President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Zhilkin, how do you evaluate the situation in the region?
Astrakhan Region Govern Alexander Zhilkin: The situation is businesslike and calm. The gross regional product is over 100 percent, year on year. The rate is not the same as in previous years but, still, it is good enough. Regarding the increase in industrial production, it is 106.4 percent in all sectors. Investment in fixed capital stood at 111 billion [rubles] last year. This year, we are planning to raise it to 120 billion – what is important, in all sectors.
Our priority, naturally, is import substitution: the agrarian sector, food processing and light industry. And of course, the tool that you have given us. In keeping with your directive, the government has made a decision with regard to a free economic zone. We are actively working with our partners. The first two residents have already entered the zone. This includes a shipbuilding enterprise which is establishing a metal working centre, which is a very important, essential enterprise for the further development of the shipbuilding sector and the oil and gas fields in the Caspian, not only for Russian companies, but eventually also for our partners: Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.
Our forecast for this year is an increase in the volume of industrial production of about 110 percent. The business community is vibrant and ready to soldier on despite the difficulties we have encountered. However, I believe that these forecasted and adjusted import substitution and industrial production support programmes allow me to take a positive view of the current year. Especially, considering that we are involved in all the programmes on a federal level.
Vladimir Putin: Does the principal shipbuilding contract come from Lukoil?
Alexander Zhilkin: Yes, and there are also orders from our transport companies, including a maritime shipping company, which earlier this year took delivery of a new tanker; now they have placed orders for several tugboats.
You may recall that at the summit of the Caspian states, you and your colleagues discussed the need for organising a cruise service in the Caspian Sea. The Russian Government has made a decision regarding the possibility of building, with Russian Government support, the first of several cruise ships this year for the Black Sea and the Caspian. We hope the construction of the ships will begin sometime in August.
Vladimir Putin: Good.