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Siberia and the Far East are integral parts of a single macroregion
In modern conditions, an integrated approach to the management of Siberia and the Far East is needed, the candidate of economic sciences, senior researcher at the Faculty of World Economy and World Politics of the Higher School of Economics, Igor Makarov
The pivot to the East in Russian public policy is gaining momentum. In 2015, its institutional base was formed: the law on priority development territories (TORs) came into force, the status of Vladivostok as a free port was fixed, the first priority investment projects were approved, the Corporation and the Far East Development Fund started working.
Igor MakarovAssociate Professor, Department of World Economy, Higher School of Economics, Ph.D.
It is now that the key moment of the Russian turn to the East is coming. There is a great temptation to pause: the process of forming a new structure for managing the region has been completed, now we can wait for the results. However, this approach would be a mistake.
First, the structural problems of the development of the Far East have not disappeared: the economy is still exclusively of a raw material nature, foreign capital does not flow, and the outflow of the population continues. Without solving these problems, the region can hardly turn into a long-term driver for the development of the Russian economy.
Secondly, since the beginning of an active state policy for the development of the Far East, the external environment has changed significantly. Hopes for a massive inflow of investments from abroad are not being justified. In the TOPs, which were conceived as a platform specifically for foreign investors, so far only one foreign resident has been registered. Commercial banks and investment funds of Asian countries assess the risks of investing in Russia as high against the background of general economic problems, political risks and sanctions from the West. Even among Chinese financial institutions, only development banks and the Silk Road Fund are active in relation to Russia, while loan terms are generally unattractive. The situation is aggravated by the general slowdown in the Chinese economy, the instability of the national financial markets and the anti-corruption campaign that keeps the Chinese elites from taking any risky initiatives.
Another important trend is China's turn to the West. The country is trying to prolong extensive economic growth through the accelerated development of relatively underdeveloped inland regions, to involve the countries of Central Eurasia in its development model, and to diversify the risks of export deliveries in the face of heightened competition with the United States on the seas.
The Russian model for the development of the eastern territories was developed in a different international environment. Without being adjusted, it turns out to be unable to adapt to new risks and seize opportunities.
First, given the difficulties of attracting large foreign business, more and more attention should be paid to interaction with medium and small businesses, both Russian and foreign. However, this is not enough to create administrative oases on the most promising sites. We need consistent work by both federal authorities and regional and local administrations to reduce administrative pressure, remove excessive barriers to business, facilitate access to infrastructure, and create a favorable social environment. The East of Russia could become a place for testing a new economic model based on the all-round encouragement of private initiative. A model that can later be extended to the entire country.
Secondly, under the new conditions, an integrated approach to the management of Siberia and the Far East becomes not only desirable, but necessary. It was incorporated into the original idea of turning to the East - in particular, when S.K. Shoigu proposed an ambitious project to create the State Corporation for the Development of Siberia and the Far East. In his Address to the Federal Assembly 2013 V.V. Putin called the rise of Siberia and the Far East "a national priority for the entire XNUMXst century." And then they forgot about Siberia - in the next Messages they talked only about the Far East, which also limits the sphere of responsibility of the relevant ministry.
Meanwhile, Siberia and the Far East are integral parts of one macro-region. They are linked historically - since the time of Russian explorers, the name "Siberia" referred to the entire territory from the Ural Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. A special identity has developed on this territory, personified by the right head of a two-headed eagle on the national emblem. Siberia and the Far East are actively interacting with each other at the level of economic ties and human contacts - often more actively than with Moscow. Finally, they are interconnected infrastructurally - through the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Northern Sea Route.
The economic potential of Siberia is generally higher than the economic potential of the Far East. The population of the Siberian Federal District is 19,3 million people, the Far East - 6,2 million (with a larger area of the territory). The Siberian Federal District is no less rich in natural resources, but it has great opportunities for the development of industries with high added value. The human potential is higher here: for example, in the top twenty of the rating of Russian universities there are five Siberian universities and not a single Far Eastern one.
The main curse of Siberia is its continentality, remoteness from key sales markets, complemented by poor development of transport infrastructure. The Silk Road Economic Belt project launched by China opens up new opportunities for Siberia. If the region manages to integrate into the transport-industrial cluster being created in Central Eurasia, it can find a new breath, turning the disadvantages of its geographical position into advantages.
The accelerated development of the Far East without taking into account its close relationship with Siberia will inevitably lead - through the utilization of transport capacities - to the aggravation of the continental position of the latter. Meanwhile, the development of the Far Eastern infrastructure, on the contrary, should have one of the goals of making Siberia "closer" to foreign markets. However, it is difficult to demand this from the Ministry for the Development of the Far East, whose sphere of responsibility does not include Siberia.
Similar coordination problems arise in the development of the Arctic, the division of which into Siberian and Far Eastern is nothing more than an administrative convention. However, it impedes the coordinated development of infrastructure, because a significant part of it - the one connected with the Northern Sea Route - has an interregional character.
Now that the development institutions of the Far East have started working, coordination of the development of this region with Siberia is the next important task in the framework of the policy of accelerated development of the East of Russia. It is best to solve it in parallel with the development of specific mechanisms for coupling the Eurasian integration project with the Silk Road Economic Belt. The processes taking place in the Asia-Pacific region and in Central Eurasia are unfolding very quickly, and it is important for Russia to keep up with them. The turn to the East itself was a decade late due to the rapid economic growth of the East Asian states. Now it is important not to repeat the previous mistakes.