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Sakhalin Oblast: 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 past year has become quite special for the Sakhalin region, which has become the focus of attention in connection with the high-profile corruption case that led to the resignation of Governor Alexander Khoroshavin and the further cardinal "cleansing" of the regional elite. But no less important is the fact that the positive regional agenda quickly replaced the negative, although the anti-corruption campaign in the region continues, and all new status quests turn out to be "victims" of criminal cases. Nevertheless, the energetic activity of the new head of the region Oleg Kozhemyako and his successful lobbying of Sakhalin's interests contributed to the beginning of a new stage in the political history of the region, with which high expectations are now associated.

Sakhalin Oblast: results - 2015, trends - 2016

Rostislav Turovsky

Doctor of Political Sciences, Professor of HSE, Scientific Editor East Russia
It should be noted that if the corruption is taken out of the brackets, the financial and economic situation on Sakhalin was developing successfully under the former governor, which was primarily due to the promotion of oil and gas projects. Following the results of 2014, Sakhalin Oblast, according to the official government assessment, entered the top twenty regions with the most effective executive power. Ironically, these results were already announced under Oleg Kozhemyako, and the region received a financial grant as a reward. However, there is no doubt that Sakhalin will be among the "winners" and following the results of 2015

The main question for Sakhalin is how to spend it right?

The results of the last year as a whole confirmed favorable trends, determined by the work of the fuel and energy complex, as the main driver of the regional economy. In particular, the region was distinguished by a noticeable growth in industrial production - by 13,8%. Investments in fixed assets continued to grow (by 14,4% in January-November, 2015), while Sakhalin remains one of the main recipients of investments in the Far East for many years. Although the volume of construction work fell by 13% last year, which may be a sign of an unstable and volatile situation with the preparation and launch of certain large facilities (for example, the construction of one of the largest facilities - Sakhalinskaya GRES-2 is delayed From the original plans). Positive dynamics demonstrates the island village. Over the past three years, the volume of agricultural production has increased by 1,3 times. For 2015 year the volume of production from all categories of farms was about 11,1 billion rubles in current prices, which was 111,7% to 2014 year.

The main source of Sakhalin's pride is the regional budget: in the financial sphere, the region still achieves fantastic results, although it seems that several years ago it reached an already high level. In terms of revenues of its consolidated budget, Sakhalin far surpasses all regions of the Far East (over the past year the region received 223,4 billion rubles). Within the country, its budget is already the seventh largest in terms of revenues, it is comparable with the Sverdlovsk region and slightly inferior to the Krasnodar Territory and Tatarstan (with its own revenues reaching 218,2 billion rubles, Sakhalin is in fourth place in Russia). Given the small population, this provides extremely high by Russian standards of indicators of budgetary security. For Oleg Kozhemyako, who left the Amur Region with its critical financial situation, the transition to Sakhalin was, of course, a huge "gift of fate".

Last year showed a trend towards further growth of budgetary indicators, and precisely because of the region's own revenues. The revenue growth was 43,7%, and own tax and non-tax revenues - 48,4%. These rates were the best in Russia. The basic dynamics was ensured, as before, by the profit tax (growth by 85,2%), whose share in the consolidated budget is now 71,2%. And growth was literally for all significant taxes, even for income (at 12,2%, the best growth rates in the Far East and the fourth in Russia). Proceeds from the tax on extraction of minerals and from the use of state property jumped more than twice, from taxes on aggregate income - by 20,4%, from property tax of organizations - to 18%, etc. Except for excises, the growth was nominal (by 2,6%).

Unsurprisingly, under these conditions, the center continued to reduce transfers, almost completely transferring Sakhalin to self-sufficiency. The share of transfers in the regional budget is only 2%, while subsidies for equalization of budgetary security Sakhalin has not received. The Center last year nearly halved Sakhalin's revenues from the subsidies that make up the largest part of its transfers. However, it does not create any problems now. The level of revenues for subventions, representing the center's obligations with respect to all regions, remained virtually the same (growth by 3,4%).

