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00:11 | Aug 12 | 2011

Egor Borisov: “The Far East has received carte blanche”

The President of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia), Egor Borisov, has probably an ideal biography for a leader: he has been a worker, a head of an enterprise, a head of a district, a minister, a deputy chairman and then a chairman of the Government for nearly eight years. In June 2010 he became the head of the Republic. So he worked on the rectification of the consequences of the flood, on improving the deliveries of goods to the northern territories, preparing for winter and the new school year as well as budget planning in the new status which means more responsibility and even less free time.

Today all these seasonal difficulties are left behind. The shipping season is over, the houses to replace those destroyed by flood are built, World War II veterans got new apartments, and the budget for the next year was adopted at the mid-December plenary session of the State Assembly. It's time to take stock and discuss future plans.

Tradition to be the first

– Mr. Borisov, were you able to meet all challenges?

– According to the leading indicators the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) will not only reach the planned volumes but also overfill many of them. The turnover of the large enterprises will increase and the gross regional product will consequently grow. In 2010 JSC “ALROSA”, “Yakutugol” and other companies which faced very serious difficulties during the crisis worked steadily and would be able to reach pre-crisis results in the first quarter of 2011. Other businesses including transportation services welcomed in the new year by good performance. At this time the activity of every large enterprise is traditionally considered at balance boards, at the Government of the Republic, at ministries and executive departments, at the presidential level; action plans and volumes for the next year are adjusted.

As for the difficulties they occur in local manufacture, agriculture, processing industry and production of consumer goods. This is a systematic problem which we intend to pursue seriously.

The balance is also simultaneously stricken at the municipal level. The heads have begun reporting to the public; and in the second half of February, again according to tradition, in every residential area the Government of the Republic reported to each citizen. Moreover, this time I offered the deputies of the State Assembly (Il Tumen) to report to the public. My suggestion was received well by the deputies.

– Does it mean that Yakutia will not break its tradition and again will be the first in the Far Eastern Federal District?

– Sure.

– At the last party conference in Khabarovsk Vladimir Putin gave major preferences to the Far East. Do we have the capacity to perform all the tasks and implement the identified projects?

– Yes, Mr. Putin gave preferences to the Far East, but it is primarily a huge responsibility and a great challenge for the regional authorities to resolve the accumulated problems. He has given us carte blanche, a possibility to change the situation on the spot. Therefore, much will depend on how proactive and creative we will work. The conference itself as well as Vladimir Putin’s speech is the evidence that the leadership of the country is concerned with the fate of the Far East. And we do have a lot of problems. To begin with it is migration to other regions. We still can’t stop this process. That is why the main objective is to create normal living and working conditions for people here. Remoteness from the centre, low population density, vast territory and its inaccessibility bring additional difficulties.

I must say that the leaders of the Far Eastern sub-federal units, including Yakutia, always sought to address these problems comprehensively and systematically. The result of this work is the adoption of the Strategy of the Development of the Far East until 2025. This is a good tool, and the outcome will depend on how responsibly we will implement the projects and programs outlined in the Strategy, how responsible will be the federal authorities in the performance of their obligations, hence improving living standards in the Far East.

– Yakutia presented its projects at this party conference. How important are they for us?

– There was an important conversation and actual results were achieved during the party conference in Khabarovsk. We tried to use the floor as much as possible. First of all, we have shown the Republic as an evolving entity and presented projects that are of importance for the entire Far East. They are the development of our oil and gas, the use of mineral resources in South Yakutia through the project of the integrated development. In addition, we have proposed social projects, providing a new perspective of a social company to JSC “ALROSA”. Today many representatives of Russian major business are neglecting social problems while “ALROSA” has learned that by creating good conditions for work, living and recreation of workers and their families they can achieve greater results. Therefore, the company directs approximately 2% of its revenue to the social policy needs: support for children’s sports, the keeping of kindergartens, health resort treatment, residential development, pension provision. It gives good results, stability to the enterprise, a sense of security to all workers, credibility among the citizens of the Republic and major businesses.

