28 december 2010

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin meets with Smolensk Region Governor Sergei Antufyev

The two leaders discussed the results of 2010, and, as the prime minister noted, the trends are positive, although some problems persist, such as the decline in housing construction. Major projects to promote the development of local industry, agriculture, and infrastructure were also considered.

Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: Mr Antufyev, we will naturally want to discuss the results of the outgoing year. As I see, you have the data present. However, a number of problems remain to be resolved. In general, of course, the region is finishing the year in the black, but some problems persist, such as the decline in housing construction; agriculture, of course, has experienced hardships due to the drought; and, moreover, the total number of both pigs and sheep has been in decline. It’s true, however, that the real wage has seen a slight improvement.

Sergei Antufyev: Yes, it has. In fact, we are at 107.5%. But it turned out that the wage grew 17% – up to 15,180 roubles. As for the cattle population, in December – literally right now – we are implementing two major projects in the regions, and we have already imported 1,800 head of cattle from Holland and the United States.

Vladimir Putin: That’s what the major enterprises are doing, but the total number of cattle in smaller subsidiary farms is still dropping.

Sergei Antufyev: Major enterprises? What’s more disturbing is that cattle population has been declining in private holdings.

Vladimir Putin: That’s exactly what I’m saying. And it means that the mechanisms for providing small farmers with fodder aren’t operating efficiently. Did the money we allocated reach the manufacturers?

Sergei Antufyev: It did. After the drought, the region was allocated 228 million roubles for supporting its collective farms. Some 113 farms suffered – one in every three. We allocated another 110 million from the regional budget because many farms found themselves in a difficult position when they had to pay back interest on loans that they took out for the purpose of buying equipment. I made the decision, and the regional Duma supported it, although the opposition criticised us for supporting private enterprises via funds from the regional budget. I explained to them that one third of the population lived in rural areas and that if we did not support the collective farms, the next day we would have to support the same people once they were left without jobs.

Vladimir Putin: That’s typical.

Sergei Antufyev: Mr Putin, let’s talk about housing construction. The situation was extremely challenging for the first half of the year, when the construction industry was still recovering from the effects of the economic crisis. We have now returned to a rate of 100.7%, which amounts to 346,000 square metres. It is very important for us to maintain that momentum. 

Vladimir Putin: So can we expect slight improvements in the situation?

Sergey Antufyev: Yes: a little over one thousand square metres. And ultimately, it is essential for us to show that the region is developing, since housing construction is one of the most important factors in that process.

Vladimir Putin: What’s the situation with major projects? I mean nuclear power stations, the foundry and rolling facility in Yartsevo, and the Igorevsky Woodworking Mill (Igorevsky DOK) … 

Sergei Antufyev: Yes, and then there’s the Baltic Defence System.

Vladimir Putin: What’s the situation with that project?

Sergei Antufyev: The situation with these projects has been developing quite stably. The progress of the nuclear power station, as you know, is an issue of storage, but we are currently on schedule. Incidentally, it has produced almost 26 million kW of electricity this year. Here I seem to be confusing millions, megawatts, kilowatts…

Vladimir Putin: It’s alright.

Sergei Antufyev: As for Igorevsky DOK, it is a major project, indeed. Once again, we received a government order on more extensive lumber processing, particularly in light of the fact that 70% of forests in the Smolensk Region are composed of so-calledsoftwood’; however, Igorevsky DOK is now planning to produce plywood. We have invested more than 1 billion roubles towards this project, and we are progressing on schedule.

The most critical aspect of our work has been the responsibility we undertook, including our obligation to the investment fund of the federal government. These projects deal with infrastructure: roads, substations, gas – and we have fulfilled all of our obligations, including those executed under government order. From now on, the matter depends on the investors. Equipment will soon be delivered, and we expect to see more than 600 new jobs in this small district alone. Of course, we will also have our second modern woodworking enterprise underway: the Gagarin Plywood Mill, also specialising in extensive lumber processing. It was built in the Gagarinsky District in 2008. As a result, we will have two mills processing more than one million of cubic metres of lumber per year, so we won’t just be shipping out raw lumber anymore as you’ve often critically remarked.

Vladimir Putin: I don’t criticise, I simply draw attention to the problem.

Sergei Antufyev: Yes, you are right. But now we are able to produce goods with more extensive processing.

Vladimir Putin:  But what are the main projects in agriculture? Stockbreeding?

Sergei Antufyev: There are four major stockbreeding and dairy stockbreeding projects. We expect to add almost 5,000 heads to the milking herds.

Apart from that, there is another major project – a chicken processing plant able to handle 50,000 tons of meat per year. We are carrying out this project with  Austrians.

Vladimir Putin: Where?

Sergei Antufyev: In Kardymovsky District, about 30 kilometres from Smolensk.  We provided them with the land. There is a good infrastructure laid and the land is located not far from the Moscow-Minsk highway and a gas pipeline. When the investor arrived, he literally clung to the area.

Vladimir Putin: How much investment is there, approximately?

Sergei Antufyev: Two billion roubles. And there are also two major greenhouse projects in Safonovsky District and Gagarinsky District. In the former, there are 10 hectares of vegetable greenhouses and in the latter, 30 hectares of vegetables and flowers. In both cases, we are dealing with Dutchmen and Germans. Once again, the infrastructure is good there: there is gas, electricity, formed plots – everything necessary to attract an investor. 

I brought some materials for you, Mr Putin, (showing them) in which we have formulated the so-called investment potential of the Smolensk Region, where we already offer specific plots, including land, infrastructure, gas, lighting, water – in order to bring in concrete investments.

We literally laid the foundation of a major logistics centre just two weeks ago. There is a large German firm, Rhenus Logistics, planning to build the centre to an area of 30,000 square metres. And it will be a modern facility – not a warehouse.

Vladimir Putin: That’s convenient, since it’s not far from the border.