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Siberia and the Far East are integral parts of a single macroregion
In modern conditions, an integrated approach to the management of Siberia and the Far East is needed, the candidate of economic sciences, senior researcher at the Faculty of World Economy and World Politics of the Higher School of Economics, Igor Makarov
The turn to the East in the Russian state policy is gaining momentum. For 2015, its institutional base was formed: the law on advanced development territories (TOR) entered into force, the status of Vladivostok as a free port was secured, the first priority investment projects were approved, and the Corporation and the Far East Development Fund were launched.
Igor Makarov Associate Professor, Department of World Economy, Higher School of Economics, Ph.D.
Right now the key moment of the Russian turn to the East is coming. The temptation to stop is great: the process of forming a new structure for the management of the region is completed, now you can wait for the results. However, such an approach would be a mistake.
First, the structural problems of the development of the Far East have not gone away: the economy still has a purely raw material character, foreign capital does not go, and the outflow of the population continues. Without solving these problems, the region can hardly become a long-term driver for the development of the Russian economy.
Secondly, since the beginning of the active state policy of development of the Far East, the external environment has changed significantly. Hopes for a massive influx of investment from abroad are not justified. In the TOR, which was conceived as a platform for foreign investors, so far only one foreign resident is registered. Commercial banks and investment funds of Asian countries assess the risks of investing in Russia as high against the background of general economic problems, political risks and sanctions from the West. Even among Chinese financial institutions, only development banks and the Silk Road Fund are active in relation to Russia, while the conditions for granting loans are generally unattractive. The situation is aggravated by the general slowdown in the Chinese economy, the instability of national financial markets and the anti-corruption campaign, which keeps the Chinese elites from any risky initiatives.
Another important trend is China's turn to the West. The country is trying to prolong the extensive economic growth due to the accelerated development of relatively poorly developed internal regions, to involve in its development model the countries of Central Eurasia, to diversify the risks of export supplies in the face of increased competition with the US on the seas.
The Russian model for the development of the eastern territories was developed in a different international environment. Without being adjusted, it turns out to be unable to adapt to new risks and take advantage of opportunities.
First, taking into account the difficulties of attracting large foreign business, more attention should be paid to interaction with the medium and small, both Russian and foreign. However, for this it is not enough to create administrative oases on the most promising sites. There is a need for consistent work by both federal authorities and regional and local administrations to reduce administrative pressure, remove redundant barriers to business, facilitate access to infrastructure, and create a supportive social environment. The East of Russia could become a place for approbation of a new economic model based on the comprehensive encouragement of private initiative. The model, which in the future can be extended to the whole country.
Secondly, under the new conditions, an integrated approach to the management of Siberia and the Far East is not only desirable, but necessary. It was laid in the original idea of turning to the East - in particular, when S.K. Shoigu proposed an ambitious project for the creation of the State Corporation for the Development of Siberia and the Far East. In the Address to the Federal Assembly of 2013 Mr. V.V. Putin called the rise of Siberia and the Far East "a national priority for the entire 21st century." And then they forgot about Siberia - in the following Epistles it was only about the Far East, it also limited the sphere of responsibility of the profile ministry.
Meanwhile, Siberia and the Far East are integral parts of a single macroregion. They are connected historically - since the time of the Russian explorers, the name "Siberia" belonged to the whole territory from the Ural mountains to the Pacific Ocean. This territory has a special identity, personified by the right head of the double-headed eagle on the national coat of arms. Siberia and the Far East actively interact with each other at the level of economic ties and human contacts - often more actively than with Moscow. Finally, they are interconnected infrastructurally - through the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Northern Sea Route.
The economic potential of Siberia as a whole is higher than the economic potential of the Far East. The population of the Siberian Federal District - 19,3 million people, Far East - 6,2 million (with a larger area). The Siberian Federal District is no less rich in natural resources, but it has great potential for developing high-value-added industries. Human potential is higher here: for example, in the first twenty of the rating of Russian universities there are five Siberian universities and not one Far Eastern university.
The main curse of Siberia - its continentality, remoteness from key markets, supplemented by a weak development of transport infrastructure. The project of the Economic belt of the Silk Road launched by China opens up new opportunities for Siberia. If the region is able to integrate into the transport-industrial cluster created in Central Eurasia, it can find a new breath, reversing the shortcomings of its geographic location in favor.
Accelerated development of the Far East, without taking into account its close relationship with Siberia, will inevitably lead - through the loading of transport capacities - to the aggravation of the continental position of the latter. Meanwhile, the development of the Far Eastern infrastructure, on the contrary, should have one of the goals of making Siberia "closer" to external markets. However, it is difficult to demand this from the Ministry for the Development of the Far East, whose responsibility is not included in Siberia.
Similar problems of coordination arise in the development of the Arctic, the division of which into the Siberian and the Far East is nothing more than an administrative convention. However, it hampers the coordinated development of the infrastructure, because a significant part of it - the one connected with the Northern Sea Route - is interregional.
Now that the development institutions of the Far East have worked, coordinating the development of this region with Siberia is the next important task in the framework of the policy of accelerated development of the East of Russia. It is best to solve it in parallel with the development of specific mechanisms for linking the Eurasian integration project with the Silk Road Economic Belt. The processes occurring in the Asia-Pacific region and in Central Eurasia take place very quickly, and it is important for Russia to keep pace with them. The turn to the East itself was a decade behind the rapid economic growth of the East Asian states. Now it is important not to repeat the previous mistakes.