Not surprisingly, Sakhalin is one of the rare Russian regions that do not have any debt problems. In the region there is no public debt at all, and there are only municipal debts (by the way, third in terms of volume in the Far Eastern Federal District after the Primorsky and Khabarovsk Territories). And over the past year, municipal debt in the region has also declined markedly - by about a quarter (the two regions - the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District and Mari El - have been more actively reducing their municipal debt). The aggregate debt burden on the consolidated budget (the ratio of municipal debt to own revenues of the consolidated budget) is at an extremely low level (1,1%), and the situation is better only in the Tyumen region, and also in Sevastopol, where there are no debts at all.

In the end, Sakhalin faces a slightly strange, but in fact a serious problem - how to properly spend such large financial resources. Last year became from this point of view another experiment. The region, in fact, was trying to spend its money, and its costs increased by 60,65% (the best spending dynamics, far exceeding all other regions). Thus, the budget surplus that became the most typical and the largest in Russia by the end of the year was still reduced to a relative minimum, remaining, however, the maximum for the regions of Russia.

The position of Sakhalin is such that it no longer needs to spend money on the social sphere in even larger amounts, the costs are so high. Therefore, it remains to increase the costs of economic items, which was done. The most impressive was the increase in expenditures on agriculture and fisheries, which exceeded seven times. Against this background, the authorities in the region constantly talked about the priority of this area and the need to achieve food security and self-reliance. True, it did not give immediate results in the form of agricultural growth. The share of these expenses in the regional budget exceeded 10%. The region began to spend even more on utilities (by 15,7%), which is the largest item of budget expenditures. But expenditures on roads rose, on the contrary, slightly - by 4,9% (by the way, they were significantly increased under Alexander Khoroshavin).

As for the social sphere, there are no radical solutions. As the region has even more money, they increased spending on social policy by 25,9%, which for the population may mean more benefits and subsidies (the best dynamics in the Far East and the second in Russia). But in the basic social spheres - education and health care the natural limit is reached, and the level of wages is considered sufficient. As a result, healthcare costs did not increase at all (nominal growth by 0,8%), and education was added 6,7% (which, nevertheless, was among the best growth rates in Russia). Expenditures on physical culture and sports have been reduced, at 11,3%. Perhaps Sakhalin needed to invest more in social infrastructure, but they did not.

Torahs and the fish industry are “branded” areas of regional authority

In general, Sakhalin remains in a rather contradictory situation, when it is still impossible to call it a prosperous region. Rather, there is a habitual state in which economic success is not accompanied by an equally dynamic increase in the level of well-being of its inhabitants. Above we talked about the growth of income from income tax, which indirectly indicates a favorable situation with salaries. But actually the level of real money income of the population for the year has not changed (decrease by 0,8%). Retail trade fell at 3%. All this underscores once again that Sakhalin's wealth is concentrated in the hands of a number of understandable players in the person of FIGs and authorities, but a significant part of the population is not their beneficiaries. Regional authorities provided, of course, the required level of salaries in the budget sector, but are more keen on economic projects.

At the same time, the activities of regional authorities in the economic sphere and the promotion of the interests of the region in the center are quite capable of revitalizing and strengthening those areas that remain abandoned and marginal. Such an approach can create a reserve for the future, contributing to the diversification of the regional economy and the growth of the well-being of its various sectors. The increased attention is paid, as it can be seen in the budget policy, agriculture and fishery. It is worth remembering that the governor himself is a native of the fish business.

Oleg Kozhemyako's activity and experience of interaction with federal structures, which was acquired during the governor's work in the Amur Region and the Koryak Autonomous District, allowed Sakhalin to become one of the most visible and successful partners of the federal center and the Far Eastern bloc of the Russian government. One of the interesting decisions was the transfer of the Corporation for Development of the Sakhalin Region to the Federal Far East Development Fund, which allowed raising the capitalization of the latter to 80 billion rubles. For its part, Sakhalin counts on the Fund's support for its projects and, possibly, on expanding their number. However, it should be remembered that the federal authorities are not ready to "pamper" the region with their financial support and offer to spend funds on projects from the regional budget. In other words, Sakhalin lobbyism can be effective from the point of view of taking decisions by the center in favor of Sakhalin, but it can not turn into a massive infusion of federal funds into Sakhalin.

