Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.
This meeting in Vladivostok, at first glance, is not much different in its format and content from similar meetings and conferences devoted to the social and economic development of other Russian regions, but it is not an ordinary meeting. The difference lies in the special character of the Far East. It has great strategic significance for Russia. The main feature of this territory is the gigantic and, I think, not fully appreciated resources of the area. At the same time, it is a region marked by some stark and not always pleasant contradictions and contrasts.
The Far Eastern Federal District occupies more than a third of the territory of the Russian Federation and at the same time it has the lowest population density. As I have said, it has vast natural resources, but also vast distances, uninhabited and undeveloped spaces and an undeveloped infrastructure.
The systemic issues that affect every aspect of life include the development of railway transport, aviation, port facilities and the fleet. They also include the entire communications system, energy issues in the broad sense of the word and power supply to business entities and households.
The bulk of the investments under the federal targeted programme will go into the fuel and energy and transportation infrastructures. A successful implementation of the programme should double the gross regional product by 2010 and create 600,000 new jobs. Ultimately it should make the region financially self-sufficient.
Today the railway density in the Far East is 72.2% less than the national average. The length of paved roads is nearly 80% less. The underdeveloped transport network is a brake on the development of economic ties within the region and between regions and the growth of cooperation with foreign partners.
The Government of course must speed up the elaboration of a single coordinated project to develop railway and road transport schemes with a view to forming transport corridors. At the same time it is necessary to create a modern road service and ensure the safety of shipments.
Another important challenge is modernisation of the seaports. They constitute strong and necessary elements of the potential of the Far East.
The work to modernise airports must continue. By the way, I can tell you that more than half of the national expenditure on airport infrastructure modernisation will be allocated to the Far East.
Power supply remains one of the most serious problems in the region. That is one more reason why the Government should now hurry up to develop a fuel and energy strategy. The Far East depends almost totally on imported fuel, a situation that can no longer be tolerated. It is necessary to concentrate on programmes to build a new energy capacity in the Far East. Besides, supplies of oil and gas to the Far East regions must be guaranteed. That problem can only be solved by creating an extensive network of pipelines.
The implementation of these programmes can ensure the badly needed energy stability for the region. But it cannot be achieved until the problem of non-payments for energy resources has been addressed. Despite all the measures to impose payment discipline, no breakthrough has been achieved in this situation.
There is another issue that requires our attention. I mean the serious concern about the migration processes in the Far East. They call for a special approach, including on the part of the security structures and agencies. The problem varies in different parts of the Far East, but on the whole it is very worrying.
Spontaneous migration, which is often illegal, creates not only the traditional problems of drug addiction, prostitution, crime and contraband. Migration in the Far East is so massive that it squeezes Russian citizens out of the labour market.
As you know, a law on the legal status of foreigners has been passed. It was preceded by a heated discussion, but many of its key provisions specifically address the problems of the Far East. It is now important to implement the law. It can be an effective tool for regulating the processes in the labour market. I would like to stress and to remind you that the regions of the Russian Federation, under this law, have the right to determine the quotas for bringing in foreign labour. This possibility must be used in a reasonable and effective way, remembering that the right to work – and I would like to stress that point – must be ensured above all for the citizens of the Russian Federation.
Next comes the development of economic cooperation along borders and internationally. We have to display more creativity and initiative in developing the exportation of Russian goods and services to markets in the Asia-Pacific region. We must be competitive in relations with our partners. This is prompted not only by the economic interests, but also by the issues of security and development.
The results of today’s meeting must provide the basis for our joint work to tackle all the problems in the district. I would like to stress that they must and will constantly be held under review by the federal authorities. That is why we have gathered here in this format and, as we know, thank God, no major political events are expected in the country. This is a routine working meeting which will orient us towards sustained and systematic work to develop the Far East.
In order to keep the problems of the Far East constantly within the sights of the federal authorities, the Security Council will be asked to prepare a special meeting on the problems of the district.