President of Russia Vladimir Putin: So, what’s new? Is everything alright in the region, as always?
Kaluga Region Governor Anatoly Artamonov: Mr President, it would probably be hard to find someone whose life is completely problem-free, but overall we are managing the situation, which is quite stable.
Vladimir Putin: Do you have any concerns? First let us talk about your achievements. Let’s start with what you would like to discuss, the issues that should be addressed as a priority.
Anatoly Artamonov: The region’s special concern is the plunge the car market has taken.
The automobile industry holds an important place in the regional economy, as we have 29 companies working for the sector. However, the situation has stabilised, and this industry grew by 1.5 percent over the first four months this year.
Vladimir Putin: So, you have posted some growth?
Anatoly Artamonov: Yes, and this is not limited to our automobile industry. We have many companies in the railway business. We produce locomotives and holding companies that build and maintain railways. The number of their contracts has decreased by over 65 percent. The situation is comparable in television manufacturing: 40 percent of TV sets sold in the country are made at a Samsung factory in the Kaluga Region. Their output has decreased three-fold.
If not for growth in other sectors, for example, pharmaceuticals, the steel industry and other sectors – and our agricultural industry has grown very well – if not for them, the decline would have been much steeper.
Vladimir Putin: Is the trend in these industries positive?
Anatoly Artamonov: Yes, they have reported growth. For example, the steel industry has grown by over 20 percent, and our pharmaceutical sector grows by over 10 percent a year. We are building new facilities. There are over 60 companies in our pharmaceutical cluster.
Vladimir Putin: I think I remember discussing these plans when I visited your region in 2011.
Anatoly Artamonov: Today we produce and package medicines, and our researchers have advanced very far too. Our pharmaceutical cluster has won a federal competition held among innovative clusters.
We have also created an engineering centre and the Park of Active Molecules, an alliance of competences that produce and export medical substances. We are also developing the radiopharmaceutical sector. We are launching a neutron therapy centre, which is a significant achievement. We have been working on this project for a long time. This explains our achievements.
The achievements in agriculture are especially encouraging. Of course, this is in part attributable to the retaliatory restrictive measures. They have clearly made the market less crowded, but that is not the only factor. Investors are flocking to this sector, literally standing in line to get land plots. Negotiations on investment contracts for the agricultural sector are conducted every year, and these negotiations bring good results with both Russian and foreign companies eager to work on the Russian market.
For the Kaluga Region, this is of course mostly about dairy products and beef. We are also working on poultry and to a lesser extent pig farming. Our key priority is the dairy industry. Last year, milk production surged by 15 percent, which is the highest growth rate in the country, and this year output is already up 11 percent. This trend is set to continue.
I have even announced a programme called One Hundred Automated Farms, even though I am not a fan of introducing initiatives of this kind. We are now actively building these automated farms. Their output surpasses premium products in terms of quality. This benefits old people and children, since the milk does not undergo any thermal treatment, but can still stay fresh and not turn sour without a fridge for up to four or five days due to ideal cleanliness. We already have almost 150 robots in operation in the Kaluga Region. Last year, we launched the biggest automated farm in Europe with 2,200 livestock units, as well as smaller farms with 120 or 130 livestock units.
Vladimir Putin: Do you intend to promote tourism?
Anatoly Artamonov: Mr President, the number of tourists increased 2.5-fold in just three years, and we have already welcomed 2.5 million tourists. In fact, due to the current developments, since many people cannot afford to travel abroad, people are beginning to explore their own country. Businesses from the hospitality industry have responded. There are now more hotels offering high-quality accommodation. In the winter, we have a very good alpine skiing centre, even though there are no mountains in the region. Nevertheless, we have built it, and it is a huge success.
Vladimir Putin: Tell me about your entertainment project.
Anatoly Artamonov: Yes, we have a kind of Disneyland project for family entertainment – touch wood – that will be built on the border of the Kaluga and Moscow regions. We have found a good land plot between a motorway and a railway and near a dual-purpose airport, which has been used by interior troops and the UTair airline as per the Government’s resolution. Most importantly, this airport has a good landing strip.
We have approved the allocation of 220 hectares of government-owned land and signed an investment contract. It is a unique project, and we are resolved to implement it. Here is the idea (shows a presentation booklet).
This theme park will be called The Russian Fairyland and will be composed of several areas, some of which will offer interactive entertainment and educational activities. The complex will also have hotels and the world’s largest waterpark. In fact, you could spend your entire holiday in that complex, learning a great deal about Russia and the world.
I do not want to take up too much of your time enumerating the park’s attractions, but here is just one page about St Petersburg. This pavilion of the park will have St Petersburg’s main sights under one roof, including the Admiralty building, Senate Square, Nevsky Prospekt, and what not.
Vladimir Putin: Very interesting. How much money could this project cost?
Anatoly Artamonov: The project has been estimated at $4 billion.
Vladimir Putin: That is a lot.
Anatoly Artamonov: However, investors do not want the government to participate. What they want is government approval for this project. The regional government has already approved it. If you support it, too, the investors will feel reassured.
Vladimir Putin: I will be happy to do so.
Anatoly Artamonov: Thank you very much.