Vladimir Putin: I would like to take this opportunity to once again congratulate everyone here, as this has a direct bearing on the Far Eastern region. I am very pleased to see that what we agreed on three and a half or four years ago, including here in Blagoveshchensk, is being fulfilled. It is nice to see that the plans for the development of the Far East are being fulfilled. This is a very serious stage in the Far East’s development. Essentially, this is the creation of a base for the development of the social and economic spheres. Obviously, the commissioning of the first generating unit of the Bureya Hydroelectric Power Station marks a serious step towards boosting the potential of the entire Far Eastern region’s economy.
With time this station should become the most powerful in the Far East. When it starts operating to its full capacity it should solve the power problems of the Maritime, Khabarovsk and Amur regions.
When the station is operating at full capacity, there should be no energy crises and, of course, the Far East’s economic development will be given a boost.
The capacity of Amur region enterprises is growing even today and regional tax revenues are increasing.
The Bureya power plant, naturally, will provide the electric power sector with opportunities to expand its export potential. This is not a bad thing, but it is not the main point. The most important aspect is developing our own country, the Russian economy, securing people’s future here, creating jobs and improving living standards for the people who live here.
There is one more important aspect – environmental safety. Particular attention has to be paid to this in the station’s future development. Moreover, the commissioning of the Bureya station will allow the region to eliminate problems connected with unstable energy supplies.
The station’s director has told me that year-on-year expenses for bringing coal to the region might be cut by 1.3 billion roubles as early as 2004. This figure could exceed 5 billion roubles when Bureya reaches its full capacity. This, in its turn, will allow a more appropriate tariff policy to be introduced and will ultimately improve the wellbeing of Far Eastern residents. In the meantime, citizen’s electricity bills in a number of districts of the region now can and should be cut by at least 10%.
It must not be forgotten that the entire country contributed financially to the construction of the Bureya plant. Construction was completed after the Federal Government took the appropriate decisions to include building costs in the national budget, thereby laying an extra burden on the whole country. Accordingly, the entire country, all of Russia has paid for the construction of the Bureya Hydroelectric Power Station. The economy of the entire country, the economy, above all, of the regions and people who live here should feel the positive results of this work.
As not only the chiefs of the electric power sector and the Bureya plant are here today, but also Far East regional heads, I would like to talk about another problem that has no direct bearing on the Bureya station, but is closely connected to the energy problem. Despite the fact that this issue does not fall within the remit of either the President or the Government, I believe that no one can avoid taking responsibility for solving these problems. I mean the most painful problem of housing and communal utilities. Unfortunately, I must state that a few problems are again looming. A Gosstroi commission has been here and pointed to already alarming symptoms in the Kamchatka, Sakhalin, Maritime and Koryak regions.
You know how much we talk about this every year. And now Gosstroi experts have come to the conclusion that preparations for this winter in these regions are not proceeding effectively enough.
After visiting the district, the commission produced information to the effect that a number of heat and electricity supplying facilities were not ready for the cold season. Water supply facilities, which people depend on for drinking water, and which the heating system needs in order to work, are in a poor state in some cities.
In spite of the limited timeframe for navigation, the necessary fuel reserves for the year have been stockpiled a long way from where they are needed. There are objective problems and here, in Bureya, they are also noticeable. This means, firstly, a low level of water. The same thing has happened with other rivers and this means that attention must be focused on it even more. The reason for this backward state of affairs, of course, is said to be inadequate funding and a lack of money. At the same time, as a rule, there is no mention of the lack of economic management and the failure to take managerial decisions on time. As both the federal authorities and regional leaders are here, I ask you to give this matter particular attention.
Finally, I would like to hear your opinions on the prospects for attracting investment to the Far Eastern Federal District’s energy system and to the development of the country’s energy capacity in general. The main point here, I would like to stress once again, is that new economic growth in the Russian Federation should be achieved on the basis of the established electric power capacities. In this case, we are, first of all, talking about the Far East region. An exception has been made for the Far East. We have a single federal regional programme for the Far East alone. And, strictly speaking, the commissioning of the Bureya power station is one element in the fulfilment of this federal programme. All the other elements of the programme should join the process that is happening today.
A pleasing event is taking place today. Many years ago, in 1903, people began to think about building a hydroelectric power station here, and the first design work started in the early 1970s. The real work began in 1984, but then it was abandoned in 1990. And so over the last four years, thanks largely to the efforts of everyone here today, thanks to the efforts of the Russian Government, the matter has been successfully carried through to the end. This positive example must become infectious, in the good sense of the word, so that it provides the Far East’s economy with a boost, so that people will have an incentive to stay here and feel that there are prospects for themselves and their children, so that they can live normal and worthwhile lives here. Let us think about this, above all else. Much depends on the regional leaders. Of course, a great deal depends on the Government as well, on how it and the heads of the energy sector conduct energy policy here. But I stress that a great deal depends on the regional leaders. I urge you and the Government to think of and implement plans for developing the economic potential of the Far East.