Vladimir Putin: The issues before us have always been a high-priority strategic item on the Government’s agenda because the destiny of Russia has always depended on that of Siberia. Siberia has not lost its key importance today.
For better or worse, a large part of the region now borders on other countries. Everybody is aware of this new situation.
Moreover, cooperation with the dynamic North American and Asia-Pacific economies is now becoming a top priority. These issues were discussed at the APEC summit in Brunei, where I have just come from. Many national issues can and must be settled by taking advantage of the eastern direction of Russia’s foreign policy.
While discussing the problems of Siberian development, we should view them in the context of integration processes, in which Russia is becoming more and more involved, and the demands of domestic development. The rightness of our actions depends on the ability to comprehend these demands for Russia as a whole and for Siberia in particular.
As I see it, the Government and the Security Council must accomplish this fundamental objective as soon as possible and in accordance with new geo-political realities. I think such work must be completed over the course of 2001, and we must draft a development strategy for Siberia next year.
Siberia abounds in iron ore, copper, nickel, lead, zinc and other non-ferrous and rare metals. Proven reserves in Eastern Siberia alone can boost annual oil and gas output by 30–40 million tonnes and 45–50 billion cubic metres, respectively.
Siberia is famous for its immense energy resources. Kazakhstan was a key element of the Soviet-era power grid. At present, the Siberian power-supply network is separate from the one in European Russia. However, Unified Energy Systems and its counterparts in Kazakhstan have done a lot to restore those old ties. Siberian hydropower plants and thermal power plants burning Kuzbass coal can export electricity to Europe, which is notorious for its much higher energy prices, and to South-East Asia. Consequently, the integration of the Siberian power network into the Russian power industry is a key aspect of regional development. We must also prevent parochial energy policies.
I understand that regional leaders and Unified Energy Systems are facing serious problems in their work, but we can only solve the energy problems of Russia, the Far East and the Central Region by attracting large-scale investment into the power-industry infrastructure, fuel production and processing and construction of transport networks. A reasonable tariffs policy is the only way to accomplish this objective.
It is high time we assessed the national fuel and energy balance, as well as the share of coal, oil and gas in the country’s heat and power industry …
… The development of mineral deposits is inextricably linked with the shipment of raw materials and their derivatives. Russia’s transport potential could be tapped completely by operating energy and transport corridors and expanding them to the east.
Siberian resources can and must be used in the interests of the entire country, but, most importantly, they must contribute to higher regional standards of living. Quite recently, it was considered quite profitable and prestigious to work in Siberia. Unfortunately, many former advantages have turned into drawbacks in the last few years. We must admit that the long-term policy for the development of Siberia is proceeding by fits and starts. People always go where they can have the best life.
On November 8, we discussed migration policy at a meeting in Rostov. Migration policy faces different problems in southern Russia because too many people want to call this region home. We must establish a labour market, support small and medium-sized businesses and new forms of housing construction in Siberia and the Far East. We must also provide incentives for experts, businessmen and skilled workers who want to settle down there, and people should rotate in and out of certain Siberian regions.
Most importantly, we must create incentives for all Russians wishing to live and work in Siberia. An effective legal system, along with our joint efforts, can accomplish this objective. As a result, Siberian regions will develop more quickly than European Russia.