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Hang on the transition

Rostislav Turovsky on the development of the Far East in 2016

Hang on the transition
Photo: Tass / VEF Photobank

Rostislav Turovsky

Doctor of Political Sciences, Professor of HSE, Scientific Editor East Russia
Special project TORA and Free Port
Innovations under uncertainty
In 2016, the Far East remained one of the main priorities in the regional policy of the Russian state. During the year, all new decisions were taken regularly, both systemic and individual, designed to attract investment in the macroregion, accelerate the launch of major projects, improve the quality of life of the population, intensify international cooperation, etc. Attention is paid to the Far East for the first time and In the presidential address to the Federal Assembly. At the same time, the current socio-economic processes in the Far East were controversial. It becomes clear that the measures taken by the state are implemented very slowly and do not have an immediate effect. The Far East could not bypass the crisis processes, and the macroregion not only did not show developmental development, but also lagged behind in a number of indicators.

In the meantime, the Far Eastern policy of the federal center is increasingly in need of a more thoughtful and verified systematic approach. Many decisions of different cities and scales do not always add up to a single scheme that works for the final positive result. The idea of ​​developing and adopting a special law on the development of the Far East was not accidental in this regard. This idea met with a positive reaction from the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East and is being promoted by the Duma Committee on Regional Policy and Problems of the North and the Far East, headed by the communist Nikolai Kharitonov. The codification of Far Eastern policy itself is a controversial issue, since the management of regional development is a flexible creative process that cannot be driven into the framework of any normative act. Rather, there is a growing need to develop a new and at the same time realistic development strategy for this territory.

At this stage, the main document of the Far Eastern policy remains the state program of social and economic development of the Far East and the Baikal region. However, in conditions of financial constraints, it would be wrong to rely only on this program. The updated version of the state program, approved last year, suggests significantly reduced funding. Its very structure has become more complex (three FTPs instead of two and five subprograms instead of one), but money is not added from it. Reduction of funding under the state program starts with 2017 (for which only 15,4 billion rubles have been allocated), and then a small increase in funding is expected, which, given the current practices of government decision-making, may not happen. It is no coincidence that the Ministry of Culture began to apply directly to private investors, inviting them to join in co-financing projects. At the same time, an important breakthrough in the Far Eastern policy regarding the use of the program approach was the government's decision on the mandatory presence of "Far Eastern sections" in all state programs and FTPs that have a regional component. The coordination of these sections also contributes to the growth of the hardware weight of the Minsk region.

The most important direction of a systemic nature, which the federal government is not unsuccessfully dealing with, is the reduction of infrastructural restrictions. First of all, the breakthrough was a decision in the form of a federal law on equalization of energy tariffs, the high level of which is the strongest deterrent for the development of the macroregion. It is assumed that on average the tariffs in the Far East will decrease by 30%, and the sharpest tariff reduction will occur in Chukotka, Sakhalin and Yakutia. 2017 year will be a test for this decision, as far as in some regions tariffs continue to increase and the leveling value can be leveled if it simply means a return to old tariffs that were by no means low. In addition, in the Far East, the growth of tariffs for housing and communal services continues, which, according to the government order, will happen from 1 July (the increase will most affect Yakutia and Kamchatka).

There is also some ambiguity in solving the problem of transport accessibility of the macroregion. In particular, the topic of air accessibility remains in the center of attention of the authorities (it was also one of the orders of Vladimir Putin), but the problem of state subsidies for air travel has become more acute.

In the policy of the state aimed at accelerating the development of the Far East, a number of innovations can be identified in the last year.

First, a more coherent nature was acquired by policies aimed at creating points of growth on the basis of individual urban centers of the Far East. One such point of growth is to become Komsomolsk-on-Amur, for which a long-term plan for social and economic development has been approved. Another similar point of growth with its plan is the city of Svobodny in the Amur region. It is important that the authorities do not stake on the regional capitals and seek to revive the average size of industrial cities that need more incentives for development.

