President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Nikitin, the topic is the traditional one – the situation in the Novgorod Region.
Governor of the Novgorod Region Andrei Nikitin: I would like to report some results, Mr President. The very first thing that you drew attention to is roads. When we got down to work, only 26 percent of our roads were in good condition. Thanks to your support, it was already 35 percent by the end of last year. We expect it to reach 42 percent in this year’s results.
Vladimir Putin: In your report it says 42 percent in 2019.
Andrei Nikitin: This is as of January 1, 2019, so it will definitely be 42 percent in 2019.
Of course, a significant issue is the mortality. Today we have a rather high mortality on the roads. It is not in keeping with the May executive order, so it will likely be our main focus for the next few years.
Vladimir Putin: Was there a slight decrease?
Andrei Nikitin: Yes, there was. But we must improve the M10 highway and regional roads in terms of guard rails and speed limits.
The region’s economy is growing. There has been a 105 percent increase in industrial production. Private investment has grown by some 7 billion this year.
I am pleased to note that exports are also growing. We have worked quite well with the Russian Export Centre. About 40 new enterprises entered export markets; these are medium-sized businesses. Of course, this is of great interest for us. We are close to ports and roads. All this creates the correct economic task.
Vladimir Putin: What products are mainly exported?
Andrei Nikitin: Such a simple example – we have Russia’s only IKEA plant in the region. There is no IKEA store, as the region is too small, but the plant manufactures products for Moscow, St Petersburg and Brazil.
We started to export doors – we have a good door-making plant. We also began to export food. We are negotiating with Japan – we are in the final stage of certifying our agricultural products. We will export seaberry extracts and vegetable oils to Japan. So, active work is underway.
Last year, with the Government’s backing, we opened a special zone, and it is already practically completely filled with potential investors today.
Regarding the zone we want to set up outside Novgorod: we discussed it with the State Council on Industrial Policy, we are working closely with the Ministry of Economic Development, and we know already how to fill it up. I think it will add around 40–50 billion rubles of investment overall in the coming several years, that is, it is comparable to the current annual volume.
We are certainly aware that it is not always correct to focus on external investors. This is why we have changed our legislation on investor support to boost existing enterprises and modernise production.
Vladimir Putin: It does not really make a difference to us if the investor is foreign or domestic. We have to create favourable conditions for all who invest.
Andrei Nikitin: But we have gone up in the Agency for Strategic Initiative’s ranking, from 53rd to 29th. This is not a top spot, but it is closer to a good one. It is important to me that productivity grows; therefore, starting this year, thanks to the changes we had made, all existing enterprises launched modernisation programmes. This will allow us to significantly go up in terms of quality and export potential.
In addition, of course, we have two innovations: taxes paid by small businesses go to the local districts so that the people in charge there realise that they have to protect small businesses. We have agreed that if the enterprises located in the region bring back their headquarters from Moscow or St Petersburg, I will transfer 80 percent of additional taxes received to the district. Several enterprises have already used the opportunity. It is great because they have people working for them there, and this money goes to kindergartens, recreation centres, in some places this money goes to build roads. And the enterprise, the owner realises that he is not just paying taxes somewhere, he pays them to improve his own workers’ standard of living. The local residents also realise that economic development is measured not by some abstract numbers but by jobs for them. I would like to thank you for your support last year.
Vladimir Putin: From the Reserve Fund?
Andrei Nikitin: Yes, practically all the region’s districts got a bit of that support. We repaired schools and gyms in some areas, kindergartens, hospitals and senior homes in others. Some of the places had not been renovated for many years. This was a very important matter. Thank you very much. For many districts, that was a considerable leap forward in terms of quality of life.
Vladimir Putin: If people saw it, this is exactly our goal.
Andrei Nikitin: We are paying much attention to youth affairs. We are working in several directions here.
Firstly, we provide modern education. We have opened a quantorium or a technology park for young people. We know that this is an expensive project and not all districts can implement it. Therefore, we are using this quantorium to set up mobile mini-quantoriums at schools and we are reopening engineering clubs of the kind we had in the Soviet era. We hope that some 20 percent of children and teenagers from 8 to 14 will join these clubs.
Another interesting initiative is the Captain Nikolai Varukhin Marine Centre. Nikolai has received the badge of merit For Mentorship under your executive order. It is the only children’s marine centre with vessels that has remained in Russia.
We are working with the Agency for Strategic Initiatives (ASI) and Dmitry Peskov [Director of the ASI’s Young Professionals project] to create a National Technology Initiative centre for unmanned marine vessels. In other words, our Marine Centre, which was established 60 years ago, is moving with the times.
As for physical fitness and sport, my goal last year was to complete the facilities where construction dragged on for decades. There is only one uncompleted sports and recreation centre left, but it will open to the public in two weeks.
My next goal is to attract people to sports by creating outdoor sports grounds. We have launched a project Be Sporty with outdoor morning exercises held at these sports ground, some of them with famous Novgorod athletes. We hope to do more than has been planned in sports.
Vladimir Putin: How many people do you plan to involve in physical fitness and sports?
Andrei Nikitin: We have set the target at 60 percent. In addition, we have very active pensioners, who practice an active lifestyle, including Nordic walking and swimming. We try to do our best to keep up this spirit and to develop an active sporting lifestyle as much as we can.
Vladimir Putin: Sixty percent is a good figure. When do you expect to reach this target?
Andrei Nikitin: I think we can reach it in 2021 or 2022, which is sooner than stipulated in the executive order.
Vladimir Putin: Very good.
Andrei Nikitin: We are also working to improve the urban environment, as was done around the country. One of our big problems is the lack of good embankments. Our colleagues at the Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design in Moscow have created a concept for us, and the Government has promised support. I think we will start building in a landmark area, near the theatre and the Novgorod Kremlin.