The policy of the regional authorities, aimed at stimulating promising but lagging industries, was clearly manifested in the history with the territories of advanced development. For some time Sakhalin was not considered a region in need of TOP. As a result, they were still approved by the government. At the same time, their specialization just corresponds to the governor's policy mentioned above. TOP "Yuzhnaya" has agrarian specialization. TOP "Mountain air" is designed to revitalize tourism, and its central object is the local ski resort. In addition, the Sakhalin people are counting on the creation of free ports on the territory of the region, such as Vladivostok (for example, in Kholmsk, Nevelsk, Korsakov), but this issue is being solved slowly and has not been worked out from the point of view of the legislative base.

The fishing industry has become a special and, one might say, “branded” area of ​​work of the regional authorities. It also noted the close interaction of the region with the center, along with the high influence of Oleg Kozhemyako, who heads the working group of the State Council on the development of the fisheries complex. Coordination of issues with Rosrybolovstvo, the Ministry of Agriculture and other instances continued, because it was still not a matter of making final decisions, for example, on the principles of the distribution of fish quotas (we are talking about initiatives about “investment quotas” and Fish mainly on their own or leased vessels: all this is intended to weaken the position of the so-called “fish rentiers”). In the meantime, the governor was engaged in reforming the fish industry directly in the region: a fish exchange started working here, the implementation of the project “Accessible fish”, aimed at providing the population with fish products, was carried out. It is not surprising that Sakhalin is included in the federal project of the fishing cluster, although there it will inevitably compete with Primorye and Kamchatka.

A vivid example of the situation when the main expenses fall on the regional budget, while the center approves and formalizes the decisions, is the new federal target program for socio-economic development of the Kuril Islands (in addition, the region will spend more than 10 billion rubles for the TOP "Mountain Air" and about One and a half billion for TOP "Southern"). This program was approved by the government and is designed for 2016-25 years. At the same time, in the first two years 87% of budget financing is provided by the region, i.e. Federal, this program is more in name. Infusion from the center postponed to 2018-th and subsequent years. In the total volume of the program, the region provides 32 billion rubles, and the center - 28 billions (extrabudgetary sources account for only 9 billions, that is, the Kuriles still remain on budgetary content). At the same time, the stake on direct state financing of the Kuril Islands was also manifested in the fact that they did not create any special regimes on the islands, such as TOR, although this was discussed. Although at the same time the program provides for the growth of private investment in the Kuril Islands one and a half times as a target indicator. In general, it is quite traditional, relying on the infrastructure and on the already emerging and obvious production - fish and mining.

Anyway, but for the regional authorities the Kuriles are becoming one of the main directions of their work. In this regard, their desire to take the process of implementing the FTP under full control is noticeable. This raises many questions to the implementation of the old program, which creates the conditions for pressing the associated business and municipal authorities. In particular, the regional prosecutor's office revealed violations during the implementation of the previous FTP, a criminal case was opened against the head of the Kurilsky urban district N.Golyuk, etc.

Meanwhile, in selecting priority investment projects, the region relies on stimulating a lagging and troubled mining industry - coal mining. The coal project was supported by the Far East Development Fund. It is about upgrading the transport infrastructure of the Solntsevo deposit and the port in Shakhtersk. Perhaps this will improve the situation in the depressed part of the region, where previously there was an increase in social discontent. In addition, it is interesting that Sakhalin decided to implement on its territory a project for the disposal of solid domestic waste (MSW) and also achieved its inclusion in the list of projects that have federal co-financing. This project is implemented by the company Eco-System, and from 900 million rubles to 270 million it is to be provided by the Development Fund of the Far East (the Fund will spend 2,8 billion rubles for a larger coal project). Considering that garbage processing plants cause a negative reaction of the population in many regions, special emphasis is placed on the ecological component of this project on Sakhalin. The strong lobbying position of Sakhalin is evidenced by the fact that the region does not have a large volume of solid waste, but the project is being implemented here.

