosneft now develop very well. Another co-owner of the asset was British-based British Petroleum, which is a shareholder of Rosneft itself. It can be expected that work at the field will quicken.

In addition, the issue of using state-provided benefits in other oil fields has become topical. In particular, Surgutneftegaz promotes and with a high probability will receive a decision on expanding the list of “preferential” deposits at the expense of its South Talakanskoye field. The question was raised about the benefits for those fields where mining began long ago, even before the introduction of preferential regimes: the head of the republic Yegor Borisov addressed this proposal to Dmitry Medvedev (it was about fields whose license was obtained before 31 December 2001) . According to analysts, in this case, the Irelyakhskoye field, which is currently controlled by Dulisma, may be eligible for benefits.

In the gas industry, which is called to become another industry specialization of Yakutia, there is its own uncertainty. No one denies the plans for the launch of the Chayandinskoye field and the construction of the "Siberia Power" gas pipeline. These plans were confirmed at the meeting of Yegor Borisov with Alexei Miller. However, from the experience of exporting oil to China, and taking into account the negative processes in the Chinese economy, one can expect that in the course of the project implementation difficulties will arise related to the trade in gas prices and volumes of supplies. Although in any case, the very start of production and export will be extremely important for the Yakut economy. Meanwhile, new players began to appear in the gas sector of Yakutia. Thus, the Irkutsk oil company is engaged in exploration at the Buk gas condensate field and plans to start production, but in this respect, of course, it depends on Gazprom and will have to synchronize its activities with it.

Thus, the number of promising projects in Yakutia remains considerable and even grows. But, as usual, their quick and smooth implementation remains except in dreams, processes require constant monitoring and little depend on the activity of republican authorities. An analysis of economic statistics shows that so far its old reserves are working well for the region, and the new impulses are weak and, in particular, the construction of the gas pipeline is not so fast. For example, the volume of construction work in the republic last year remained at the same level (nominal growth of 0,8%). As for investments, a decline of 1,7% was observed at all (January-November, 2015). There was, however, a growth in industry related to the work, first of all, of the previously created primary sector (by 3,8%). On the other hand, despite the underlined attention to agriculture of the regional authorities and heavy subsidies to this sector, it was marked by a decline of 2,2%.

Careful Yakut optimism

It should be added that, following the results of 2014, Yakutia entered the four DFO regions, which showed, according to the government’s methodology, a high level of power efficiency and good dynamics. 2015-th the year looks somewhat ambiguous, not indicative of the complex and sustainable development of Yakutia. This feeling reinforces the analysis of social indicators. For example, real money income of the population in 2015 fell by 1,2%. However, the retail trade turnover, on the contrary, grew by 2,1% (the higher dynamics was in the DFO only in Chukotka).

In the meantime, Yakutia remains one of the richest regions of the Far Eastern Federal District, in terms of filling its budget. It is still able to increase its own revenues, and receive huge federal transfers. In terms of regional budget revenues (186,5 billion rubles for 2015 year), Yakutia ranks second in the Far Eastern Federal District after Sakhalin. By the volume of transfers (59,2 billion rubles) Yakutia is the undisputed leader of the DFO and is among the five largest recipients in the country as a whole (second only to Moscow, the Crimea, Dagestan and Chechnya). In particular, the region is the all-Russian leader in terms of subsidies for equalizing the budgetary provision (47,8 billion rubles). At the same time, the inflow of subsidies and subsidies is quite large.

But still we can talk about the slow growth in the level of financial self-sufficiency of the region, which is fully correlated with the development of the Yakut fuel and energy complex and the savings of federal funds (the share of federal transfers in revenues is, according to 2015, 31,8%). The inflow of federal transfers to the republic last year fell by 7,6%. The reduction of subsidies turned out to be noticeable - by 8,6%, incl. to equalize budget provision - by 5,65%. Reduced Yakutia and subsidies - by 4,2%. It is noteworthy that last year the authorities of the republic opposed the new method of calculating subsidies, which binds them to the number of residents. Obviously, Yakutia loses from this, according to its own estimates, about 6 billion rubles a year. At the same time, the volumes of subventions vary little and showed an increase of 2,7%, but it does not cover the reduction of other transfers.

At the same time, Yakutia demonstrates excellent indicators of its own income growth, and this instills cautious optimism. Last year, growth was 19,4%, which exceeds even inflation and is rare for the regions of Russia (in terms of growth, it ranked fifth in Russia). However, the main reason for the growth was steel revenues from the mineral extraction tax (by 78%, in the Far Eastern Federal District only Sakhalin was ahead of it in terms of growth rates of revenues from this tax). As is known, the tax on diamond mining goes entirely to regional budgets, as a result of which the mineral extraction tax of the Yakutia budget is 20,4% in its own revenues. But if ALROSA reduces production, this may adversely affect budget statistics. As for the other key taxes, by the income tax, on the contrary, there was almost no increase (by 1,7%), and the income tax still showed a good growth by 7,2%, indirectly indicating a rise in wages. Of the less significant revenues to the budget, an excellent growth was shown by the property tax of organizations (by 34,4% - the best rates in the DFO) and revenues from the use of state and municipal property (by 23,9% - the second indicator of growth in the DFO after Sakhalin). In terms of growth in land tax revenues (by 44,7%), Yakutia became the Russian leader.

Thus, the prospect of further growth in tax revenues can not already be linked to ALROSA and depends on other companies, especially oil companies. A feature of the republic is a large public debt (38,3 billion rubles). Its volume is the largest in the Far Eastern Federal District, but in relation to incomes the situation is not so critical (33,5% to own revenues, which is close to the average for the country). Nevertheless, the dynamics here are positive, which, of course, can not be called a positive trend: last year the public debt grew by 26,3%, municipal debt - by 31,9%. By the way, the municipal debt of Yakutia, which is about 2 billion rubles, is not the largest in the Far Eastern Federal District (but its rate of growth was the highest in the Far Eastern Federal District). At the same time, the dependence of Yakutia on loans from the federal budget increased sharply-an increase in debt by 73,7%. Not surprisingly, the cost of debt servicing is constantly growing (last year - at 37,4%).

Thus, last year, Yakutia used to the maximum all opportunities to fill its budget and increased spending on 7,6%, allowing only a small budget deficit (-2,8%). A significant feature of the republic is significant spending on education (31% of budget spending, the highest figure in the Far Eastern Federal District), which last year also increased by 8,2% (the sixth growth rate in the country and the second in the Far Eastern Federal District after Kamchatka). However, the most noticeable was the increase in spending on health (by 13,3%: but in the all-Russian scale it is by far not so large). Yakutia also increased spending on culture (at 6,9%), whose share in the budget is almost 4%, which is the highest in the DFO and one of the highest in Russia.

On the whole, the region still showed no interest in saving money, and budgetary opportunities allowed it. Expenses for the economy, in particular, for agriculture (by 17,1%), for example, have significantly increased. More moderate was the increase in expenditures in the housing and utilities sector (by 4,7%) and road facilities (by 2,8%). On the other hand, the authorities did not increase the expenditures on national issues (a decline of 0,5%), although at the same time they couldn’t increase the expenses on the functioning of the government.

The situation in Yakutia can not now be called problematic and critical. The region has its own resources in order to withstand crisis processes, and at the same time it enjoys considerable federal financial assistance. At the same time, the real prospects of a number of raw and infrastructural projects that are now of key importance remain unclear, which does not allow us to speak about the sustainable development of the region and requires even greater efforts to advance its interests.
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