Secondly, the regime of the Free Port, which initially belonged to Vladivostok, began to acquire a wider distribution. As a result, free ports appeared in the Khabarovsk Territory, Kamchatka, Sakhalin and Chukotka. The regional authorities took an active part in working with potential investors of the Free Ports (which is especially noticeable in the case of Vanino in the Khabarovsk Territory), and initiatives have been initiated by Sakhalin to include even more cities in the Free Port regime. However, in the history of the Free Ports, the introduction of a simplified visa regime remains a difficult problem: only by the end of the year the government reached an internal agreement and approved the corresponding bill, and the matter has moved from a dead center.

Thirdly, the implementation of an unprecedented project on the distribution of free hectares of the Far Eastern land was launched. This project was introduced gradually, the circle of those who can get land expanded (from 1 February 2017 this right was received by all residents of Russia). As is often the case in our law-making practice, the law later had to be adjusted, specifying rules for granting plots, restrictions, powers of regional authorities, etc. There were many obstacles and roughnesses in the implementation of the land grant mechanism, and disputes broke out with the participation of various authorities , The inhabitants of the Far East, etc. In general, we can say that the project was held, but it can not be expected that the distribution of land will take a mass character.

Of course, no significant migration to the Far East will begin in connection with the law on the "Far Eastern hectare", but it is quite possible to revive its current land use system. As for demography, there appeared the concept of demographic development of the Far Eastern Federal District, prepared by the Ministry of Regional Development. Like any bureaucratic document trying to regulate natural and almost uncontrollable processes, it has its own flaws. Therefore, while opportunities for population growth in the Far East remain vague: natural growth is provided mainly by Yakutia, and external migrations, if they begin, will cause contradictions in society.

Reload does not stop
Among the earlier trends in the development of the Far East and the formation of a state policy with respect to the macroregion, first, it is necessary to highlight the promotion of infrastructure projects, many of which contribute to strengthening the traditional transit function of the coastal regions of the Far Eastern Federal District. One of the largest investment projects is the construction of the "Siberia Power" gas pipeline, although with its completion and the volume of investments, everything is not clear (and China's needs in Russian gas may be reduced). Work is underway to expand the already existing ESPO oil pipeline, deliveries under which increasingly focus on China's needs.

Secondly, the fishing industry continues to "reboot". The new federal law introduces, in particular, the so-called. "Investment" quotas, and also increases the period of fixing quotas to 15 years. Considerable attention is beginning to be paid to coastal fisheries, which is intended to revive the activities of small producers. A number of initiatives are being formed to create fishery clusters, where Primorye, Sakhalin and Kamchatka are considered as supporting regions. As a result of the implementation of these projects in the Far East, large-scale fish processing (including with an orientation to the markets of the European part of Russia) and refrigeration and storage facilities may finally appear. At the same time, the redistribution of property in the fishing industry is already beginning, where large players change their owners. In the government, to manage the processes in the industry, a subcommittee on fisheries issues was created, headed by Yuri Trutnev - as part of the government commission for the development of the Far East.

Thirdly, the function of the Far East is being realized as an important center of international cooperation for Russia. The Eastern Economic Forum turned out to be a key, but not the only platform: the development of the Far East was, for example, in the center of attention of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, and the "Far Eastern" Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Trutnev led the Russian delegation at the World Forum in Davos (the delegation also included the Minister on the development of the Far East, Alexander Galushka).

At the same time, Japan and China played the role of key partners of Russia (President Vladimir Putin visited both states), and last year much more attention was paid to Japan. Russia is increasingly counting on the inflow of Japanese investments, which resulted in a large number of negotiations, various memorandums and agreements signed by the parties. In particular, a plan has emerged to create a joint Russian-Japanese investment fund. The organization of joint economic activities of Russia and Japan on the Kuril Islands became a separate issue. However, for all attempts to diversify relations between Russia and the Asia-Pacific countries, China remained the largest trading partner, and great hopes were pinned on its actual and probable needs for Russian raw materials. An international government commission for cooperation and development of the Far East of Russia and the North-East of the PRC appeared. At the same time, the Russian side began to substantively deal with the development of the border areas of the Far Eastern Federal District, having approved the corresponding plan. In fact, given the passage of the state border, we are talking about Russian-Chinese border cooperation. The start of the construction of a bridge across the Amur in the Blagoveshchensk region has become an important symbolic step in this regard.

