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Obsolete approaches must be turned down

Andrei Sharonov, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Eco-System Group of Companies, told EastRussia about a new technology business for the Far East

Andrey Sharonov, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Eco-System group of companies, rector of the Skolkovo Moscow School of Management, told EastRussia about what expectations the Far Eastern TOPs should justify and how to develop a new technological business for the Far East that will not allow it to turn into a large dump

Obsolete approaches must be turned down
- Andrey Vladimirovich, in your track record is the position of Deputy Minister of Economy of Russia. What does your extensive experience in public administration tell you - will the created TORs really help make the "turn of the Russian economy to the East"?

- When I was deputy minister, I was just involved in the creation and operation of development institutions, one of the types of which are special economic regimes for the management of certain territories. FROM 2004-2005, when this process was launched, several similar forms were tested - for example, special economic zones.

- But the experience of creating Special Economic Zones did not take root? Why are TOPs better and under what conditions can it work with them?

- I would not judge so categorically. All this is a matter of assessment criteria - and time, above all, time. Remember Deng Xiaoping's famous answer to the interviewer's question "how do you assess the results of the Great French Revolution" - "I can't tell you, too little time has passed since then"? We have passed even less. The effect of SEZs is not limited to immediate results. In my opinion, the Special Economic Zone "Alabuga" in Tatarstan was quite successful, far from meaningless - Lipetsk. Interesting experience was demonstrated by the first six SEZs (two industrial and four technical and innovative). A good result was obtained in Tomsk. But in Zelenograd, Moscow Region, the SEZ developed for a very long time, because Moscow at one time spent more money on improving the general rather than special infrastructure within this zone. Only two years ago, residents began to build their offices there and make capital investments.
In general, I would not say that this type of development institution itself has failed. Rather, we are faced with the effect of inflated expectations. A combination of objective and subjective (so-called "human") factors also played a role: sometimes it was difficult for regions to fulfill their obligations, somewhere everything depended on people who did not meet the hopes associated with them. But this is not a reason to abandon the idea in principle. TORs are a new interpretation of the idea of ​​development institutions; they are very promising for the Far East. In my opinion, such an economic form gives the macroregion obvious advantages and can really serve as an impetus for its accelerated development. And how noticeable the effect will be on the scale of the whole of Russia - of course, only time will tell.

- But the country is in crisis now. Opportunities for budget financing and investment are limited. How will this affect the fate of the Far Eastern Advanced Development Areas?

- Of course, such factors will have a certain negative impact. A downturn in the economy always leads to the fact that demand disappears, and the "appetite for investment" is lost. But in fact, it is very often more important not to stimulate production, but to help enterprises with the sale of products. If the entrepreneurs know for sure that there will be no problems with the sale of their products, they will build a plant themselves and find money. So not everything and not always rests only on financing problems.
Nevertheless, the tax incentives that TORs have in any case improve the economic conditions. And many, thanks to this opportunity, will be interested in investment. Foreign investors choose not between regions of the Russian Federation, but between countries. If they see an advantage in terms of taxes on land, on property, on the wage fund, naturally, they will not fail to take advantage of all this. I do not expect any immediate magical transformations. But the fact that TOPs create points of attraction is an indisputable fact. All other things being equal, investments in them look much more attractive than simply “investments in Russia”.

- Then, let's talk about the work and plans of a specific business in the Far East, to which you are directly related. Now a lot is said about the fact that production will develop in the Far East, roads will be built, cities will grow ... But each medal, as you know, has two sides. Cities and enterprises are a serviceable and uninterrupted supplier of household and other waste. Even if the landfill is beautifully called a “landfill”, the ecology does not improve from this. Does the ambitious plans for the development and industrialization of the Far East take into account such a prose of life?

- It would be strange to forget about her. Not much has been said about this problem from the high rostrum, but, in my opinion, we are ready to approach it with sufficient responsibility. Solid waste disposal in the Far East (in particular, on Sakhalin) will be handled by professionals with relevant experience in other regions of Russia. Pilot projects in four districts of the Sakhalin Oblast (in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Korsakov, Anivsky and Dolinsky districts) will be implemented by the Eco-system group of companies. Its divisions are successfully operating in 6 regions of Russia; in the near future, they are preparing to launch another 8 projects. The company collects and processes about 6 million cubic meters of municipal solid waste annually. The effect of her work was felt about 2 2,5 million people, residents of Moscow, Perm Territory, Altai Territory, Astrakhan, Belgorod, Kostroma and Ryazan regions. The ultimate goal of the work is a completely waste-free production, when waste is perceived not as "garbage", but as a useful secondary resource.

- How, if not a secret, did you come to the company, and what is your role in its projects?

“Eco-System” was founded in 2006 by professionals in their field, its main shareholders are such famous businessmen as Valentin Zavadnikov and Ruben Vardanyan. The general director is Andrey Yakimchuk, and a year ago I was invited to the board of directors, which I later headed. The company is privately owned but seeks to grow and be financed in the capital markets. In my opinion, this is a dynamic and promising business, which today is extremely interesting to do.

