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Transbaikal Region: results - 2015, trends - 2016

East Russia continues the cycle of analytical publications devoted to the results of the past year and the analysis of the situation in the current year in the socio-economic and political spheres of life in the regions of the Far East and Eastern Siberia

It is difficult to name in Russia a region that would have been characterized by growing social discontent and political protests in the way that the Trans-Baikal Territory recently distinguished itself. Peripheral and extremely difficult from the point of view of the organization of effective management and recovery from the crisis, which seems to be a permanent phenomenon, the region literally fevered throughout the year. In the end, already in 2016, the Kremlin decided to dismiss Governor Konstantin Ilkovsky, whose reign is difficult to assess otherwise, as unsuccessful.

Transbaikal Region: results - 2015, trends - 2016

Rostislav Turovsky

Doctor of Political Sciences, Professor of HSE, Scientific Editor East Russia
It is unlikely that there was a region in Russia where the protest actions for the resignation of the governor were held with the same regularity, and many thousands of signatures were collected in support of this decision.

The change of the governor has now led to a partial restoration of the positions of the old elites that developed in the region before the arrival of the "Varangian" Konstantin Ilkovsky in 2013. The new head of the region was Natalia Zhdanova, the speaker of the Legislative Assembly, who worked as the vice-premier of the regional government and was in charge of the social sphere under the former head of the region Ravile Geniatuline. A special political intrigue is connected with the party affiliation of the governor. Konstantin Ilkovsky was the only representative of "Fair Russia" in the governor's corps, and now the party lost its "leader" of the region. The new governor-general, Natalia Zhdanova, as well as in the overwhelming majority of constituent entities of the Russian Federation, represents United Russia.

"Transbaikalian chain" of failures and failures

The course of events in Transbaikalia in recent years sometimes seems like a chain of constant failures and failures. One of the "eternal" problems remained housing and communal services, because of which the official and "hurt" Konstantin Ilkovsky. The reason for his resignation was, as you know, the center's claims about the slow implementation of the resettlement program from dilapidated and dilapidated housing. Transbaikalia showed the worst result in the Far East and the Baikal region and 81-th around the country. And this problem was known before. For example, back in April 2015, Dmitry Medvedev demanded from Konstantin Ilkovsky a report on the reasons for such a slow work, and Transbaikalia was named in the four worst regions, together with Kalmykia, the Republic of Komi and the Vologda region. For its part, the prosecutor's office identified violations and introduced the former governor of the submission. It should be noted that Transbaikalia is by no means the leader in Russia in terms of the share of dilapidated and emergency housing (but it is by no means an outsider, given the large number of towns and villages with a critical state of housing and communal services). But the conflict between Konstantin Ilkovsky and the center arose from the lack of a solution to the problem, and this is already connected with the requirements of the "May decrees" of Vladimir Putin, not to mention the actual need for society.

Another social issue in Transbaikalia was the social sphere. The chronic phenomenon was the delay of wages in the budgetary sphere, again against the background of the requirements of the center for normalizing this situation and raising salaries. The most acute situation has arisen in the sphere of education, leading even to strikes by teachers. The region could not cope with social payments. For example, there were pickets of mothers with many children who protested against delays in benefits. The payments for the maintenance of orphans were also broken. Problems of debts on wages, of course, amazed not only the budgetary sphere, but also industrial enterprises. In particular, protest rallies in this connection were noted at the Sretensky Shipyard. Along with the political opposition (especially the Communist Party of the Russian Federation) and some prominent public activists, the protests were supported by the unions that held rallies against wage delays.

On this, however, the list of problems of the Trans-Baikal region has not been exhausted. In the region, where the role of the railway is very important, the situation with suburban railway traffic is very acutely perceived. Regional authorities, too, could not really solve the situation, being in debt to the Trans-Baikal suburban passenger company (amounting to about 400 million rubles) and not seeing other options, except for tariff increases and reduction of trains. Rallies against tariff increases were held, for example, in January 2016, when it became clear that the situation did not improve from year to year.

Poorly developed for regional authorities and the situation with catastrophic forest fires, areas that reached last year a ten-year high. The whole reserve fund of the region was used up to fight fires. At the same time, the state forest service of the Trans-Baikal region, whose head Ruslan Balagur was in effect an accidental figure in this post, was the object of severe criticism. It is worth recalling that he played the role of technical governor candidate in the election of 2013 and then received as a "reward" this position. This story ended with the arrest of Ruslan Balagur, who is accused of both negligence and death of people, and abuse of power in the role of the head of the organization. These events were also very dissatisfied with the center, and in particular, the Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology Sergei Donskoi, who negatively assessed the actions of the forest service in the province.