Fourth, the list of priority development territories continued to expand, which became the first own mechanism for the development of the Far East (although later extended to single-industry towns throughout the country). A feature of the past year was the creation of ASEZ for large raw materials and industrial projects, the implementation of which had previously been associated with organizational and financial problems. These are the South Yakutia ASEZ (so far focused mainly on the coal business) and the Bolshoy Kamen ASEZ in the Primorsky Territory (the project of the Zvezda shipyard, heavily lobbied by Igor Sechin). In addition, relatively small ASEZs have emerged in new regions - two ASEZs on Sakhalin (agricultural and tourist-recreational) and one in the Jewish Autonomous Region (with mixed specialization). Gradually, the issues of creating a PDA for large projects in the oil and gas industry in the Amur Region and the Primorsky Territory were resolved. As a result, only the Magadan Region remained completely without TOP in the Far East, and the rest was provided with full territorial coverage.

Fifth, the state continued to make decisions on supporting various Far Eastern projects and providing them with subsidies. The Fund for the Development of the Far East and the Baikal Region played an increasingly prominent role in this process. In the decision-making process, considerable attention was paid to the agro-industrial complex, for example, the pig-breeding complex in Primorsky Krai (Mikhailovsky TOR), the production and logistics complexes in the Amur Region (TOR Belogorsk), pigs (and also brewing) in Kamchatka. Of course, raw materials projects related to the extraction of minerals - gold (Magadan and Amur regions, Yakutia, Kamchatka), coal (Yakutia and Khabarovsk territory, where, in addition, the next coal port terminal will be built), diamonds And iron ore (Yakutia). A lot of money will go to housing construction in the Great Stone. Support was received from the federal center for gas processing projects in the Amur Region, timber processing in the Khabarovsk Territory, and the production of mineral fertilizers in Primorsky Krai. As a rule, state support for key projects was interlinked with the interests of the major capital FIGs, both public (Rosneft, Gazprom, ALROSA) and private (Polyus, Kolmar, SUEK, SIBUR, Petropavlovsk, Rusagro and others).

Particular attention was paid to projects designed to ensure reliable communications of the Far East with the rest of the country, as well as its internal communication connectivity. For example, the state supported the creation of a logistics hub of the "Post of Russia" in Khabarovsk, the expansion of the small fleet of the Avrora company (the Aeroflot group). A sign of the increased attention to the infrastructure of the Far East was the "printing out" for these purposes of the National Welfare Fund (NWF): in addition to the long-known projects for modernizing the BAM and Transsib, the Vostochny-Nakhodka transport hub, the airport reconstruction in Khabarovsk, the construction of power transmission lines in Magadan Region.

With all the abundance of projects and at their very different scales, the creation of new industries in the FEFD is a common positive feature, which is capable of diversifying the Far Eastern economy and increasing the depth of processing of the raw materials produced.

Beautiful paper and tough realities
However, another result of the year is the growing contradiction between the number of announced projects and real results. Many projects continue to exist on paper or slowly pass the "zero cycle", not all special regimes actually worked. It is not appreciable that at the state level, a serious analysis of the first results and emerging problems that hinder the improvement of the investment climate in the Far East. The useful practice of a few but really working and carefully analyzed pilot projects is replaced by the constant production of new initiatives and the creation of positive information fields. Moreover, the bulk of decisions are made in the interests of large FIGs close to the federal authorities, who receive preferential terms for their work in the Far East and promote their products in the APR. But the cumulative effect for the actual DFO, its population and business is not yet visible. In addition, a certain political isolation of the Far Eastern bloc of the Russian government has emerged: the bloc itself is active and achieves considerable success in promoting its solutions, but there is growing criticism from other departments, more attempts to challenge the effectiveness of the Far Eastern policy and cut its funding.

