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18:07 | Feb 13 | 2012

A Forestage for the Republic

Valery Maximov: “They in the Far East long ago stopped thinking of us in Yakutsk as the ones that ride deer”.

Guest of our first 2012 issue is the Minister of Federal Relationships and External Relations of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) Valery Maximov.

New Title – New Job
- Valery Ivanovich, would you please tell our readers about the results of the last year.

- For us 2011 has become a turning point, since it is in 2011 that functions and powers of the Ministry considerably changed. The President and the Government of the Republic have identified priority tasks relating to international, external economic activities and the image-building policy of Yakutia. Namely: implementation of the Concept of promotion of the Republic’s positive image adopted in 2011; issues related to attraction of investments, in particular, a draft law containing a provision on protection of foreign investors’ rights has been prepared; advancing the cultural, economic, social interests in the international arena; working with compatriots abroad – this means not merely maintaining links with Yakutians who have left their “small motherland”, but carrying out work aimed at bringing back selected specialists who could be of value to the Republic’s economy.
Along with its name, the Ministry’s main area of activity changed as well (the body used to be called the Ministry of External Relations of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia). – Ed.). To provide for the powers relating to federal relationships that were transferred to us we had to fundamentally revise the very structure of the Ministry, and this job was done during 2011. Today we can say that the Ministry’s structure consisting of 5 departments has been formed.
A separate issue is working with international organizations. Large-scale cooperation with the Arctic Council began, and cooperation with the United Nations moved to a new level in 2011. While in the past we used to work mainly with UNESCO, last year we began to work directly with the UN.
In the beginning of the last year the President of the OCA (Olympic Council of Asia) put forward an initiative to create an International Sport Organization “Children of Asia” headquartered in Yakutsk.
In 2011 the Republic’s representative was elected Chairman of the Northern Forum, where we historically have a considerable influence. It is possible that in 2012 the Forum’s Secretariat will move to Yakutsk.

We are not trampling diamonds underfoot
- There are numerous examples where even our closest neighbors represented by subjects of the Federation imagine that, roughly speaking, people in Yakutia ride deer and trample diamonds underfoot. Are there any programs for improving horizontal links between subjects of the Far Eastern and the Siberian Federal Districts?

- Historically this interaction has been based on agreements and informational activities. As to the Far East, the situation is better there: our neighbors long ago stopped thinking that we in Yakutsk ride deer. Big contribution to development of relationships with Far Eastern regions is being made by our companies operating throughout the region and by our permanent representative office in Khabarovsk. Cooperation with our closest neighbors, excluding Chukotka and Krasnoyarsk Krai, is well advanced. With Chukotka we share common economic interests: coal and electricity supplies, development of the Northern Sea Route itself. All these areas require coordination between the two subjects. And we have lots of things in common with the Krasnoyarsk Krai.
As to other regions of the Russian Federation, we concentrate our efforts on selected regions, as we understand we cannot cover everybody. These of course include Moscow, Saint-Petersburg, Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Kaluga Oblast, Krasnodar Krai. That is, the regions that have achieved substantial progress in investment activities and integrated development of the economy.
- The Republic’s leaders make a lot of visits abroad looking for new investments, but there is no visible foreign companies’ participation in exploitation of Yakutia’s natural resources.
- Generally speaking efforts aimed at positioning our Republic outside the Russian Federation do bring results. While in the past our events were largely ignored by big foreign companies, this situation has recently dramatically changed. Take, for example, the Jaw-Harp Music Congress, of which “Yamaha Music” was a co-sponsor. At the upcoming Children of Asia Games our national team and the Games themselves will be sponsored by a world-known brand “Nike”. This means foreign companies already send signals that they are interested in the Republic.
Now we can say that all the major visits to France, Japan, Great Britain, South Korea have had an effect: practically all our companies are currently negotiating their projects. Speaking about projects that have been put into practice, a loan agreement for financing construction of kindergartens in Yakutia has been signed with the World Bank.

A Tunnel or a Bridge?
- At an international conference held in August 2011 there was an extensive discussion on the PPP (Public-Private Partnership). What concrete steps have been made since then towards implementation of this idea?

- The key managerial decisions have been taken. The PPP Department has been created, which will also serve as a center for projects’ implementation strategy. A draft law on PPP has been prepared and already approved by the Government. It envisages creation of the Republic’s Development Fund, a Venture Fund, a Fiscal Fund, direct engagement of companies that implement the PPP.
- A lot has been said about a transcontinental railroad that would link Eurasia with America. But this is, of course, an issue for the next 50 years. What we are more interested in is when is the crossing going to be built, and what will it look like? Will it be a tunnel, or still a bridge?
- What is very important about this is that now we have the possibility to extend the railroad towards Magadan. Summary conclusions have already been prepared by experts who analyzed many countries’ experience in building both bridge and tunnel crossings. They consulted, in particular, with those who constructed the Channel Tunnel. In sum, the experts expressed in favor of a bridge crossing. The final decision has not been taken yet, but we are already headed towards building the crossing. Design and construction will take 7 to 8 years, so I am confident that in the next, third decade of the 21st century Yakutsk will be linked to the “mainland” on a year-round basis.