Replying to the President’s question, Mr Vedernikov spoke about the situation in the free economic zone, which was established in the region several years ago. The Titan-Polimer (Titanium Polymer) Plant is the main facility there. The launch of its second stage will make it possible to organise a broad range of production lines – from medical spare parts to tire cords. This is an attractive option considering all the benefits offered by a special economic zone and zero costs for logistics. This will become the core that is envisaged in the individual programme of socio-economic development for those ten regions with the smallest budgets. The region spends about 900 million rubles every year to create comfortable conditions for investors.
The Governor reported to the President that last year the tourist flow to the Pskov Region grew by 40 percent. The main points of growth are Pskov, Pushkinskiye Gory, Pechory, and Izborsk. He recalled that this year the Pskov-Pechory Monastery turns 550 years old and invited the President to attend the anniversary celebration, which will include many events.
Speaking about the socio-economic situation, the Governor noted that the past year was not easy for the entire country and the Pskov region was no exception. And it also faced its own challenges due to its geopolitical position. Primarily this is linked with two NATO-member neighbours bordering our region. Their actions disrupted logistics chains, creating a threat to the cargo shipment sector. Our neighbours in the Baltic countries attempted unsuccessfully to stage a humanitarian crisis on our border. Their customs and border services unilaterally ruptured all communications with their Russian counterparts, which led to long lines of trucks. On some days, some 600–700 trucks were backed up.
There was another serious challenge – the European Union unilaterally discontinued all cross-border cooperation programmes. The region lost about 300 million rubles as a result. Now we are working with the Ministry of Economic Development to provide regional and federal funds for the implementation of these programmes.
Together with the Government of Russia, we promptly took the necessary decisions to counter these unusual challenges in order to preserve jobs in the cargo-shipping sector and help a number of large businesses find new markets for their products.
According to the Governor, a fairly good foundation for economic growth has been created over the past several years. The issue of transport accessibility has been resolved completely in the region, new major agricultural projects are underway, Gross Regional Product (GRP) is growing, and there is a positive dynamic in wage growth, with salaries showing a 10-percent increase.
We managed to preserve local revenue growth in the consolidated budget. In 2021, it grew by over 3 billion rubles. In 2017, it was 26 billion rubles, and today the budget is 61 billion, which indicates a growth of nearly 2.5 times. The Governor noted that these numbers would have been impossible without the support of the President and the Government.
The relocation of residents from structurally unsound blocks of flats and advancements in the education system were discussed as well. Notably, 33 schools were overhauled for a total amount of 1.5 billion rubles. Today, nine education institutions are either being built, being prepared for construction, or are being renovated. All these decisions require a customised approach in terms of staffing, the Governor noted, since the region is faced with a major shortage of medical and teaching personnel.
The shortage of doctors is now less acute, in large part thanks to regional decisions to support medical workers. The construction of an academic and laboratory building at the Institute of Medicine and Experimental Biology of the Pskov State University is nearing completion. Classes for medical students will begin this year. The Governor expects the severity of the problem to decrease in the coming years and to be completely resolved in the foreseeable future.
Transport accessibility is being addressed. In 2017, the only non-direct daily train ran on the Pskov-St Petersburg route with the travel time of 5.5 hours or more. Today, four trains run daily there and back, with some of them catering specifically to tourists, and the travel time is down to 3.5 hours. Half a million passengers traveled on these trains last year. A daily bus service was launched with Belarusian Vitebsk for the first time. Air traffic is expanding quickly. There were no flights at all in 2017. Today, a new enterprise is operating and expanding dynamically, with Novaport acting as its investor. There are 10 flights weekly between Pskov and Moscow and two daily flights to Sochi, Kaliningrad, Mineralnye Vody, and Kazan. Passenger traffic grew from 30,000 in 2019 to almost 120,000 last year, and is scheduled to reach 150,000 this year. Designing a new passenger terminal will start soon in conjunction with Novaport colleagues.
Mikhail Vedernikov noted that the Pskov Region has rich military traditions. In fact, he said, there is probably not a single person in the region whose relative, acquaintance, or friend did not serve in the Armed Forces. That is why, from the first days of the SMO, close attention has been paid to providing assistance to SMO participants and their families. Residents and small and medium-sized businesses are part of this effort. Since the beginning of the SMO and despite the fact that the region is not well off, about 700 million rubles – both budgetary and extra-budgetary funds – have been set aside to help refugees in the territories under patronage.
Mr Vedernikov noted that elections were coming up in the region and his team was ready to continue to work in the interests of the residents of the Pskov region.
Vladimir Putin noted that under the Governor’s confident leadership, his team is working effectively and, in general, at a respectable pace, and wished Mikhail Vedernikov continued success in his work. At the same time, the President emphasised how important it is to turn primarily to people when seeking support.