As a result of 2016, one can not, for example, talk about the outstripping development of the Far East in the industrial sphere. The Far East showed almost the same indicator as Russia as a whole, indicating stagnation in the economy (the minimum industrial growth of 1% in the Far East, symbolically even behind the 1,1% in Russia). The main driver of industrial growth remained the key oil and gas region - Sakhalin. Kamchatka showed good growth rates, things were quite good in Yakutia and the Khabarovsk Territory. On the contrary, the industrial indicators of the Primorsky Territory, the Amur Region, and also the two economically weakest regions, Chukotka and the Jewish Autonomous Region, have gone down. The outstripping growth was noted in the "usual" raw materials sector - the extraction of minerals, while the more "advanced" industries at best stagnated.

The situation in agriculture in the Far East also stood out for the worse (the index was 98,4%) against the background of growth in the country as a whole, related to the policy of import substitution (by 4,8%). In the agro-industrial complex, growth was shown by Sakhalin, but the results of the Amur Region and the Khabarovsk Territory dragged the industry down. Thus, it is impossible to talk about the solution of the problem of the food self-sufficiency of the macroregion, not to mention the development of exports.

In fact, while in the Far East it is possible to speak about growth only in those industries that develop in accordance with the peculiarities of the Russian economy and without any connection with special economic regimes. First of all, it is the fuel and energy sector (where, however, financial indicators went down together with prices in world markets) and the transport complex (due to the growing export of raw materials from Russia). At the same time, the investment climate in the Far Eastern Federal District does not change. According to data for January-September 2016, investment in fixed assets fell even more in the Far East than in Russia as a whole (93,2% and 97,7%, respectively). Investment growth was shown, first of all, by Yakutia (and also by Kamchatka and Chukotka), while Sakhalin, Primorye, Magadan Oblast, and the Jewish Autonomous Region went down. The presence of at least weak positive trends is indicated by the preservation of the previous volume of construction works (99,8%, with the all-Russian recession - 95,7%). The construction sector grew in the same Yakutia, as well as in Primorye and Kamchatka, but on Sakhalin and Kolyma the results went down sharply.

Thus, based on the results of 2016, it can not be concluded that in the DFO, the mechanisms for outstripping development have really begun to operate, and an inflow of investments has begun. The macro-region is still dependent on the volatile position of the Russian commodity sector in world markets.

It is also not necessary to talk about the solution of the task of raising the standard of living of the Far East. On the contrary, the decline in real monetary incomes in the Far East was even sharper than the overall Russian (in January-November, 93,3% and 94,5%, respectively). Most of all, the standard of living falls in the most remote and / or economically weak regions (Kamchatka, Chukotka, Magadan Oblast, Jewish Autonomous Region). The Far East turned out to be the all-Russian leader in terms of wage arrears, which by 1 December exceeded 1,1 billion rubles. It is the three regions of the Far Eastern Federal District that formed the first three all-Russian anti-rating - with Primorsky Krai as the undisputed leader and the following Amur Region and Khabarovsk Territory.

Against this background, only the financial and budgetary situation looks positively, which in fact also corresponds to all-Russian trends, when the budget revenues of the regions have grown. True, the volume of revenues received by the consolidated budgets of the subjects of the Far Eastern Federal District also fell by the end of the year, amounting to 97,7% of the level of 2015 (while in Russia in general, regional budget revenues grew by 6,6%). As for own tax and non-tax revenues of the subjects, their index was 96,8% (in Russia - 108,7%). However, in this case, only one region is to blame: Sakhalin, where, as a result of the fall in world energy prices, budget revenues have fallen sharply. In all other regions there was a growth in incomes, incl. In the regions with the largest (in addition to Sakhalin) budgets - Yakutia, Primorsky and Khabarovsk. All three of these regions showed, in particular, an excellent increase in income from income tax. It is important to note that in the Far East the rates of growth in income from income tax and excise were higher than in Russia, and the decline in income from income tax was explained only by the special situation in Sakhalin.