Fuel and energy complex as a pillar of the regional economy

Meanwhile, the fuel and energy complex still remains the backbone of the regional economy, and the main prospect depends on it. The achieved level is very good, but here it is not all clear with future development, and it is possible that the region is approaching the ceiling of its growth. During the year, issues related to the launch of new facilities for the production of liquefied natural gas (LNG) were not resolved. The expansion of the existing LNG plant of Sakhalin Energy (ie Gazprom and Shell) is linked to the need to prepare a resource base, which is based on the resources of the South Kirinskoye field, the development of which is planned to begin in 2021. The new project of the LNG plant of Rosneft stalled against the background of the conflict between Gazprom and Rosneft. In the process of litigation, Rosneft, which requires access to the Trans-Sakhalin gas pipeline (operated by Sakhalin Energy), was successful, but more tactical in nature. The Supreme Court upheld the position of Rosneft, but the volumes of gas that can be pumped through this pipe are not sufficient to supply the LNG plant. In addition, Sakhalin Energy is also trying to challenge this decision. For its part, Rosneft has repeatedly made it clear that its new LNG plant can be opened not on Sakhalin, but on the other side of the Tatar Strait, in the Khabarovsk Territory, where the DeKastri oil terminal is located.

Overall, the prospects for Rosneft on Sakhalin, which is one of the key regions for the company, have become less clear. Although the company had new, but small projects. For example, it received a license for the South Katangli field. But in addition to the controversial issue about the LNG plant, uncertainty about the work under the Sakhalin-1 project has also grown. For example, the American partner of Rosneft, ExxonMobil, continued to make demands to the state to return about 500 millions of dollars in taxes paid as part of the project at the profit tax rate in 35%, while in Russia the rate was reduced to 2009% . For his part, I. Sechin, without refusing, of course, a partnership with the United States, actively, but without much success, offered to expand participation in the Sakhalin-20 project to Japanese business.

At the same time, Gazprom appears to have felt confident on Sakhalin, although it was involved in a lawsuit with Rosneft. But in any case, its LNG project, which has been working for a long time, has a more reliable, though not quick, prospect than the Rosneft project. It is important for the region to launch a five-year gasification program with 2016, which Gazprom will deal with using gas produced from the Sakhalin-2 and Sakhalin-3 projects. Already in 2016, the volume of supplies should grow by 13% and reach 708,12 million cubic meters. The cost of the entire program is estimated at 15,4 billion rubles.

In addition, gradually, albeit with a delay, the important for the region project “RusHydro” for the construction of the Sakhalin GRES-2 is progressing. At the same time, a compromise decision was made, on which the regional authorities insisted, on preserving, for the time being, the work of the existing coal-fired power station in the village of Vostok. The more controversial, of course, was the ambitious plot of building an energy bridge from Sakhalin to Japan. Here neither the proper economic study nor the agreement with the Japanese side was revealed. Therefore, ultimately no movement occurred.

The active administrative elite is gaining a credit of trust

In general, the change of governor, undoubtedly, led to the growth of Sakhalin's political influence, which he lacked under Alexander Khoroshavin. Sakhalin began to attract more attention from the federal leadership, visits by major officials (including Dmitry Medvedev) increased. Symptomatic was Oleg Kozhemyako's decision to appoint Senator Dmitry Mezentsev, a well-known and status figure from the elite of St. Petersburg, who recently worked as the Secretary General of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), as a senator from the region's executive power. The replacement of Zhanna Ivanovna by Dmitry Mezentsev, a local politician who also fell into his corruption scandal, also clearly determines the trends in Sakhalin's political development.