- Does Eco-System work on private investments?

- Not only. The company also attracts debt financing under a corresponding agreement with Sberbank. By the way, it was on Sakhalin that Sberbank expressed its readiness to provide project financing for 65% of the cost of the pilot project - this is 900 million rubles. At the same time, budget funding is not attracted, although the Sakhalin Region in this case acts as a concession - it concludes a concession agreement with the operator company. Thus, the object itself is created as a municipal one, but it will be in a long-term lease and under the management of the operating company.

- What prompted your company to choose Sakhalin for the pilot project?

- As a result of joint work with the Far East Development Fund, a decision was made on the feasibility of implementing investment projects in the field of waste management infrastructure. Sakhalin was chosen as a pilot project, primarily due to the readiness of the authorities, as well as the severity of problems with the old landfill, the completion of the construction of a new landfill, the availability of sites for the construction of new facilities (sorting plant and transshipment stations). As a result, the Fund made a decision to co-finance 29% of the project cost on a repayable basis. I am sure that in this case the economic effect will be achieved rather quickly. The technologies that the Eco-system company uses in the processing of household waste comply with international standards in this area. And they are tough enough.

“Garbage seems to be at war of defeat. But what tactics and strategy is your "headquarters" going to use in this case? And do you have enough "weapons"?

- The technology has already been worked out, although, of course, it is constantly being improved - progress does not stand still, for 10 years a lot has changed. I will not go into production details - the point is that it is not yet possible to carry out separate waste collection in Russia. Therefore, it will be sorted already at a special station, extracting valuable raw materials from the total mass - paper, plastic, glass, metal waste. Actually, the project consists in building such a station and maximizing its load. From there, secondary raw materials will be processed and, depending on the market situation, can be either sold domestically or exported. Paper is again made from waste paper, "reincarnation" is also waiting for plastic packaging, and so on. The ultimate goal is to minimize the amount of so-called "tailings" - that is, waste that can no longer turn into anything and require disposal in special landfills.

- That is, in other words, in landfills?

- This word perfectly reflects our very attitude to garbage. To dump, fence - and forget. Let it roll around, smoke, poison everything around ... But, excuse me, this is not even the Stone Age, but something even more primitive. In this respect, we are catastrophically lagging behind any of the developed countries, the level of culture and technology in this area is extremely low. Not only that, we are not accustomed, as is customary in Europe, to throw each type of waste into a separate bin - glass, paper, cans, food waste are piled into one container. In Russia, one can count on one hand the modern landfills for solid waste - those where high-quality waterproofing from toxic liquids formed during the decomposition of garbage would be provided (and they still strive to seep into the aquifers). We have almost no systems for collecting and utilizing methane gas, which, as you know, occurs when organic waste decays. But it can be used to generate electricity - to sell it to the general network or to heat greenhouses with it. There are plenty of opportunities. And "tailings" with the help of new technologies will become rapidly decomposable - unlike metal and glass, which were usually buried at such landfills, and now will be sent for further processing.
The same applies to the export of recyclable materials. If the volume required by the region is exceeded, other subjects of the federation or even countries with which it is supposed to establish cooperation may be interested in such raw materials. For example, in the Far East, China is showing interest in such raw materials.

- Competition with others has always been a good incentive for progress. Do you have many competitors?

- While a little. These are mainly regional companies, and they operate mostly in the central regions of Russia, in the Urals, and some in Siberia. The Far East for federal-scale companies is still almost "not covered", in this respect we are ready to play the role of pioneers.

- And where do you intend to move next if everything works out on Sakhalin?

As part of cooperation with the Far East Development Fund, we examined all the territories of the Far Eastern region and calculated business models for inter-municipal nodes in all regions: Khabarovsk Territory, Amur Region, Yakutia and others. The next project, which is already in the stage of detailed study with the support of regional authorities and in the near future, it will be submitted for approval by the Far East Development Fund - this is the Khabarovsk Territory: Komsomolsky and Vaninsky nodes.

However, now all the attention is on the pilot Sakhalin project. It must meet a very high level of requirements: everything must be done cleanly, beautifully and progressively from the point of view of ecology. And for the investor, this business must become profitable and promising. Not just payback, but also profitable. We set the internal rate of return for the project at more than 29%, the payback period is 5-6 years, discounted term - 9,4 years. In my opinion, these are quite realistic guidelines.

In general, I must say that so far the Far East region is a fertile field for business. I can judge from my experience of working in the Moscow government, where, by the nature of my work, one way or another I had to deal with the problems of municipal solid waste in municipalities. Competition on the Moscow market is much tougher, and the conditions are much more risky in terms of the economic viability of projects. In this sense, the experience of the Far East can become a “visual aid” for other regions, where the regime of favoring such projects allows not only solving environmental problems, but also simply preventing their occurrence.

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