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Free port is a historic opportunity for Vladivostok

Free port is a historic opportunity for Vladivostok
The project of the Free Port of Vladivostok is taking on the first shape: the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East reported that all proposals “from the ground” were integrated into the draft law developed by the department to the maximum. The EastRussia correspondent met with the head of the city of Vladivostok, Igor Pushkarev, to find out the expectations and aspirations of the capital of Primorye from the new status.

- Igor Sergeevich, Vladivostok in 2012 experienced a serious impulse associated with the holding of the APEC summit here. How do you think Vladivostok is different before 2012 and after?

"It's a different city, it's radically transformed externally." There were unique bridges - through the Golden Horn Bay, to the Russian Island and the low-water "De Vries - Sedanka", 120 km of new roads, junctions, modern university, airport, treatment facilities, new embankments and squares, the city has become 15 times as many lights - their number increased from 3 thousand to 45 thousand! Almost every sphere of municipal economy has changed, a new municipal public transport has appeared, almost 2 thousand apartment buildings have been repaired.

- And the people?

- While there was a big building, there were a lot of rumors that they would not finish, they would leave, they would leave. People were tired of the fact that dirt, dust, traffic jams ... And then they saw that everything was done, that the city was different, and they looked at Vladivostok differently, and loved it even more, having survived with the city all the big construction projects. 

We have a unique history: the townspeople feel involved in these grandiose changes, they see that the history of the city is really being decided, that it acquires new symbols that will be with it forever after that. 

Architecture affects mentality. As it is almost impossible now to imagine a city without bridges, so it is difficult for people to return to what was "before". We have already become different.

- Vladivostok is a port city. People regularly go abroad, first of all - in Asia. Do you feel the influence of Asia, the corresponding needs of the townspeople?

- Vladivostok has always been special and alive, we are used to being the best that we see in our neighbors. We do not need a second grade, we need either either, or better. Tokyo, Beijing, Seoul, San Francisco - these are the cities with which they compare their city residents of the city. And together with the APEC summit we felt ourselves to be a real world center.

- You sometimes voiced the thesis that Vladivostok's main potential is that it is in the heart of a densely populated Asian region.

- 1 million people live in the radius of 400 thousand km from Vladivostok. For comparison, in a similar radius from Moscow - less than 100 million. This is a huge sales market, with our resources we are obliged to use this geographical advantage. What is worth, for example, tourism - an enormous interest. After all, we are the closest European city to many countries of the Asian region.

- And what, in your opinion, is the "Europeanness" of Vladivostok?

- Architecture, people, mentality - everything. We even try for public transport, for example, to take European buses. This is specifically done - for us it is in a certain sense a standard.

- What is the flow of tourists from Vladivostok now?

In 2007 year we had 50 thousand tourists, then we grew up in 5 times - up to 250 thousand tourists. But the potential for us - 2-3 million people for the year. And if the development of the free port goes - there and 10 million can be achieved.

- Speaking of a free port, do you mean visa-free entry?

- Yes, today it is a serious restriction for visitors. Not only that you need to get a visa, you need to register, live where you registered, in the same hotel and so on. There is a concrete example - introduced a visa-free regime with South Korea, the flow of tourists there increased immediately. Previously, approximately the same number of flights were to Beijing, Tokyo and Seoul. And now on Korea in 2-3 times airplanes fly more often than in other capitals.

The most free port of Vladivostok

- When did you first hear the phrase "Vladivostok free port" - at the time of the president's message to the Federal Assembly, or did you know something in advance?

- Before the message. But I was not sure that it will sound as a result.

- Your first assignment, which you gave after the president pronounced the phrase "free port"?

- I immediately sent an SMS to assistants: prepare information about what a "free port" is, in more detail, including from the point of view of historical precedents. The very next day we had an analyst in our hands, began to form our vision of a free port. They launched calculations that would have shown the economic effect of the introduction of this status in Vladivostok. Almost immediately we received a request from Minskostokrazvitiya - how would we like to see a bill on a free port. We sent our proposals, they were all taken into account.

- What is the effect you could calculate?

- The tripling of the GRP of Primorsky Krai over 10 years. This is an 34% increase across the entire federal district. But we considered this only Vladivostok with the adjacent territories.

- So this is the effect of the introduction of the free port regime only in the city, without taking into account the 10 municipal formations reflected in the later versions of the bill?

- Yes exactly. Figures for the large free port of Vladivostok, we are currently updating. According to preliminary estimates, we will receive an increase in tax revenues at the level of 500 billion rubles for 15 years.

- Will the city sustain such economic growth? Traffic jams, traffic problems, ecology - won't it have the opposite effect?

