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Three in one
The unified management of regions united in one or another way in the Far East is assessed by a number of experts as difficult, if not impossible
The idea of uniting a number of Russian regions has recently gained more and more supporters in the Federation Council.
The modern development of Russian regions is increasingly turning from the claims and demands of the regions themselves to the federal center into the area of responsibility of local administrations. At the same time, the opportunities to "justify" the regions with low rates of economic development are becoming less and less, since now there are many examples of intensively rising regions that are in conditions relatively similar to those of depressive subjects. For example, the Belgorod region, which lives much better than the Kursk region, or the Lipetsk region, which is significantly ahead of the Voronezh region in its development.
Experts in most cases see the reason for the different levels of development of "similar" subjects in the low quality of management of depressed regions, that is, the responsibility for the current situation is completely assigned to the regional administrative team.
For the sake of fairness, one should admit the existence of objective factors influencing the depressiveness of the regions, which in modern conditions it is practically impossible to overcome only by the forces of the administrative personnel resource. In particular, the Jewish Autonomous Region in the Far Eastern Federal District is in such a situation - one of the most distant from Central Russia, the region looks especially sad against the background of its much more prosperous neighbors, especially the Khabarovsk Territory.
As a possible solution to the problem of the lag of some Russian subjects, Valentina Matvienko recently voiced the idea of uniting a number of subjects of the Russian Federation, which she considers necessary. In view of the fact that some Russian regions, for objective reasons, being independent, are not viable, the Chairman of the Federation Council of Russia believes.
But apart from the idea itself, no more precise parameters - the number of specific regions in need of unification, the principles of unification - were specified. At the same time, as experience shows, the head of the Federation Council, as a rule, voices those initiatives, the decision on which has been approved by the Government.
It seems that the idea of uniting the regions will not be an exception, as evidenced by the fact that a few days after Valentina Matvienko's speech, the topic of regional merging was significantly developed by Sergei Kalashnikov, a senator from the Bryansk region in the Federation Council, while communicating with the media.
He proposed possible options for uniting Russian subjects, including in the Far East. In one region, according to the senator, it is necessary to unite the Amur and Jewish Autonomous regions, as well as the Khabarovsk Territory.
Sergey Kalashnikov himself explains his position and the proposed options for uniting the regions as follows:
“The idea of Valentina Ivanovna Matvienko, which I support, - the unification of some Russian regions - will have only positive consequences for the development of their economy. Since this is not just a blurring of the boundaries between them, but an economically determined action. At the same time, such a combination can be based not only on the type of management, but also on other parameters. In particular - the commodity flows of the region associated with the movement of trade products of another entity. It should be noted that within the framework of this idea, we are not talking about the unification of business in the regions, but about the fact that local managers together could manage it easier and better. Thanks to the unification of the regions, their new administrative staff will have great opportunities to help business - for example, to create infrastructure. Thus, one of the main results of the unification of regions is seen as an improvement in the quality of management and conditions for the development of the economy, ”explained Sergei Kalashnikov, First Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Economic Policy, representative from the Bryansk Region Administration.
According to the senator, the regions proposed by him for unification in the Far East - the Amur, Jewish Autonomous Oblast and the Khabarovsk Territory - have more in common than different. They are characterized by the same structure of the economy, while the economy of all three regions is imprinted by the presence of such a powerful waterway as the Amur in their territories. Having the same economic complexes, these regions, accordingly, have some common problems, which are more convenient for their managers to solve together.
In confirmation of Sergei Kalashnikov's words, one can cite such vivid examples of developed spheres of the economy, common to all three regions, such as border trade and the export of natural resources. At the same time, these areas are of great importance for all three regions, since the share of border trade with China in the total volume of trade of these entities is about 15%, and the volume of exports of natural resources from the Far Eastern regions themselves to China, in which the largest share is the export of agricultural raw materials and food is significant and grows steadily.
According to Sergei Kalashnikov, these areas in all three regions should function in accordance with a unified procedure and with centralized management.
