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Meet you on the bridge
Governor of the Jewish Autonomous Region Alexander Levintal about the benefits of flying an economy class and difficulties in creating checkpoints
Photo: VEF / TASS Photobank
- Alexander Borisovich, a regular Eastern Economic Forum recently concluded in Vladivostok. If my memory serves me, you have participated in all four VEFs since the very first. Did you now hear and learn something new? Is there any practical benefit from meetings and discussions at such summits?
- Compared to previous forums, VEF-2018 is number one, its program was so dense and intensive, and the negotiation process was active. Every year the forum is gaining momentum, is of particular importance. By its status, it has long overtaken St. Petersburg: it suffices to recall the person of what level took part in it this time. The heads of Russia, Japan, China, the Republic of Korea, Mongolia arrived in Vladivostok. It is clear that in the orbit of each of the presidents are people who make decisions at the state level, big business, and influential experts. Such a representative “landing party” even turned out to be closely in the largest city of the Far East - we had to use an ocean liner at the pier to accommodate the guests.
The agreements that are reached at such sites have a special weight. Therefore, regional authorities are preparing for the Vladivostok forums especially carefully, our possible partners too. As a rule, after the VEF, joint projects are carried out in the "assault and breakthrough" mode. Just past the forum is no exception. One example is our agreement with Chinese partners on the inclusion of EAO in the bus production chain. The idea of such a project arose just two months ago, but we are already preparing for its practical implementation in full swing.
- Will the production site be in the Jewish Autonomous Region?
- No, in the Kuzbass. In this case, several Russian regions joined their efforts at once. Businessmen from Tatarstan became the owners of the enterprise in the Kemerovo region, agreed with the Chinese partners - the company Yutong about the localization of production. Machine sets will be supplied from the PRC, industrial assembly will go to Kuzbass, and later, possibly, in other regions, where in the future they can also assemble the assembly. And the Jewish Autonomous Region is called upon to play a system-forming role in this chain. Why? The answer contains one short word: bridge. The one that is now being built across the Amur and should be ready in the summer of 2019. The only problem today is the construction of checkpoints - these are separate objects, they are created and run according to special rules. But they must be commissioned at the same time as the bridge. Now we are fighting for such synchronicity so that a stupid situation does not work out: the bridge is ready, but it is impossible to move on it
To carry industrial kits for assembling buses from China by sea is troublesome and expensive. First they need to be unloaded in Vladivostok, then delivered to the Trans-Siberian Railroad, further several stages ... And across the bridge the railway will go to Siberia itself. In addition, in the Jewish Autonomous Region they plan to create a “smart warehouse” - a logistics hub, where the vehicle sets will be accumulated and sent to Kuzbass as needed.
- What kind of miracle buses are they?
- Normal, passenger, at 22 places. Urban. School. They will compete with those manufacturers who are present on the market today. There are not many analogues in Russia. Of great importance is the fact that they drive on different types of fuel, including on a greener than gasoline, gas, and it is also planned to produce buses on electricity.
We have already signed a multilateral agreement with the Chinese partners, we are moving forward.
- Does EAO have other joint projects with foreign companies?
- Of course. The same Chinese are now very interested in the supply of our food, especially soy. After America imposed trade sanctions against the PRC, supplies of this culture from the USA are curtailing. Of course, we will not be able to replace all the Far East with this. But the scale of their needs is greater. So, the Chinese offer us an interesting scheme of cooperation. Soy is grown on our territory, and partners from China help us with seeds, equipment, land reclamation works - that is, they create conditions for increasing yields. At the second stage they are ready to participate in the creation of processing enterprises in the Russian Federation, and to import the finished products. We also plan to start with the Jewish Autonomous Region, as the bridge makes such deliveries convenient and profitable.
- Is there any risk that the Chinese with their agrotechnics (especially fertilizers) will simply devastate our lands, and then abandon them as unnecessary?
"We consulted with specialists from the Agricultural Academy of Heilongjiang Province, with environmentalists and pedologists, there was no mass use of harmful substances. Now in agriculture China uses scientific methods. We also introduce them, and in addition, we improve the control over the use of land, we take soil analyzes, we monitor. The slightest violation will lead to the termination of the lease agreements. However, the guarantee is also in the fact that the plots are leased not for 2-3 year, for 10-15 years, in such a situation "spoil the land" is extremely unprofitable. The Chinese people are quite law-abiding, they work for the future, it is not in their interest to break down the economic mechanisms that have just begun to work.