- We understand how to solve these problems. We have projects on the bypass road along the Amursky Gulf (VKAD), which are sufficiently worked out and calculated. There are other infrastructure solutions. The free port regime will allow us to more intensively attract private investors to investments in infrastructure, according to the scheme of public-private partnership.

- Among other amendments to the bill on the free port, you promote the rationale for treating artificially washed territories as part of a free port. Are there plans to create such artificial territories?

- Yes, it is important. We have a lot of plans for building on water - for example, the same marinas for yachting. Many people want to build marinas, but everyone is doing it now in such a pirated way, because it is almost impossible to issue and obtain permission, such a procedure. Therefore, if we make this amendment, it will be legalization for such investments.

In addition, we understand: when building in the city there is a lot of seized soil. There are plans for the sprinkling of new territories from the Amur Bay, where there is shallow water. Most of all in the world, conquers the territory and poured out the Republic of Korea. We intend to take advantage of this experience.

- According to the bill, the free port will be regulated by the supervisory board. The Nabsovet will have broad powers, it will be headed by the Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian government, and all decisions of the Supervisory Board will be binding on the regional and municipal authorities. Is there no manual control here?

- The law is rather a framework, all cases are individual and private. There must be a mechanism that can make decisions flexibly and promptly. This is what the supervisory board looks like to me. At the same time, without direct subordination to the federal government, such a large-scale idea will not work - I originally said, ideally, that the plenipotentiary headed this structure. So in the draft law now there is.

- Do you like the idea with high fines for violations?

- Yes.

- A personal responsibility of municipal and regional officials for failure to comply with the decisions of the Supervisory Board?

- Yes fine. Only it is necessary.

Flags and Guests

- We pass to the most interesting. What free port will give residents? Will he give a job?

- To be precise - raising the standard of living. 

Automatically each will become richer, who has here a square meter of an apartment, land, business, business - all this will immediately cost more. And the opportunities for people who live here will be much more.

- Is the flat tax of a free port a good thing?

- It simplifies the system, makes it transparent and understandable. You pay social contributions - 7,6% (instead of 30%), the employee pays personal income tax 13%, and then - 10% of the difference between income and expenses. This is generally one or two accountants will do in the enterprise. Easy to check, easy to read, everything is clear.

Some foreign colleagues have told me several times that one of the main obstacles for foreign investors when they come to Russia is our Labor Code. Not only is our citizens every third day of the year - a day off, so also social deductions together with personal income tax - this is almost 50% of the wage fund.

- At the discussions, by the way, there was an idea to lower the income tax.

- There is such an idea, but it will be difficult to hold it, because this is the basic income that the budget generates for us. The municipality now receives 21% of the income tax from the collected income tax, from 13%. I think that if you lower it, you can win more - the population will catch up. But here it is necessary to consider. To accept and defend this position, of course, we must all prove seriously, with numbers. We now consider how to do this.

- You came up with the idea that the leading international clinics could develop within the free port in Vladivostok.

- Yes, we consider this very important. Today, a large flow of people and money goes abroad - for many complex cases our fellow citizens prefer to turn to Korean or Singapore clinics. This is typical for the entire APR, only in Primorye, the number of people applying for medical services to South Korea in 2014 exceeded 7 thousand people.

If we allow such high-quality and ultramodern technologies to come to Vladivostok, we will not only halve the cost of these services (for the cost of flight and accommodation in Korea). We will be able to give our population a choice: to be treated for an insurance policy according to our standards or for absolutely different money, but according to South Korean or other standards. As the final decision, where to get medical services, is still for the citizen, we believe that by such a decision we will not harm the domestic medicine. On the contrary, we will create conditions for the exchange of technologies, for the improvement of the skills of our doctors. And we give people the opportunity to save money. It will not be necessary to fly to Korea, the clinic will be here.

- How do you explain the benefits of Korean medicine, what are they? Is it more modern technology?

- Modern technologies, modern regulations, more understandable and simple. There you can invite to the clinic any operating professor, doctor, who will come and operate. And we can't do that, only those who are certified here in this clinic can work. Our doctors are good, but the control system is inflexible.

Our resuscitator is responsible for ensuring that the patient does not die during the operation, but what consequences he will have tomorrow or in a month, he is not responsible. Our nurse is not interested in leaving the patient, but is interested in it. And 50% of the success of the operation depends on postoperative care, and only 50% - on a successful operation. They, the entire team, from the surgeon to the nurse, are focused on the final result.

- What is the interest in this situation of the Korean side?

- Same as with all other foreign residents of the free port - they will earn money.

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