The second project is the development of children’s sports. This is the “Children of Asia” International Sports Games which in 2012 will be held for the fifth time in Yakutia. By this project we promote healthy lifestyle, patriotism and contribute to the development of elite sport. In cities where competitions are held we are building new sports facilities as it gives impulse to the development of children’s sports.

Our nanotechnology project for the production of basalt plastic fibers has attracted great attention. The plant is already built and running. We will begin to receive the fiber in industrial quantities in the first quarter of 2011 and by the end of the year we plan to produce the materials for use in the national economy, primarily in the construction: valves, heaters, pipes, etc. out of it. I would like to highlight the fact that this is our second project on nanotechnology. The first one we have already realized: a plant for the production of LEDs was launched together with the Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies in St.-Petersburg. We are opening a factory for assembly of lamps out of them in Yakutsk in the first quarter of 2011 and in the future we expect to establish similar manufacturing in other Far Eastern regions. Khabarovsk will be the first in line in the middle of this year already.

– You’ve made a good presentation of the Republic.

– We wanted not only to show what we do but also get some support. We are entirely pleased with the results.

– How will the project “Integrated Development of South Yakutia” be implement further? I mean the funding of the second phase that is the immediate building of the infrastructure.

– Any new business is always difficult to start. The project “South Yakutia” assured the federal government that it is possible to have public-private partnership in Russia and it is already actively working. In this case, the design of future facilities is carried out at the expense of the state. The business is responsible for establishing of the manufacture. The implementation of the projects should begin in 2012. The design work and development of feasibility studies for creating energy and infrastructural facilities, for the extraction of uranium ore are being carried out. Of course, somewhere the speed is higher and somewhere it is lower but the Government of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia), as coordinator, keeps everything under control. I hope that there will be no difficulties during the second phase.

– And what about the construction of the railway to Yakutsk and the bridge over the Lena river?

– These objects are present in all documents of the Russian Federation: in the Strategy of the Development of the Far East and the railway transport of Russia, in the program of construction of the transport complex. Though there are temporary difficulties.

With regard to the railway bridge, unfortunately, we do not have a specific project, there are several options. And it detains us. It’s time to define the choice and begin construction. We are working in this direction, especially since the budget of the Russian Federation allows about 44 billion rubles for the construction of the bridge over Lena.

I am sure that these objects will be brought to their logical conclusion. The railway to Yakutsk has been built for 25 years! A very little more is left to be done and I doubt that someone would dare to stop the project at the stage of completion.

To address the people

– Six months ago you entered the office of President of the Republic and now you have neatly fulfilled your promises given during the confirmation to the position. First of all, this is your Message of the Head of the Republic which you addressed to the State Assembly (Il Tumen). Why did you choose this form of presentation of your vision of the immediate problems and their solution?

– Especially now I need the support of the people because one leader cannot do anything. 20 years ago we settled down on market economy. At first, people didn’t know what to do, there just did’t exist any recipes. At that time the Government took on the responsibility and burden on many issues, especially social. This led to the situation when people, including people in our Republic, got accustomed that all problems should be resolved by the state. As a result, the creativity and economic initiative were lost. But that can’t last forever. And the possibilities of the state are not limitless. So I decided to address not only the deputies but all Yakut citizens, the people, to obtain their support for my actions. And I wasn’t mistaken.

People began to understand that slogans and hopes for the state would not take them anywhere. They should become active participants rather than passive observers.

The first thing I touched upon in my Message were questions of spirituality and culture. I have always believed that an educated, culturally and spiritually sustainable person would be better off. His thoughts are more concerned with development than with consumption. It is very important that people again began to distinguish right from wrong, understand why they live and earn. Therefore, before I delivered the Message I met with scientists and creative intelligentsia, turned to business trying to explain my position. We held events for philanthropists, meetings of businessmen and teachers in the Republic, and we are going to gather leaders of culture and art at the forum on spirituality in March. We all together need to think about what to do.

The Message also concerns more specific matters, primarily, about the construction of housing. Yes, we are building and quite a lot, but that housing still can not be named affordable. We need to make sure that even people with low incomes could acquire the apartments. Therefore, we have dramatically increased funding for this sector in the budget for the next year.