Finally, a very scandalous story was the story with the allegedly prepared regional authorities renting out for 49 years 115 thousand hectares of land of the Chinese company. It's hard to say how serious these plans were, but they got serious negative resonance and became the reason for anti-gubernatorial speeches. Especially sharply began to speak LDPR, which has a fairly stable electoral support in Transbaikalia and did not fail to take advantage of the chance to oppose the "sale of the Motherland". A sensitive issue for the border region is, of course, the influx of foreign labor, although, of course, "Chinese expansion" remains a topic rather illusive.

It can not be said that the regional authorities did not make any efforts to correct the situation. Konstantin Ilkovsky often visited the federal government, constantly tried to agree on some form of support and allocation of financial resources. Probably, the region did not have enough budget funds, and the governor had administrative experience and lobbying ties to avoid political catastrophe.

Minor tone of the Transbaikal economy: from debt load to recession in industry

As a result, the analysis of the socioeconomic situation in Transbaikalia is still, and in essence, as always, carried out in minor tones. Of the negative and, moreover, expected trends in the budgetary sphere, it should be noted the increase in the debt burden. According to its level (82,7% to the regional budget's own revenues), Transbaikalia occupies 15-e place in the country, and the level itself is critical. In the Far East, there are two regions with worse indicators (Chukotka and the Jewish Autonomous Region), but this, of course, does not console. The volume of public debt increased last year by 32,3%, i.е. The problem is not solved, but only aggravated. Konstantin Ilkovsky picked up new loans from the federal budget (an increase in debt by 60,45%), and debts to banks increased (by 19,8%). Municipalities, however, were "more modest", and increased their debt by 9,5%. The amount of the state debt of Transbaikalia (26,5 billion rubles) is more than in the Irkutsk region and Buryatia, and in comparison with the DFO still inferior to Yakutia, the Khabarovsk Territory and the Amur Region. By the way, the neighboring Amur region can be considered the closest analogue of Transbaikalia and also demonstrates the acuteness of its financial problems.
In the social and economic situation, the past year has become a pure minus in Transbaikalia, without demonstrating a single perspective. The decline in industry was 1,3%. But this is not so bad, but the investment fell by 11% (only the Khabarovsk Territory in the Far Eastern Federal District and the Baikal region showed the worst rates). Construction work was reduced and at all by 29,2% (in the Far East and the Baikal region, dynamics was worse only in the Jewish Autonomous Region). The decline in agriculture, which is significant for the southern territories of the region and, in particular, for the Buryat regions, amounted to 5,2%.

There are many reasons to talk about the objective reasons for the deterioration of social well-being. So, real money incomes of the population fell by 4,2%. Retail indicators, especially sensitive to the standard of living and consumer behavior of the population, declined by 9,9% (negative dynamics at the level of the Irkutsk region and worse than all regions of the Far Eastern Federal District). Thus, the Trans-Baikal Territory, unfortunately, fully justified its image of the depressed region, which has very vague prospects, the implementation of which, moreover, is infinitely postponed.

The financial and budgetary situation in the region, meanwhile, has not undergone drastic changes, but there has been an obvious imbalance in the spending policy. As for budget revenues, they grew a bit, and the center continued to provide the region with considerable assistance. Thus, the growth of budget revenues was 7,5%, incl. own tax and non-tax revenues - almost 8%. The situation with the tax on profit has clearly improved (growth by 13%), but its share in own budget revenues (11,75%) remains very low, indicating the absence of large and reliable taxpayers in the region. According to the most important source of income, there was practically no income tax (at 1,2%). True, the region was able to seriously raise the income from the property tax of organizations (at 40,8%: the fourth largest in Russia in terms of dynamics) and the tax on mining (at 26,35%). It is interesting that the share of corporate property tax in own revenues of the regional budget is even greater than the share of income tax.

Quite proportionally, revenues from federal transfers in the region grew by 7,2%. Subsidy volumes remained almost unchanged (reduction by 0,8%), revenues from subventions increased (by 8,8%). But here subsidies to Transbaikalia center significantly cut down (by 20,9%). The latter was probably the result of the weak lobbyist capacity of Transbaikalia, and it would be just the region that would have been able to use the funds from the subsidies for the exact solution of certain problems.