Also, in his opinion, these three Far Eastern regions bordering China are united by the same insufficient level of development of transport infrastructure.
This statement of the senator is clearly illustrated by the following figures - in each of the three regions the share of roads with a capital type of coverage - asphalt concrete, cement concrete - is just over 10%.
“It will be clearly better to develop infrastructure in the Amurskaya, Jewish Autonomous Oblast and Khabarovsk Krai through the efforts of a single administrative apparatus. First of all, it will be possible to further develop the connection of these regions with Central Russia, but the development of their internal communications will also be better promoted, ”said Sergey Kalashnikov.
“After the unification of the regions for a short time, the level of competence of their managers will undoubtedly increase. Another favorable consequence of the unification of regions, including in the Far East, will be the possibility of concentrating the efforts of each subject included in the new region on the development both in itself and in the entire newly formed formation of its most breakthrough direction of activity. Also, the most problematic subjects, which will be part of the new regions, will have the opportunity to be managed, along with their “own” leaders, by members of strong management teams of other entities that also form these new regions. For example, some problems of the Amur and Jewish Autonomous Regions can be solved much better if some members of the Khabarovsk Krai's management team, which is stronger than those of these regions, join in. This team is stronger not because of the uniqueness of its constituent specialists, but because of its extensive experience in performing tasks that are more ambitious than those solved by the managers of the Amur and Jewish Autonomous Regions, ”said Sergey Kalashnikov.
But at the same time, he noticed that the idea of regional unification in Russia in no way affects its multinational subjects with a high proportion of indigenous peoples. With the exception of the Jewish Autonomous Region, which in the full sense cannot be called a "national" entity.
At the same time, there is a certain system of arguments in which the idea of regional unification seems to be rather superficial and unreasonable. It is worth remembering that the economy of each region of Russia today is strongly subordinated to the system and style of its management. At the same time, some branches of the regional economy have their own established structures associated with a specific historical past. Considering that the economy of any Russian region currently has a pronounced individuality due to the way it was previously and is governed now, many experts today are extremely critical about the prospect of uniting a number of Russian regions for other reasons:
“This idea seems to be nothing more than an attempt by the state to reduce budgetary expenditures for their maintenance, as well as their administrative apparatus. At the same time, the unification of some regions will entail, in addition to positive aspects, a number of negative consequences. In particular, the combined regions will be managed without taking into account the sensitivity of some of their municipalities to various kinds of risks. And also without taking into account all the development opportunities and features of investment projects being implemented on the territory of their municipalities, "said Vladimir Vorozhikhin, leading researcher at the Center for Economic Security and Strategic Planning, Institute for Economic Policy and Economic Security, Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation.
In his opinion, the support from the Federal Center for Applied Scientific Regional Research, aimed at developing recommendations for the management of the subjects, will help to change the governance in the regions for the better and develop business in them. Such studies that would take into account the risks of small municipalities in a difficult economic situation, and, in particular, their business. It is important enough that these studies cover all 22 thousand municipalities in Russia, many of which practically mirror the economic situation in the Jewish Autonomous Region.
With a deeper consideration of the idea of uniting regions in Russia, some experts recognize it as applicable, taking into account some nuances.
“On the whole, this idea is correct. But only if it does not apply to the subjects of the Far East. To extend it to these regions is an extremely superficial initiative. Since it will inevitably face such a problem in this macroregion as the presence of huge territories in combination with an underdeveloped transport network. Given this factor, unified management of certain regions of the Far East seems to be impossible even from a purely technical point of view, ”Dmitry Zhuravlev, Director General of the Institute of Regional Problems, commented to the EastRussia correspondent.
At the same time, the expert is sure that the main task of improving governance in Russia today may be to increase the personal responsibility of domestic managers. What can be done by putting regional managers before the realization of personal responsibility for their activities? Thanks to this awareness, many "middle" leaders in the regions will significantly improve their level of management.