Agriculture is another area. Historically, mainly indigenous population focused on it in Yakutia. The profitability of our agriculture is very low. For many years we have supported the rural area, as the saying goes, “head out”, just to keep the industry itself, to support the people. But the market dictates the rules. Today we reviewed the positions and are going to support commodity production more. How can it be done? First of all, we need to increase the responsibility of the organizers of the farming industry at the municipal level. Yes, we do demand a lot from the municipalities, and we don’t give enough money. That is why I initiated a law on the transfer of authority in the field of agriculture to municipal bodies, which will give local authorities real leverage in the creation of commercial agricultural production. Starting next year we intend to attend seriously to the material and technical base of agriculture. All these should give positive results.

In my Message I asked the question: what hinders us from living and working better? The answer is drunkenness. That is why I signed a decree on measures for alcoholism prevention, including a ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages at certain time and offered to fight together against this evil. The people acclaimed it well, we already have the first results.

Developing public property

– How are public property issues dealt with?

– The main issue here is the opening of the “ALROSA” company. It is a special company for Yakutia. That is why its fate has always been interesting to the people. During the crisis we felt that the current organizational and legal form has exhausted itself. In terms of financial and economic attractiveness joint stock companies have certain limitations. And we need to think about the future, especially in view of the transition to a more costly underground mining of diamonds. We want to see a steadily operating company. A joint stock companies does not offer such opportunities. Because of that it was decided to reorganize JSC “ALROSA” and make it more attractive to investors. The Parliament upheld this decision; we have determined our position through certain laws of the Republic. The question is what place the Government of the Republic could have in managing the company. These are major efforts and the work continues.

– The President of the Russia Dmitry Medvedev has set a task for the regions to get rid of unwanted state property. What do you make of his statement?

– We have performed a large amount of work on the privatization of the state property. We acknowledge that the state is an inefficient owner. Nevertheless, the issue must be approached cautiously and on a case-by-case basis. There are companies that solve strategic problems. For example, Lena United River Shipping Company ensures delivery of cargo to the Arctic and throughout the country where the Government of Yakutia has a 25% share. If the Republic sells it, the new owners will be able to overtake sea-river ships which currently ensure delivery of goods to the Arctic regions of the Republic, to the Black or Baltic Seas. What would happen then?

Or take an example of the Yakutia Airlines which performs interregional long flights as well as local transportation. This is a stable profitable company because it is supported by the Government of the Republic. In addition, we solve the problem with domestic air traffic. The fleet is constantly kept up-to-date. But who can guarantee that a new owner does not destroy the balanced system? I think that local specifics should still be taken into account. That is my position and I am ready to defend it.

The work that brings pleasure

– What event has recently made you particularly pleased, has brought satisfaction?

– My work brings me satisfaction every day.

– And how long does your working day last?

– It is long. I take no account of time.

– So you’re lucky!

– Certainly.

– Mr. Borisov, did you celebrate New Year or became routine weekdays for you?

– The most critical of the 365 days start from December 31. That is because people become a little bit more relaxed during the holidays, which in our conditions is fraught with serious consequences. Holidays should not affect transport, electricity or heating supply. So starting the day I first became leader I never leave my office on such days. Different situations may happen. That is why holidays are the most crucial time for me.

– How do you usually celebrate holidays at home?

– Just like everyone, together with the family and friends.

– Did you manage to buy presents for your loved ones?

– It is my sacred duty. For many years first my children and now my grandchildren have been writing postcards to Father Frost in late November – early December where they say how they are waiting for him, tell him about their achievements and ask for gifts. Then they drop their postcards into a special box. So I, as Father Frost, always know who wants which present. This year my youngest granddaughter, who is only three and a half years old, asked for the latest model of a cell phone.

– And what is the best gift for you?

– That the holidays have passed quietly. This is the best gift for me. Everything else is fine, my needs are few.

– What are your wishes to the Far East citizens?

– We live in the Russian Far East. The conditions of life are fairly tough here, the nature is harsh, the distances are large, the climate is wicked. However, we have always been optimistic and relied only on ourselves; we have known that the development of our region depends primarily on us. Therefore, I would wish that we, the Far East citizens, remained optimistic. That the year 2011 would bring success to all matters. And that we should never lose hope for the best.

Interviewed by
Marina Kolbasina