One of the problems of Transbaikalia is the shortage of breakthrough projects

As for the expenditures of the regional budget, there is a feeling that Transbaikalia could not properly and carefully manage its funds. Expenditures grew moderately - by 5,6%, the region remained a considerable deficit (-12,6%), but that's not the point. Apparently, understanding the growth of social discontent, the regional authorities tried to solve problems in the budgetary sphere. In this process, they sharply raised the cost of health care - by 23,3% (the fifth largest growth rate in the country, the best in the Far Eastern Federal District and the Baikal region). Significant growth was also shown in spending on social policy - by 11,8%: the authorities still sought to solve the problems of benefits and subsidies to the population. But at the same time they cut spending on education (by 3,1%), i.e. The area where protest actions and strikes took place (the share of spending on education in the Trans-Baikal region - 33,3% - is the seventh in the country and the best in the Far-Eastern Federal District and the Baikal region, and in general education is the fourth in Russia, but it is probably not Followed). Noticeably, the already small expenditures on culture (for 6,7%) and physical education and sports (at 20,5%) were curtailed. By the way, protests of workers in the sphere of culture also became one of the features of Transbaikalia.

The sensation of the ill-conceived nature of the expenditure policy develops in the analysis of the situation with the rest of the articles. The region sought to help agriculture (increase in costs by 26,4%), taking into account also the circumstances of last year's drought. A lot of funds were sent to roads (growth of 22,25%). However, the housing and communal services received less money for 12%, which, as we recall, resulted in the disruption of the resettlement program from dilapidated and dilapidated housing and, in general, in the dissatisfaction of citizens with the situation in this sector. At the same time, expenditures on nation-wide issues grew (by 4,5%) and, moreover, the expenses for the maintenance of the head of the subject and the heads of municipal administrations increased by as much as 10,2%, which in the crisis situation is very doubtful. Only the prosperous Sakhalin allowed himself in the Far East and the Baikal region to increase these expenses in an even greater proportion.

It turned out that the regional authorities last year significantly changed the structure of the regional budget in its expenditure part. As is clear from the above, the dynamics in many articles was very sharp, which is evident against the background of all other regions. Thus, the role of the largest expenditure item - education has decreased, and, again, this has had critical consequences. The importance of "economic" articles, public health and social policy became higher, however, the region and its former authorities did not save it. Probably, Trans-Baikal authorities will still have to analyze their finances in the most serious way and decide how to properly dispose of them, since under Konstantin Ilkovsky, the spending policy of the authorities had the most direct and negative social and political consequences. At a minimum, more attention is paid to housing and public utilities and education.

Without entering the Far Eastern Federal District, the Trans-Baikal Territory could not use the development tools that are created in the macroregion. And interest in these instruments in Transbaikalia is great and inevitable, at least for the reason that this region does not just border on the Far Eastern Federal District, but for many years it has become part of the social and economic development program with the DFD. But this did not become the reason for making an exception for Transbaikalia. It is not done, as we know, for the Baikal region as a whole, which includes Buryatia and the Irkutsk region.

Under these conditions, the Transbaikalia is still to rely on the use of the TOP mechanism in problematic monotowns. In this regard, activity is noticeable in one of the key economic centers of the region, Krasnokamensk, where Rosatom structures operate. In essence, the lobbying capabilities of atomic lobbyists could contribute to the creation of at least one special economic regime on the territory of Transbaikalia. The final decision on this issue has not yet been made, and the first TOR in single-industry towns appeared while in other regions (including in the Irkutsk region), but the chances of Krasnokamensk remain high. The TOP project involves the creation of both industrial and agricultural clusters here. In addition, the most problematic category of mono-cities in Transbaikalia includes a number of villages - Novopavlovsk, Novoorlovsk, Pervomaysky and Zhireken. In particular, they receive subsidies for the creation of new jobs. However, such mono-cities are too small to create TOR. Therefore, the most likely growth point is still Krasnokamensk.

At the same time, it is difficult to rely on raw materials for the Trans-Baikal FPG. Too many projects have not been implemented, or their implementation is delayed. The most important of them is the unique and largest in the country Udokan deposit of copper ore in the BAM zone - it is only moving from the dead point. The structures of Alisher Usmanov, who have long received a license in a difficult struggle, continue to agree on the state co-financing of the project, which in this case will finally get real chances. Agreements have been reached on financial support from Vnesheconombank. Probably, the project will still include "Rostekh", which has 25 percent option.

As for the FIG, which has already begun to work in the region - "Norilsk Nickel", the results of its work are still ambiguous. On the one hand, the company announced the abandonment of a number of unpromising deposits - Kultuminsky, Zergunsky, Lugokansky and Serebryany. The work on the Bugdain copper-molybdenum deposit was also stopped. On the other hand, Norilsk Nickel concentrates its efforts on the Bystrinsky GOK in the Gazimur-Zavodsky district, which increases its chances, but the launch of the field is constantly postponed (the state, by that time, has already fulfilled its obligations to build infrastructure for this field). Now it is said about putting GOK into operation in the third quarter of 2017. For today it is probably the main hope of Transbaikalia and a key realistic investment project capable of improving statistics. Then on the turn will be and Udokan.