At the same time, the federal center helped the macro-region and practically retained for the DFR the previous volumes of transfers (the index was 99,3%), whereas in Russia the reduction was quite substantial (97,6% from the level of 2015). In other words, the center continues to financially support the Far East, which positively affects the state of regional budgets. In a number of regions, contrary to all-Russian trends, there was a significant increase in transfers (Kamchatka, Chukotka, Magadan Oblast), but in Primorsky Krai and the Amur Region, their volumes still dropped noticeably.

Savings are reflected in well-being
With a good state of regional budgets, the authorities in the Far East began to save more, as evidenced by the decrease in budget expenditures (amounted to 96,8% to the level of 2015, while in Russia as a whole they grew by 4,8%). Additional revenues have been used by many regions to overcome chronic shortages and solve debt problems. Therefore, in the Far Eastern Federal District as a whole, budget revenues and expenditures almost coincided, which indicates a good budget balance. Last year, the cumulative national debt of DFO subjects slightly decreased (Primorsky Krai, Kamchatka and Chukotka worked most actively to reduce public debt, but Yakutia, which already has the largest public debt in the DFO, has grown). The municipal debt decreased even more (amounted to 2,2% to the level of 92,4).

At the same time, the budget saving policy did not have a strong negative impact on the financing of any industry. Only expenditures on agriculture fell sharply, but in this case it is explained by their reduction on Sakhalin, which sharply increased this type of expenditures in 2015. From social articles, the decline in health expenditures is noteworthy, but the rate of decline was slightly less than Russia as a whole. It is noticeable that the growth of expenses in most areas was more modest than the all-Russian (education, social policy, housing and utilities, road facilities), but still it was growth. At the same time, expenditures on education and housing and public utilities have risen minimally, and as much as possible on roads.

Thus, the regions of the Far Eastern Federal District as a whole improved the performance of their budgets, and from the point of view of financial "accounting" completed the year very well. The main exception is Sakhalin, but in any case, its budget remains the second largest in the DFO after the Yakutia. However, the desire to achieve a budget balance did not solve the problems associated with a significant increase in socially significant costs.

It is not surprising that the situation in the public opinion of the Far East, as the results of the September 18 election showed, also remained contradictory. As before, the DFO distinguished itself by a low turnout and an elevated background of oppositional sentiments. Turnout rates were lower than the national average in almost all regions (except for Yakutia and Chukotka), and in most regions of the DFO did not reach 40%. Only in Chukotka, the vote for United Russia, as usual, exceeded the national average, while in all other regions support for the "party of power" was less than 50% (including less than 40% in the Amur, Primorsky and Khabarovsk regions ). A distinctive feature of the DFO was the highest popularity of the LDPR in Russia, which achieved the best result in the country in the Amur Region (and the third in the country - in the Khabarovsk Territory). Only in Yakutia the result of the LDPR was worse than the average Russian. Similarly, only Kamchatka and Chukotka demonstrated the results of voting for the Communist Party below the national average. Usually the CPRF lagged behind in the Far Eastern regions from the LDPR, but its electorate was also significant. Yakutia also emerged as the country's third-most voting result for "Fair Russia" (but this party in the Far-Eastern Federal District just did not perform well, exceeding the average Russian result only in Yakutia and the Magadan Region).

Thus, the main trends of socio-economic and socio-political development of the Far East in 2016 have not changed significantly. As before, there was an "outstripping" growth in the number of projects approved and supported by state bodies, while no real changes were observed, and some indicators even showed negative dynamics. Moreover, the existing economy of the Far East has clearly demonstrated both the exhaustion of its capabilities and vulnerability from external markets, which led to a sharp deterioration in the financial performance of the only donor region-Sakhalin. The social situation in the Far East clearly did not improve, and the background of the opposition sentiments remained elevated. The Far East continues to experience a contradictory transition period, when the new decisions of the federal authorities have by and large not earned, and the current state of things leaves much to be desired.

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