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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 its interests and their promotion. The republican leadership demonstrates a principled position, constantly interacts with the center, strives to achieve beneficial solutions 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 is somewhat reminiscent of the traditional struggle of the Yakut elites for authority, resources and independence. On the other hand, in this process, contradictions arise, both within the region and in relations with various federal structures. As a result, no fundamental shifts and breakthroughs are observed. Many projects important for the republic remain in limbo, or are being implemented very slowly. Perhaps this is due to the peculiarities of intra-elite relations in the region and the weaker positions of Yakutia in bargaining with the center in comparison with the middle. 1990-x years.

Underwater stones for federal projects

One of the notable subjects here is the territories of advanced development, in respect of which disagreements arose from the very beginning. Several projects were proposed, none of which was perceived as indisputable and certainly promising. Ultimately, Yakutia received only one TOP, and a small one in terms of planned investments (1,2 billion rubles, including about 200 million rubles of budgetary funds) and does not promise any breakthroughs in terms of diversifying the Yakut economy, developing innovative productions. ASEZ Industrial Park Kangalassy was created on the territory of the republican capital of Yakutsk and represents a number of medium-sized industries, where the emphasis is still on the production of building materials (agreements were signed with 9 residents). In the public field, there are many interested players and bright prospects, but nothing breakthrough is actually planned.

In the meantime, other, more original or promising more investment TOPs for various reasons did not take place. TOP "Basalt - new technologies", which assumed the development of relatively innovative materials, is not included in the plans. The "diamond valley" (diamond cutting and tourism) is still talked about, but in the latest version, voiced by the mayor of Yakutsk Aisen Nikolayev, as a potential, and hypothetical project within the framework of the already created TOP. The Zarechye project envisages the construction of a gas chemical plant and provokes protests from residents of the Megino-Kangalassky district, who fear for the environment. In general, we note that the active Yakut community has become an important factor in the processes taking place in the region, protesting against certain projects that can disrupt the ecology, ethnic balance, etc.

The most striking example of the contradictions around the implementation of the federal decision in Yakutia was the situation around the "Far Eastern hectare", which has not yet been resolved. As you know, both part of the republican elite and the public reacted with doubt to the prospects for the implementation of this bill on the territory of Yakutia. Concerns about the disruption of the ethnic balance and the influx of immigrants have become widespread (both in relation to the rural areas where the Yakuts live and to the territories of the indigenous small peoples of the North, for which Yakutia is constantly showing concern). The question of what to do in a situation if mineral reserves are found on the site, for example, placer gold, diamonds, etc. It is obvious that no one has a desire to start a "gold rush" in the republic and give resources into the hands of those who will receive free land in accordance with federal law and, in fact, for other purposes. Protest actions began to be held in the republic, first of all - by the public movement "Sir" ("Earth"), certain politicians also joined the protests (for example, the deputy of the Yakut parliament Ivan Shamaev). A popular topic was the complete exclusion of the republic from the scope of the law.

The republican authorities, for their part, have developed proposals and amendments to the bill. Strictly speaking, there was no refusal to participate in the project on the part of Yakutia, and the republic, like other regions of the Far Eastern Federal District, chose its pilot region, which became the Namsky ulus, which is relatively “safe” in terms of the risks of violating certain interests. At the same time, the republic's authorities insist on the introduction of various restrictions, such as a ban on the implementation of the law on the territory of residence of the indigenous small peoples of the North, in specially protected natural areas, territories of traditional nature management, as well as taking into account the possible occurrence of minerals on "free hectares". 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 such an approach, the region is in dire need of effective lobbying, which would make it possible, articulating its special interest, to achieve success when the center makes certain financial and organizational decisions. In Russia, Tatarstan has succeeded in this, and Yakutia is clearly lagging behind it. To attract federal investment, the republic has recently begun to actively interact with the Far East Development Fund, offering many projects for co-financing, primarily in the agro-industrial complex, transport infrastructure, and the forestry industry. One of the key ideas remains the construction of a transport and logistics center in Nizhny Bestyakh, near Yakutsk, at the end point of the railway connecting the republic with the "mainland" (the project is estimated at 5,6 billion rubles). But in addition to the logistics center, a bridge across the Lena is also needed here, the construction of which is constantly being postponed, and the project of which has already been trying to "break through" the head of the republic E. Borisov (recently 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 rely on the arrival and investment of large federal FIGs, many of which are also able to independently lobby support for their projects at the federal level. At the same time, for the republic, this means a profitable diversification of the economy, but, however, within the framework of the raw materials sector, which was previously traditionally focused on diamond mining.