Positions of Oleg Kozhemyako, as heads of the region, were legitimized with the help of a successful gubernatorial campaign. The new head of the region achieved the highest result in the election of governors in Sakhalin, winning 67,8% of votes. Although we can not say that absolutely new for the region, Oleg Kozhemyako managed to easily and quickly win the support of the Sakhalin people. The elections were held in conditions of low turnout (37,5%). The main competitor of the governor, well-known and experienced participant of many election campaigns Svetlana Ivanova, representing the Communist Party, got a good result - 20,3%. The elections were held in accordance with the Kremlin's instructions, candidates from all parliamentary parties (including a strong representative of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation) and even Yabloko took part in them. And yet, Oleg Kozhemyako was able to turn the expectations of the Sakhalin people from a change of power in their favor.

In this case, the topical issue of Sakhalin is the rotation of the elite, designed to consolidate the position of the new head of the region. After the scandal with Alexander Khoroshavin, the local elite is fragmented and demoralized, which makes political work for Oleg Kozhemyako easier. For his part, the governor, having no support in the Sakhalin elite, made a bid to form a completely new team, which, like himself, is a “Varangian”. The most visible process was the transfer of personnel from the Amur Region, from Oleg Kozhemyako’s previous place of work as governor. At the same time, there are people with whom Oleg Kozhemyako has been working since the period when he headed the Koryak Autonomous District. In particular, the reorganization of the executive branch took place in the region, as a result of which the governor no longer directly headed the regional government. The chairman of the government is the representative of the personal team of Oleg Kozhemyako - Vera Shcherbina (she was the first deputy chairman of the government in the Amur region and was responsible there for the financial unit).

At the same time, anti-corruption campaigns are continuing in the region, leading to new "losses". For example, in the legislative branch the head of the committee of the regional Duma for state construction, regulations and local self-government Sergey Zaritsky was arrested.

Special attention is paid to the rotation of the power elite and the strengthening of the positions of Oleg Kozhemyako at the municipal level. It is interesting and characteristic that even immigrants from the Amur region penetrate here. A recent resonance has recently received a big response, in which Alexander Khoroshavin and his entourage are accused of receiving kickbacks in exchange for supporting the nomination of a number of deputies of the city council of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. This has already led to the arrests and the resignations of individual deputies, and may ultimately result in the holding of early elections for the city representative body.

One of the most harsh decisions of Oleg Kozhemyako was in the meantime the dismissal of the mayor of such an important city as Korsakov Lada Mudrovoy. Because of the corruption case, started during the reign of Alexander Horoshavin, the mayor of the "oil capital" of the Okha region, Alexander Shkrabalyuk, was removed from power (we recall that the city was formerly headed by Alexander Khoroshavin himself). The heads of the Kholmsky district, Aleksandrovsk-Sakhalinsky and others resigned. Other decisions that were typical for the present times were made to abolish direct elections of municipal chapters, for example, in Korsakov and Kholmsk. However, the post of the mayor of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk remains still elective.

Thus, in the Sakhalin region there is a change of local elites to "newcomers", who, however, retain the credit of trust, as shown by the successful election of Oleg Kozhemyako as head of the region. The new team acts very decisively and enjoys visible and effective support of the federal center. It is no accident that Oleg Kozhemyako is considered one of the most influential Russian governors, and this influence was acquired even before the transition to Sakhalin. The effectiveness of the work of the regional authorities undoubtedly feeds on the financial successes of the region, which differ sharply in this respect from the rest of the Far East, and from most regions of Russia. A reasonable decision was made to diversify the economy of Sakhalin, which was highly dependent on the oil and gas sector, including stimulating the agro-complex, reorganizing the fishing industry, developing tourism, etc.

At the same time, the population of the region does not fully feel the financial well-being of Sakhalin, and the level of development of the social sphere leaves much to be desired. There is no full clarity with the prospects of oil and gas projects, in the development of which there may be a slowdown. It is likely that Sakhalin is approaching the peak of its capabilities (although they are far from exhausted), and the authorities' task is to take advantage of the opportunity to ensure its integrated and sustainable development.
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