President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Gordeyev, first of all, let’s talk about Voronezh Region’s socioeconomic situation. I know that overall, the situation here is developing well, investment activity is growing, GRP is increasing, and growth rates are slightly higher than the national average in manufacturing and agriculture. Incidentally, we just saw a new bypass. It’s a new road, completed in November of last year. How does this reflect on people’s lives?
Acting Governor of Voronezh Region Alexei Gordeyev: Mr President, you very rightly noted that we are continuing to experience economic growth. Here are the adjusted data for the first half of the year: the industrial production index averaged 105%. There is also a good level of growth in agriculture, especially in everything related to livestock products, meat and milk production. With regard to investments, we were among the top 10 regions in the first half of the year – in other words, we continue to register serious growth here.
Today, we can also talk about social infrastructure – everything pertaining to government commitments. In particular, this year, we must complete the construction of a fitness and health complex and finish hospital renovations in every district centre. So we are certain that the year will be stable overall; I predict that we will achieve about 8% growth.
Vladimir Putin: Were the harvests good?
Alexei Gordeyev: Yes. As of yesterday, we have harvested three million tonnes. According to our forecast, we should have about four million tonnes including corn; right now, I’m taking about grain crops.
Vladimir Putin: And how much did you have last year?
Alexei Gordeyev: Last year, we had 3.7 million – in other words, we expect that overall, the harvest will be 10–15% greater than last year. We are fully providing ourselves with food grains and are ready to sell to other regions.
If we are to discuss problems, Mr President, our problems have more to do with the fact that industrial and agro sector representatives are starting to ask questions, particularly concerning our trade and economic relations, for example with EU nations. Ultimately, we feel the level of protectionism and direct support over there is much higher, and at the same time, they have a very different level of access to credit and financial resources.
But right now, in addition to investors and business representatives, labour collectives are also concerned with the use of political instruments related to putting pressure on businesses when they roll back trade relations with us, and with the use of additional trade preferences.
Of course, we are all worried about this and the question arises: where is the WTO? Where are the WTO rules and why, indeed, isn’t fair competition being ensured? And, of course, it would be nice if we could give them some level of confidence, send a signal to our businesses.
Vladimir Putin: Mr Gordeyev, I remember the discussions about the WTO with you back when you were the Agriculture Minister in the Cabinet; your position is known well.
Indeed, instruments of political pressure on the economy are unacceptable; they contradict all the regulations and rules. In this respect, the Government of Russia has already proposed a series of response measures to the so-called sanctions on the part of certain states. I think that in current conditions, in order to secure the interests of Russian producers, we could consider this. But, naturally, this needs to be done very carefully, to ensure that we support Russian producers but also do not harm consumers. I already formulated such instructions to the Government and I am confident that corresponding suggestions will be made very soon.
Alexei Gordeyev: Thank you, Mr President.
For our part, we – producers and agricultural workers – are prepared to increase production and aim to make economic growth our main goal, not profits.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, and competitive conditions must be equal, based on the considerations you just expressed, based on national security considerations and in strict compliance with the World Trade Organisation rules. And proposals will be provided accordingly.
Alexei Gordeyev: Thank you.