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Typical periphery with raw orientation

For the full development of the Far East, he always needed state support

In an interview with EastRussia, Maria Goryachko is a member of the Expert Club under the Public Council of the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East, Associate Professor of the Department of Economic and Social Geography of Russia, Faculty of Geography, Moscow State University. Lomonosov and the head of the university laboratory for regional analysis shared her views on how dependent the future of the Far East is on its socio-economic past and present.

Typical periphery with raw orientation
Photo: Denis Kabelev /

Maria Goryachko

Head of the Laboratory of Regional Analysis and Political Geography of the Geographical Faculty of Moscow State University Lomonosov
- The government is trying to stimulate the development of the economy in the Far East with the help of the preferences of the ASEZ and the Free Port, to attract investment here from the Asia-Pacific countries, and not only in the raw materials sector, but also in the processing industry. What do you think, Maria Dmitrievna, does the macroregion have the potential in terms of industrial development, production of products with high added value?
- When assessing the potential of the territory, one must always take into account its geographical location. The Far East is a typical peripheral territory with a commodity orientation of the economy, which is unlikely to become a semi-periphery, even at the national level. For Russia, it is strategically important, as this is our only way out to the Asia-Pacific region (APR). The latter, because of its rapid economic growth, will determine the development of the entire world civilization in the near future. For the APR, the Russian Far East is: a short transit route to America and Europe, and a variety of resources needed for existing production facilities, and an almost untouched corner of wildlife in close proximity to densely populated and developed areas.

But with all the strategic importance of the Far East for Russia, its remoteness from the central regions of the country predetermined its historical and economic destiny: for the full development of the macroregion in the context of Russian civilization, it always needed state support.

Today, to develop high-tech industries in the Far East, human capital is needed. He is extremely limited here. Plus, there should be an initiative and desire from the bottom up to develop and introduce new technologies into practice. This, in turn, depends on the availability of favorable social conditions in the region, a developed institutional environment. For example, given that innovative industries are usually not large enterprises, transparent and understandable "rules of the game" for small businesses would contribute to their effective operation.

If we ignore the raw material component, the development of high-tech industries can be considered in the southern regions of the Far East, while the northern ones should concentrate more on their research functions, for example, in the direction of Arctic research. The directions of development can be very different: the production of energy-saving equipment, the development of mariculture, the development of new methods of technology of offshore extraction of natural resources, the production of technological equipment, etc.

- Do you think it will be possible to create the Zvezda shipbuilding cluster in the Far East (based on the Bolshoi Kamen TOP), capable of competing with such "monsters" as the shipyards of China, South Korea, and Japan?
- The implementation of this project, firstly, is impossible without attracting foreign partners-investors and their technologies: this makes it possible to increase the competitiveness of the products and expand the sales market in the future. Secondly, the creation of a powerful shipbuilding cluster depends on the implementation of a number of other regional projects. In particular, it is necessary to develop the northern territories, to cover the needs for equipment and personnel. 

In the meantime, we can reason within the framework of the logic of intent. And here everything is optimistic: the first in Russia shipyard of large-capacity shipbuilding with the processing capacity up to 330 thousand tons of steel per year is being created in the TOP "Big Stone" of Primorsky Krai. The product line of the shipyard will be high-tech large-capacity vessels, elements of offshore and onshore oil and gas facilities, marine equipment, ships of the servicing fleet, including the ice class. The new shipyard must build vessels of any complexity, characteristics and designations, including those that were not previously produced in Russia. The stage-by-stage commissioning of the entire complex of SK Zvezda production facilities will be completed at the end of 2024.

By the way, the fact that it is of great interest to Chinese investors speaks in favor of the project. For example, China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation, participates in contracts for the construction and supply of a transport and transfer dock for the IC Zvezda.

- Your forecast in connection with the implementation of the law on "Far Eastern hectares." How large and decisive in the demographic plan do you think will be the inflow to the Far East from other macro regions of Russia?
- The law on the “Far Eastern hectare” itself is very attractive, but the scale of the migration movement of the population from the regions of the European part of Russia to the Far East is insignificant. And I do not see any serious reasons for changing the situation yet. But this law can affect the migration of the population within the Far East. Judge for yourself - for historical reasons, two centers have developed in the Far East that concentrate large human and financial resources and have significant scientific and educational potential - these are Khabarovsk and Vladivostok, located in the southern part of the macroregion. By the way, they compete with each other for the role of the largest city in the Far East. Both cities serve an area equal to 36% of the country's area, but with a population share of only 3,5% of the total Russian. And despite their leading position in the territorial structure of the Far East, Vladivostok and Khabarovsk are not developed urban centers like, say, central Russia. For quite a long time (twenty years, no less), these two cities were losing population, as well as the macroregion as a whole.

Today, due to natural growth, both cities grow in number of inhabitants, and Khabarovsk has a more stable growth potential (annual population increase of 7 thousand against 4 thousand in Vladivostok). The reason is the demographic fluctuations and the migration inflow of the population from the depressive regions (more often, the northern) of the Far East. Arriving (as a rule, these are economically active and socially adapted people) usually migrate not to the cities themselves, but to their suburbs, where various forms of leasing relationships develop. And this category of the population already enjoys, and certainly will not fail to do so in the future, the law "on the Far Eastern hectare."

- Today they talk a lot about the logistics potential of the Far East. But it has not yet been implemented: the ports are low-capacity in terms of handling containerized cargo, the Transsib is still not modernized. Does the government today have the opportunity to invest in the port and rail infrastructure of the region, or effective ways to attract foreign investment for this?
- Expansion and elimination of bottlenecks should be carried out taking into account the calculation of growing traffic flows to / from the regions of the Far East. Attraction of foreign investment is possible provided that foreign investors are interested in these projects to expand the bottlenecks of the transport and logistics infrastructure of Russia. Are they interested in this if, for example, the share of transit of Chinese goods through the territories of Russia and Kazakhstan is less than 2%? The widely discussed project "New Silk Road" is still very vague - there is still no scheme of cargo transportation from China to Europe, financial issues have not been resolved, etc.

- How do you assess, in general, the quality of management of the Far Eastern constituent entities of the Russian Federation? Is it possible to single out individual regional leaders among the governors who have clearly demonstrated economic and socio-economic achievements in the last three to five years?
- I find it difficult to answer this question. The last three to five years are not the most successful for the Russian economy. Against this background, it is extremely difficult to assess the success or failure of the socio-economic development of a particular region. As well as the quality of its management. I think that from an economic point of view, we can call those regions where a large part of the revenue base is not formed at the expense of export-oriented industries. But this is hardly directly related to the managerial skills of regional leaders.

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