- It is interesting, and our economic and social mechanisms will someday work without failures? This was mentioned, for example, at a meeting of the Presidium of the State Council, which was held "on the sidelines" of the economic forum ...
- On the eve of the meeting of the Presidium of the State Council, a working group that was preparing it was gathering. They watched how the president's instructions on the Far East were being carried out-there were twenty-two of them. So, four could not be performed for different reasons, more than half was fulfilled, part "in the process". Gradually, the most acute issues are being removed - for example, subsidizing flights to the Far East, and within the region. Additional 400 million rubles have already been allocated for this, many people will be able to take advantage of the benefits. This year there was a certain lack of funds. Yes, and preferential tickets for the plane after the opening of their sale was short. For the following years, the goal is to more than double the amount of funds allocated for these purposes. And the financing should go not from the reserve fund as an unplanned expenditure, but as a separate article, the funds for which are pawned in advance. In this we rely on the support of the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Transport.
- Does the difficult budget situation in the region, which you just mentioned, affect the salaries of the residents of the Jewish Autonomous Region? How much do they average now?
- The nominal average salary in the EAO for January-July of this year is more than 37,7 thousand rubles. This is more than in previous years, but all the same we should strive to raise average earnings to 40-45 thousand per month. Nominal wages in our region, unfortunately, still lag behind the average Russian. Add to this the factors that in themselves make life more expensive: although we are in the south of the Far East, but winter we still have a long, high transportation costs. Now it is important for us to create new jobs, to look for investors to expand production. Sufficient financial resources should be allocated to the outstripping development of the Far East - at least 5,5%. Until this indicator is not maintained by ministries and departments, and the president rigorously put this question on the presidium of the State Council.
At the plenary meeting, the head of state assured that the national program for the development of the Far East will soon be developed in the national priority of development. Additional investments that the president deems necessary from the federal center will be invested in infrastructure, improving the quality of life, in order to keep people in the Far East. Business is trying to solve social problems of its employees to the best of its ability, large companies build housing, maintain hospitals or kindergartens. But completely outweigh this burden on the commercial sector is not possible, then the projects will not make any profit and no one will be engaged in them.
- Will the creation of new jobs in the commercial sector lead to an increase in the gap between the salaries of "private traders" and state employees?
- Just the opposite. The average salary of doctors, teachers, cultural workers, etc. is equal to the average for the region. As soon as enterprises begin to raise the salaries of their employees, we are doing the same with state employees, since the overall figure is growing. In addition, the growth of salaries in the commercial sector leads to an increase in tax revenues, there are additional sources of payment of salaries. Communication is direct and clear.
Our task is to attract large and medium-sized businesses to the region. At large enterprises such as GOK, there are now about 1,500 employees, of which 1300 are our local and two hundred from Primorye, the Amur Region (engineers, mining specialists, etc.) a new technical specialty of training middle-level personnel, we also discuss the issues of training in the future and engineers. Workers teach in their colleges.
We are trying to launch new large enterprises, as well as supporting existing small and medium-sized businesses. Last year sausage producers increased production volumes by 70%, now our meat delicacies are sold in Primorye, Khabarovsk, Sakhalin and the Amur Region.
- It's no secret that in many regions protests took place on the eve of the discussion in the State Duma of changes in pension legislation. Did you have any complaints?
- We held a meeting of the round table in the regional public chamber, when the issue was only raised for discussion by the parliament. Invited various experts, including independent. I also spoke there, honestly and frankly explained that the changes in the pension system are overdue. Of course, it was necessary to start all these changes in relatively prosperous times. Of course, we had protest actions, too. But I must say that after the President's address, the heat of passion went into decline. People gradually come to understand the proposed measures, calculate what changes will affect them personally. In order to mitigate the transition to the new system, we decided to keep the benefits for 55-60-year-olds. A person is not a pensioner yet, but discounts for travel, housing and communal services and so on will remain for him. A certain compromise has been achieved, and this is already a good intermediate result.
- How are your relationships developing with the new head of Minskostokrazvitiya?
- In recent months, he has visited our territory three times already. He is constantly present in the Far East. And he is our colleague, passed the municipal, city and regional levels, many things are clear to him without long explanations. I hope that our joint work with the new minister will be successful.