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W.Bruce Lincoln

Putin calls for urgent action in 'historical mission' to boost Trans-Baikal and Far East regions

By The Siberian Times reporter
01 December 2012

The Russian president expressed impatience with economic and social progress in eastern regions of the country.

'The Far East Development Ministry has not justified its purpose', Vladimir Putin said. Picture:

Putin wants to see these regions becoming 'economic leaders' with living standards akin to those in other areas of Asia, and signaled tax-slashing plans. 

'This vast region has played a special role throughout Russia's history and today our country can move forward successfully only if we ensure this region's dynamic development,' he said.

'The Far East has vast forests and enormous sources of clean water, some of the largest in the world; it is rich in natural resources, most of which are undeveloped, as we know. 

'Over 100 ethnic groups populate this region, including indigenous peoples and those who came to expand the empire to the east. This region has become their homeland. They invested their hard work, knowledge and creativity in the region's development, they built new cities, the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Baikal-Amur Mainline (BAM)'.

Restating a long-held mantra, he said: 'The modern development plans for the Trans-Baikal Territory and the Far East have the same national importance. 

'Our goal is not only to realise these regions' rich potential; we must take full advantage of its proximity to the Asia-Pacific region, a major developing region with large countries. 

'We must take advantage of this proximity to promote the development of the Far East and Russia as a whole. We have to make a significant contribution to the integration processes in the Asia-Pacific region. These future prospects were confirmed and the recent APEC summit in Vladivostok.'

Vladivostok, Russky Island bridge

The Far East of Russia, Vladivostok, bridge to Russkiy island opened weeks before APEC-2012

While there have been improvements - for example in 2010 the Far East's economy grew faster than the rest of Russia -  he warned that 'we cannot be satisfied with the pace and, most importantly, the quality of development in the Far East, and the standard of living. The Far East remains behind its neighbours in the Asia-Pacific region and other regions of the Russian Federation.'

Speaking at his official residence near Moscow, he said: 'Our task is to reverse this situation and to transform the Trans-Baikal Territory and the Far East into economic leaders. We must implement large-scale, complex projects that will breathe new life into the region.'

The mineral rich east of Siberia should not be seen 'exclusively as a source of raw materials'.

'We must ensure its modern, sustainable development, and in general we must find new, more effective approaches to the implementation of our programmes, to planning and management. 

'It is essential that we overcome the situation where the rate at which problems are addressed is unacceptably slow, when the considerable financial and material resources allocated disappear, and the approved plans often remain on paper'.

He warned officials from many regions of Siberia and the Far East, that 'fragmented, isolated measures are not sufficient. The development of such vast regions requires a long-term strategy and consistency'. 

'All of these approaches must be included in the federal programme for the socio-economic development of the Far East and the Trans-Baikal Territory until 2025', Putin stressed. 

lake Baikal, Alexander Lesnyanskiy

lake Baikal, Alexander Lesnyanskiy

'The Fund for the Development of the Far East and the Baikal Region would be replenished to reach 100 billion roubles, Putin said. Pictured: Lake Baikal, by Alexander Lesnyanskiy

'The Government has been charged with drafting new substantive proposals. However, this order has not been fulfilled yet. I want to emphasise that it will have to be done. I urge you to do so as quickly as possible, so that we do not argue over this. I don't want to put pressure on you or resort to sanctions. We must all realise that this is a very important national task, Vladimir Putin said. 

'I ask you today to pay special attention to the projects to be included in the state programme. We must adopt it by the end of the first quarter of 2013. I should add that the 2012 budget provides for additional allocations for the eastern regions of more than 100 billion roubles [over $3.2 billion].'

He complained that 'the Ministry for the Development of the Far East has been a disappointment so far. 

'For example, on November 13 the federal programmes for the eastern regions were transferred from the Regional Development Ministry to the Ministry for the Development of the Far East. As a result, we see blurred responsibilities and failures in the work. 

'We must create a monitoring system that would be consistent with the aims of accelerated development of Russia's eastern regions.'

Of a state corporation, he said: 'I know that this approach is not widely shared but I am ready to return to this issue. We must propose measures that will be effective. Let~s consider other possible management arrangements that could be introduced. Above all, they must correspond to the complexity of the tasks we will be addressing.

'I emphasise that governors will play a special role in achieving the regional development objectives. The responsibility of the governors and regional authorities should increase manifold. Their work will come under the toughest scrutiny during this period of large-scale transformations.'

It was essential to create 'not just favourable, but unique conditions for business. There are several suggestions in this regard. In particular, I propose to introduce a zero rate for federal profit tax during the first ten years of operation of new production facilities, the so-called greenfields. This will apply to industrial enterprises with investment of over 500 mln roubles.'

He also proposed 'introducing an exemption from the severance tax for solid minerals, subject to the same requirements: investment of over 500 million roubles' and 'regional tax incentives'.

The Fund for the Development of the Far East and the Baikal Region would be replenished to reach 100 billion roubles, he said. 

He made clear he wants to see the long-heralded increase capacity of the Trans-Siberian Railway and BAM, and the main motorways in the Far East and the Trans-Baikal Territory. 

Novosibirsk Glavniy train station, The Trans-Siberian

One of the greatest Trans-Siberian stopovers - Novosibirsk Train Station. Picture: The Siberian Times

'We must put up additional transmission lines, including along the Trans-Siberian Railways and BAM, build grid facilities for the accelerated implementation of the Eastern Gas Programme, and implement other strategic projects in the energy sector.'

The development must have a human face, he stressed.

'All of our plans in the economic sphere have one main goal: to create an attractive, comfortable environment in the Trans-Baikal Territory and the Far East, so that people want to settle down here, so that they feel the real benefits of living in this region for themselves and their families, so that they have every opportunity to get quality education and modern healthcare, to buy or rent quality housing.

'We must develop mortgage programmes, allocate land free of charge for the construction of low-rise housing. This is one part of the country where we really can give land away. But this is not enough. There must be local infrastructure in place, and the commissioning of new schools, kindergartens, stadiums and other social facilities must proceed according to schedule. These measures will help to reverse the negative demographic situation in the region and to attract qualified young professionals.'

Putin was addressing a meeting of the Russian State Council for the development of the Far East and the Trans-Baikal regions.

Comments (2)

people should be allowed to sort themselves out, without federal government sorting everything for them. As long as the Government looks after fixing and keeping the laws the rest can be done by people themselves.
Olga, Russia
04/12/2012 11:14
Putin has his work cut out with this. Either he needs an ideology as a driver, or he needs some really inspired leaders at local level. Or both. Communism was a driver. Now? He needs inspired leaders and an inspired population. Maybe he should get Germans in to organise things. He really needs to educate and prepare a new generation to really wantb to do this, not just tired old bureaucvrats lining their pockets with his 100 billion. But then this is a problem worldwide is the lack of inspiration for big projects. Maybe a generation will come along that will be inspirable. I hope so for his sake and for Siberia.
khananel, UK
02/12/2012 15:35

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