Another necessary measure to improve modern governance in Russia, he said, is the responsibility of the leadership for the growth and development of regional economic sectors, including support for investment projects. This is especially true for the regions of the Far East, where new projects are emerging one after another. Since the support of investment projects by regional authorities is also a whole skill.
Regional managers should be able not only to competently ask for help from the federal center, but also to competently use and distribute the resources received. And, at the same time, to help in the organization of those projects, which, in the end, are directed these resources.
“A striking example of this is the situation in the Far East. This macro-region is simply an investor's dream. There are many investors who today really want to invest in it, but with any attempt to enter this macroregion, they lack an understanding of with whom and how to conduct a dialogue in its subjects. In the same way, as well as local managers, in turn, do not understand how to communicate with investors showing interest in their regional projects, ”said Dmitry Zhuravlev.
“The very idea of uniting part of the Russian regions is inherently sound, since it has a number of good side effects - more efficient distribution of funds, a reduction in the bureaucratic apparatus, which is now growing at a very high rate, as well as better management of problem areas,” he explained ex-chairman of the Cities of Russia party Yuri Babak.
But, at the same time, he noticed that this idea cannot be called unambiguous. Because, on the one hand, thanks to its implementation, depressed regions will receive an incentive for development, joining the socio-economic system of more successful and prosperous neighbors. At the same time, the situation that has developed in depressed subjects will cease to be a problem for the Government and will become the concern of the leadership of the newly formed large regions. At the same time, in those constituent entities of the federation that today show weak performance due to poor governance, the regional elites will receive a stimulating “magic pendal”, as they will face the fact that they are about to be overrun by the more energetic and qualified elite of their neighbors.
On the other hand, the unification of regions entails considerable risks. Since it is obvious that the elites of a number of regions (both national and Russian) will at least not arouse enthusiasm for this idea. As a consequence, it is quite possible that a number of regions seriously oppose the unification. The only question is what forms it will take.
According to Yuri Babak, assessing the feasibility of uniting part of the Russian regions, it is useful, first of all, to study the similar experience already available in Russia - everyone knows the fact that the practice of uniting subjects in the country has been taking place for many years. A striking example of this is the unification of the Kamchatka region and the Koryak Autonomous Okrug. It is necessary to understand what economic and political effects have taken place as a result of certain mergers of Russian regions.
At the same time, the governor of the Khabarovsk Territory, Vyacheslav Shport, admits the expediency of its unification with the Amur and Jewish Autonomous Oblast, but is in no hurry to make conclusions regarding this perspective.
According to him, if the proposal to create a single region within the Khabarovsk Territory, the Amur and the Jewish Autonomous Regions was not just born in the Federation Council, but has a full justification proving its economic feasibility, for his part he is ready to start considering it. In itself, as such, the unification of a certain number of territories, in his opinion, is a good idea, since as a result of its implementation, in particular, some expenses of the regions are reduced. But the unification of a number of territorial units in the Far East requires a separate deeper consideration, in contrast to other cases. Due to the fact that, with the exception of the Jewish Autonomous Region, all the Far Eastern regions have large territories. In particular - the Khabarovsk Territory and the Amur Region. This feature of the subjects of the Far East must be taken into account when considering the possibility of combining some of them into one region. At the same time, within the framework of it, one should also take into account the fact that in many territories of the regions of the Far East, the transport infrastructure is extremely undeveloped.
“The main thing that should be ensured by the unification of the Amur and Jewish Autonomous Regions with the Khabarovsk Territory is the manageability of these regions. The very idea underlying the unification of these Far Eastern subjects has a certain reasonable grain, ”concluded Vyacheslav Shport.
Thus, it remains unclear how likely the emergence of a new region in the Far East, consisting of the Amur and Jewish Autonomous Oblasts and the Khabarovsk Territory, is. And how deeply the Federation Council understands all the features of the implementation and the degree of applicability of the idea of uniting subjects in various macroregions of Russia, in particular, in the Far East. The very process of uniting part of the Russian regions, including some subjects of the Far Eastern Federal District, hypothetically seems to be gradual, unhurried, including the passage of all the required procedures, including referendums.