President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues,
Today we will discuss here in the Astrakhan Region issues linked with its economic and social advancement, including in the context of the recent meeting of the Council for Strategic Development and National Projects, during which special attention was paid to the regional aspects of implementing our key programmes. Now we will focus on the performance of the Astrakhan Region.
I would like to note at the outset that this region has a good foundation for development. The East-West and North-South international transport routes pass through its territory. It has promising hydrocarbon deposits and a large oil-and-gas complex. The region’s natural wealth lies in its fertile agricultural lands and the biological resources of the Volga and the Caspian Sea. It also has a good workforce capacity.
Last year, the region achieved positive dynamics in many key indicators. The GRP grew by 6.2 percent over 2017. Industrial production went up by 16.2 percent and agricultural production by 5.8 percent. These figures are much higher than the national average.
At the same time, I would like to note that the rates of commissioning new housing and of construction in general are below the national average. The dynamics of capital investment are unstable. And I would like to make special mention of the fact that so far industrial and agricultural growth has had little effect on the wages of people in the region. Last year they were even below the national average while the unemployment rate was higher. Importantly, many workers – especially in agriculture and tourism – can only rely on seasonal employment. So they have stable incomes only in summer, for several months.
Needless to say, all these factors affect the social well-being of local residents. There is a shortage of good jobs and few opportunities for people to reach their potential, especially for young people. This explains the considerable outflow of population: this indicator for the region is higher, if not to say much higher, than the national average.
It is obvious that, to promote economic development and improve the quality of life, we need to search for new opportunities to attract investment, to support industry and agriculture, small and medium-sized businesses. We need to step up the upgrading of the transport infrastructure, and improve the positions of promising economic sectors such as logistics, tourism, and food processing. To achieve this, we need to fully utilise our own resources as well as the opportunities offered by national projects and priority programmes.
I know that a new socioeconomic development strategy is being developed in the region, and today I ask the Acting Governor, Mr Sergei Morozov, to report on how this is being prepared, the main goals you plan to achieve and by what means.
I would like to stress once again: the Astrakhan Region has the potential to embark on sustainable growth. But it will require consistent rather than fragmentary effort and a systemic approach. We need to focus our efforts and resources on key areas; on real, practical development factors.
Furthermore, I would like to call your attention to a number of specific problems and issues.
First, many years ago it was decided to develop the port of Olya. In 2004, a railway line was built to Olya. However, the port has not yet reached full capacity, and the volume of cargo transported by rail is still far from the targeted objective.
Meanwhile, freight traffic in the Caspian region as a whole, including transport volume, is constantly growing. Yet, a large percent of cargo still bypasses Russia, and naturally our neighbours take it, and they are right to do so – they are competing in the market. Why? Because they have modern high-capacity port and logistics complexes.
Perhaps one solution to the problem would be to offer special incentives for attracting intransit freight and investors who would be willing to build the required infrastructure for handling these goods and their subsequent transit across Russian territory.
Let's discuss this topic more specifically today.
Developing shipbuilding is next. The Astrakhan Region has many years of successful experience in this area and is home to the renowned Krasniye Barrikady shipyard which has a long history, but is now in a difficult situation primarily due to a shortage of orders, which in turn, are due to problems with river navigation and shipbuilding, among other things.
In 2016, at the State Council Presidium meeting, instructions were issued to expand river navigation and promote shipbuilding. Today, I would like to hear what has been done since then, your proposals regarding the efficient, economic use of waterways and rivers and, then, supplying shipbuilding enterprises with orders.
There were specific assignments, most of which were acted upon successfully, but I would still like to see the results. As I have mentioned repeatedly, we need to achieve results rather than formally execute orders.
Third, upgrading motor road infrastructure. We are talking about renovating key bridges and motorways and building new interchanges which will help improve business activities in the region and adjacent areas, to make transport access more modern and convenient for Astrakhan Region residents, to expand region-to-region cooperation, and to resolve serious environmental problems.
On a separate note, I would like to discuss the social sphere. We covered in detail our goals in this area at a meeting of the Council for National Projects.
I am aware that the Economic Development Ministry, in conjunction with the Astrakhan regional government, has compiled a list of 50 healthcare, education, culture and sports sites which will be built in the region. I would like to know what has been done and what will be done in the future.
Of course, it is important to build more housing, as I have already mentioned, and to come up with attractive mortgage offers for young families and other residents in the region.
In closing, I would like to emphasise that social initiatives in the Astrakhan Region, and all other regions, that are designed to improve the quality of life and to implement development projects, will, by all means, receive the necessary support from the federal government.
Let's get to work.