Gradually, but nevertheless, the solution to the issue of the development of South Yakutia, which in the 560s was seen as a complex megaproject, is being advanced, but did not take place in this capacity due to the high cost. However, the project is gradually being implemented at the level of individual sub-projects. One of the directions is the coal industry, which is usual for Yakutia, but with good growth prospects. Here the driver is the Kolmar company, with its influential co-owners Gennady Timchenko and Andrey Bokarev, which plans to increase coal production at its fields and export it through a terminal in the Khabarovsk Territory. Kolmar received the support of the federal government, which will invest part of the funds in the infrastructure of the Inaglinsky GOK (according to the plan - XNUMX million rubles), where the main production growth is expected (it is also expected to increase production at the Denisovskoye field).

However, another key player in the Yakutia coal industry, Mechel, has yet to cope with its difficulties and is gradually resolving its problems with creditors. Mechel, unlike Kolmar, has never won government support for its Elga deposit. It is assumed that part of its assets (including the railway to the deposit, which Russian Railways has been unable to sell) will be transferred to creditors, and first of all to Gazprombank. Therefore, while the prospects for the Elga project remain unclear, but at least the projects of the politically more influential Kolmar inspire optimism.

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

Along with the extraction of iron ore, the prospect of developing a large gold deposit, the Nezhdaninskoye, again dawned in Yakutia. In recent years, this project began to be forgotten, as it remained motionless. Now he is talking about the creation of a joint venture between the two largest and connected players - Polymetal and Polyus Gold companies for the development of this field, which is one of the most promising in the country (the fourth in the country in terms of reserves).

Gradually, other projects in the mining industry are being implemented, reminiscent of the diversity of the resources for which the bowels of Yakutia are famous. As you know, Rostec and the IST group have begun work at the Tomtor rare-earth metal deposit, which was known in Soviet times, but the development of which has begun only now. Prospects have appeared even for such an industry that found itself in a deep crisis after the collapse of the USSR, such as tin mining. The authorities of the republic and Chinese investors are deciding whether to start work on the Tirekhtyakh Stream field, which will probably begin in 2017.

It is, of course, too early to say that the raw materials sector of Yakutia is experiencing a rebirth. Nevertheless, the prospects for the development of reserves of various minerals are becoming more tangible. However, the state of the two main "pillars" of its economy - the old (diamond mining) and the new (oil and gas sector) - is of much greater importance for the region. And here there is a feeling that the possibilities of the “old”, supporting sector, which the region made good use of last year, are at the same time close to exhaustion. The new sector promises more prospects, but it is not developing so quickly, being dependent on international relations and limited investment resources.

ALROSA as a mirror of republican prospects

In the meantime, the company, which is traditionally associated with Yakutia, ALROSA, has developed its own uncertainty, and at the same time, potentially unfavorable trends for the republic are outlined. Last year, ALROSA kept production despite a sharp drop in demand. And although the company worked for a 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 in the future.

The company has again changed its management, and ALROSA is drifting further and further from Yakutia. As you know, Andrei Zharkov, a native of the Ministry of Finance, became the president of ALROSA, the interests of both government structures and people from a number of FIGs (Nafta Moscow, Rosneft) are represented in the company's governing bodies. The question of the privatization of the company turned out to be very controversial and controversial, which was actively talked about at the beginning of 2016, in the process of developing a "large" all-Russian privatization project. The region faced the question of 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 revising its strategy. It is assumed that from 2016 diamond production will still start to decline. Yakutia is increasingly seen as a resource center of ALROSA dependent on Moscow, while its influence (and the influence of the Mirny branch) on decision-making is decreasing. There is a lot of talk about the stake on the cutting business, but ALROSA sees its key center in the operating plant in Barnaul (and not the further development of cutting in Yakutia, where its own business has already been formed). To promote diamonds to the APR market, which is another key element of the updated strategy, Vladivostok will most likely be used with its project for a diamond exchange and a free port.

However, at the same time, of course, ALROSA remains the most important economic entity with which the republic's prospects are still connected. From this point of view, the launch of an investment project for the development of the Verkhne-Munskoye ore field, which received the support of the Far East Development Fund, is a positive event. It is assumed that the center will invest 8,5 billion rubles in this project (that is, much more than in the Inaglinsky and Taezhny GOKs), and the company itself - 63 billion. Thus, the Verkhne-Munskoye 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 prospects, there is still a struggle for more favorable conditions for the implementation of projects. For example, Rosneft has spent a lot of time and energy looking for partners to develop the Srednebotuobinskoye field. It is already producing small amounts of oil (less than a million tons of oil per year), but a sharp expansion of production is unrealistic without foreign investors. For some time, Chinese companies appeared in this capacity, but it was not possible to agree with them. As a result, a decision was made to transfer part of the shares to Indian companies, with which Rosneft is now developing very well. Another co-owner of the asset is British Petroleum, which is also a shareholder of Rosneft itself. It can be expected that the work at the field will revive.