For the rest of the commodity projects, there is little movement. Increased production of coal has more chances. Now the development of the Zashulan coal field (not far from the border with Buryatia) is gradually beginning, which is being handled by the joint venture of O. Deripaska and the Chinese coal company Shenhua. Last year, the companies signed an agreement with the regional authorities. But the field is small, and production has not yet reached its designed capacity (which is six million tons per year). Controlled structures of the same Oleg Deripaska Zhirekensky molybdenum GOK has already stopped working. The design of the same FIG for the development of the Chiney iron ore deposit in the BAM zone has decayed.

The situation with the assets of the coal company SUEK looks more optimistic - the Apsat deposit, located in the BAM zone, is gradually reaching its designed capacity (it should amount to 3 million tons of coal per year). With the general crisis of gold mining in Transbaikalia - in comparison with the Soviet times, the structures of FIGs R.Abramovich in the person of Highland Gold Mining are relatively stable. At least they have revived to life after years of downtime Novoshirokinskoye field in Gazimuro-Zavodsky district, where gold mining is gradually increasing. But at Taseevskoye gold deposit near Baley town the work never started, and Konstantin Ilkovsky said last year about the possibility of revoking the license from HGM, which in the meantime is trying to sell the asset.

Thus, the problem of Trans-Baikal is a shortage of breakthrough projects that could significantly change the socio-economic and financial-budgetary situation. The development of resources of the BAM zone in the north of the region could play such a role, but it is very slow, and for the same Udokan, there is still no final solution. In the main part of the region, there are many small deposits of various raw materials, to which investors lose interest in crisis years. And in general the history of the region, for example, 1990-e Years. - this is the history of the closure of most of the deposits that were developed in Soviet times - due to unprofitable and exhausted reserves. So far from this sad history Transbaikalia has gone far, some mines were closed in zero years, and more recently.

Change of political commands against the background of regional contradictions

Against this depressive background, regular political changes began in Transbaikalia. The stage of governing of the governor, the Social Revolutionary Party, has come to an end, and preparations are under way for special elections. As one would expect, the team of Konstantin Ilkovsky is forced to leave their posts, and Natalia Zhdanova is clearly not in the mood for any compromises, trying to demonstrate her intention to change the course of the regional government. However, regional problems do not have quick solutions, and once Konstantin Ilkovsky also said that he inherited a difficult legacy, which cannot be managed in a few years. The main part of the problems is objective and is caused by a weak resource base and the abandonment of the region. Although, of course, elements of stagnation and passivity in the work of the authorities, in fact, have been evident in recent years. 17-year-old The reign of Ravil Geniatulin, who lost credibility and popularity. Problems of housing and communal services and state employees who demand their legitimate salaries continue to be pursued by Natalia Zhdanova. In fact, the new authorities also admit that they do not have the resources to cope with them, let alone to bring the region in full order to the elections.

In the upcoming gubernatorial elections one should hardly expect surprises, but one should not underestimate the protest sentiments, which cannot be removed by the mere resignation of Konstantin Ilkovsky. In addition, the return to power of some representatives of the "old" team does not allow convincing the people of Transbaikalia that the situation will begin to change for the better. In the region, the Communist Party is active. Its most prominent representative Nikolai Merzlikin, a member of the legislative assembly and the former first secretary of the Chita regional committee of the CPSU, weakly manifested himself in the gubernatorial elections of 2013, but then he activated and constantly acted as a critic of Konstantin Ilkovsky. Perhaps he will become the candidate of the party in the elections. The State Duma deputy from the Communist Party of the Russian Federation Vladimir Pozdnyakov, who is not from Chita, but who oversees the region and intends to fight for his re-election, has become more noticeable in the region. Another important player is the Liberal Democratic Party in Transbaikalia, which is also unlikely to remain aloof from the gubernatorial campaign and, of course, will conduct an active campaign in the Duma elections. Therefore, it can be expected that gubernatorial elections will become relatively competitive. Konstantin Ilkovsky once successfully played on the effect of novelty, sowing considerable expectations in the region, however, Natalya Zhdanova will not be able to repeat the same scenario, and she will need a serious and informative argument in support of her nomination for the governor’s post.

In general, despite all the problems, there is still a gradual prospect of improving the situation in Transbaikalia. At least, we can already talk about the phased introduction of the most important raw material projects, first - Bystrinsky GOK, then - Udokan. But this process drags on for years, and even it will not change the socio-economic and financial situation qualitatively. The region still needs to create new industries (not limited to the extraction and export of raw materials), and to use the possibilities of its border position (of course, not for illegal export of forest and other resources or illegal Chinese immigration). Until now, the region seemed to be walking in one circle, occasionally referring to the same projects and ideas. Given the loss of control over the socio-political situation that has already happened, a way out of this circle is extremely necessary.
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