President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Zhilkin, work is underway now on a free economic zone. What are your expectations and what results did the last year bring for the region?
Governor of Astrakhan Region Alexander Zhilkin: I want to thank you. Your instruction was carried out, the Government approved the decision at the end of last year to establish a free industrial and economic zone (FEZ) in the area around the shipyard. This is important for developing new skills and industrial companies capable of replacing imported components used in the oil and gas sector in the Caspian region and throughout the country.
We are therefore working very closely with the Economic Development Ministry on setting up the FEZ management organisation. Everything will be ready in the next few days, the documents have all been signed, and we will begin developing the primary infrastructure. I am sure that this way, we will be able to complete the project this year. We have held serious talks with Russian big business representatives and with foreign partners too, and are working very actively at present with Chinese and Indian business.
The results for 2014 were positive overall. Of course, we had forecast higher growth rates for our gross regional product, given that we had very high growth in 2012 and 2013 – 14–16 percent a year.
Vladimir Putin: What is the situation now?
Alexander Zhilkin: We expect a figure of 2.5 percent.
Vladimir Putin: You have not made the final calculation yet?
Alexander Zhilkin: Not yet. The main thing though is that we have maintained last year’s investment level of 115 billion rubles. We just had to make an adjustment and postpone completion of two big projects until this year.
What is most promising is that at the end of last year we completed a project with the big oil and gas servicing company, Schlumberger. They opened a production base in Astrakhan Region to carry out operations for the entire Caspian region and for Russia in general at the fields where they work with our oil and gas companies.
We are implementing your executive orders according to the roadmaps in all the different areas. The average wage in the region increased to slightly more than 25,000 rubles in 2014. In this respect, we have fulfilled all of our targets regarding implementation of the executive orders.
Vladimir Putin: Good.