In addition, the issue of using the benefits provided by the state at other oil fields has become topical. In particular, Surgutneftegaz is promoting and is likely to receive a decision to expand the list of “preferential” fields at the expense of its Yuzhno-Talakanskoye field. The question of privileges for those fields where production began long ago, even before the introduction of preferential regimes was raised: the head of the republic, Yegor Borisov, made such a proposal to Dmitry Medvedev (it was about the fields, the license for which was obtained before December 31, 2001) ... According to analysts, in this case, the Irelyakhskoye field, which is currently controlled by the Dulisma company, may fall under the privileges.

The gas industry, which is designed to become another branch of Yakutia's specialization, has its own uncertainty. No one denies plans to launch the Chayandinskoye field and build the Power of Siberia gas pipeline. These plans were confirmed at the meeting of Yegor Borisov with Alexey Miller. However, according to the experience of exporting oil to China, and taking into account the negative processes in the Chinese economy, one can expect that in the process of implementing the project there will be difficulties associated with bargaining over gas prices and supply volumes. Although in any case, the very launch of production and export will be extremely important for the Yakut economy. Meanwhile, new players began to appear in the gas sector of Yakutia. For example, the Irkutsk Oil Company is engaged in exploration at the Byuk gas condensate field and plans to start production, but in this regard it, of course, 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 problem-free implementation remains only in dreams, the processes require constant monitoring and depend little on the activity of the republican authorities. Analysis of economic statistics shows that so far its old reserves are working well for the region, and new impulses are weak and, in particular, the construction of the gas pipeline is not going so fast. For example, the volume of construction work in the republic last year remained at the same level (nominal growth of 0,8%). In terms of investments, there was a decline of 1,7% (in January-November 2015). However, there was an increase in industry associated with the work, first of all, of the previously created raw materials sector (by 3,8%). On the other hand, despite the emphasized attention paid to agriculture by the regional authorities and abundant subsidies to this sector, there was a decline of 2,2%.

Careful Yakut optimism

It should be added that at the end of 2014, Yakutia entered the four regions of the Far Eastern Federal District, which showed, according to the government methodology, a high level of government efficiency and good dynamics. 2015-th the year looks somewhat ambiguous, not testifying to the comprehensive and sustainable development of Yakutia. This feeling is reinforced by the analysis of social indicators. For example, the real money income of the population in 2015 fell by 1,2%. However, the retail trade turnover, on the contrary, increased by 2,1% (the dynamics was higher in the Far Eastern Federal District only in Chukotka).

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

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

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

Thus, the prospect of further growth in tax revenues can no longer be associated with ALROSA and depends on other companies, especially oil companies. A feature of the republic is also a large state debt (38,3 billion rubles). Its volume is the largest in the Far Eastern Federal District, but in relation to income, the situation is not so critical (33,5% of its own income, which is close to the national average). Nevertheless, the dynamics here are positive, which, of course, cannot be called a positive trend: over the past year, public debt increased by 26,3%, municipal debt - by 31,9%. By the way, the municipal debt of Yakutia, amounting to about 2 billion rubles, is far from the largest in the Far Eastern Federal District (but the rate of its growth was the highest in the Far Eastern Federal District). At the same time, the dependence of Yakutia on loans from the federal budget has sharply increased - an increase in debt by 73,7%. Unsurprisingly, debt service costs are on the rise (up 37,4% last year).

Thus, last year Yakutia used all the possibilities to fill its budget to the maximum and increased spending by 7,6%, allowing only a small budget deficit (-2,8%). A feature of the republic is significant spending on education (31% of budgetary expenditures, the highest indicator in the Far Eastern Federal District), which last year also increased by 8,2% (the sixth indicator of growth rates in the country and the second in the Far Eastern Federal District after Kamchatka). However, the most noticeable increase was the increase in health care expenditures (by 13,3%: but on a national scale it is far from being so large). Yakutia also increased spending on culture (by 6,9%), the share of which in the budget is almost 4%, which is the highest indicator in the Far Eastern Federal District and one of the highest in Russia.

In general, the region still showed no interest in cost savings, and budgetary opportunities allowed this. For example, expenditures on the economy, in particular, on agriculture, increased significantly (by 17,1%). More moderate growth was in the expenditures in the housing and utilities sector (by 4,7%) and in the road sector (by 2,8%). On the other hand, the authorities did not increase expenditures on general government issues (a decline of 0,5%), although they still could not increase the expenditures under this item for the functioning of the authorities.

The situation in Yakutia cannot be called problematic and critical now. The region has its own resources to withstand crisis processes, and at the same time enjoys considerable federal financial assistance. At the same time, the real prospects for a number of raw materials and infrastructure projects, which are now of key importance, remain not entirely clear, which does not allow us to talk about sustainable development of the region and requires even greater efforts to promote its interests.
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