Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref on the development of special economic port zones
German Gref: The draft law on special economic port zones has already been approved by all the federal agencies. The Legislation Commission will examine it today, and the Government will examine it at a meeting on Thursday. This is the last of the different types of special economic zone we have been working on over the last two years. We have carried out this work in accordance with your instructions. We have finally settled all the customs, tax, land-use, and infrastructure issues within the zones and agreed on the simplified administration procedures that will apply.
The idea at present is to develop special economic port zones based around sea, river and airports with international transport links. Apart from the infrastructure needed for freight processing and handling goods in transit, production facilities, above all facilities for manufacturing and exporting goods, could also be developed on the land around the port areas. This system, the free-port system, already exists elsewhere in the world. We would introduce a similar tax and customs regime to that practised in other countries using this system, and we could possibly combine port and production zones in the areas around the ports so as to stimulate manufacturing and exports.
If everything goes according to timetable, we hope that the State Duma will examine and pass the draft law during the spring session. The Duma deputies support this proposal and a group of deputies have already introduced a similar draft law of their own. We plan to hold a tender for selecting the port zones that will take part in this programme during the course of this year, and starting next year, we will begin carrying out the infrastructure work needed to develop modern cargo-handling facilities and perhaps also manufacturing facilities.
President Vladimir Putin: These zones will be located in the Far East Region, the northwest, north and the south?
German Gref: Our idea is that there should be three or four such zones at first, most likely one in the northwest, one in the north, one in the Black Sea area and probably one in the Far East.
Vladimir Putin: A decision hasn’t been taken on the Black Sea yet?
German Gref: We have a big project underway on developing Novorossiisk as a logistics centre, and we are currently examining a project to develop the port of Novorossiisk, including through investment from the Investment Fund. If Novorossiisk were to be given the status of special economic port zone, the two projects could be combined, of course, and the Investment Fund could be used to help develop state-of-the-art infrastructure there. But these decisions will be made based on the results of the tender.
Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov on the sports development programme for Sochi and the city’s presentation of its bid to host the 2014 Winter Olympics
Alexander Zhukov: All three candidate cities have presented their bids now. Salzburg was the last to do so. Now, the cards are on the table, as they say. But we are still working actively with the International Olympic Committee, working specifically with the Committee’s members to demonstrate the advantages that Sochi’s bid offers. A big exhibition, Sportaccord, will open in two weeks time in China, and almost half the members of the International Olympic Committee will be attending. We will also be there to present our bid. So, work is going ahead, and work is also going ahead, of course, on carrying out the federal targeted programme for Sochi’s development. After all, we are developing Sochi as a winter sports resort centre regardless of who gets chosen to host the Olympics. The work is already underway. We are ready for whatever the outcome may be, but we are doing everything possible, of course, to ensure that ours is the winning bid.
First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov on the Defence Ministry Central Archive’s work to digitalise data on all who were killed or went missing during World War II, and on upcoming meetings on developing transport-sector machine-building and Russia’s internal waterways (the river fleet)
Sergei Ivanov: We have begun the process of digitalising all data on those killed or missing during World War II stored at the Defence Ministry Central Archives in paper form, in card catalogues and archive materials. Around a quarter of this data has already been digitalised and is now available on the Defence Ministry website. We need the financing to be able to complete this work, and if we get this money (around 300 million roubles), we will be able to complete it all by the end of the year. In other words, all the data will have been digitalised.
Vladimir Putin: Tomorrow you are scheduled to hold an away session of the Industry and Energy Ministry Collegium. What is on the agenda?
Sergei Ivanov: We will be holding an enlarged-format session of the Industry and Energy Ministry Collegium tomorrow at Mytyshchi, at one of the big transport-sector machine-building plants. The session will focus on the development of machine-building for the Russian transport sector. Representatives of the Transport Ministry, Russian Railways, and the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs will be taking part. We will be examining a development strategy for the sector for 2007–2010. We have been having problems in this sector. The railways, for example, face a shortage of modern railway wagons. The Government discussed this issue just recently, and the Governor of Kemerovo also noted the lack of modern rolling stock, modern passenger and freight wagons. We also have a problem with our locomotive fleet, which is being modernised only very slowly. We need modern new engines, electric- and heat-powered. We will be looking at all of these issues tomorrow. This sector also needs to be developed. We have enterprises that are able to manufacture modern, lighter rolling stock and wagons made using new materials that are more economical and will work out cheaper for the railways sector as a whole, and this is important because there is a real shortage in the country at the moment.
On Wednesday, I will be chairing a session of the Marine Collegium, and the main item on our agenda will be developing the country’s inland waterways and river fleet. This fleet and the inland waterways in general continue to play a big part in freight transport in Russia. The river fleet currently serves 26 autonomous republics, autonomous regions and national districts, and 42 of the country’s regions, in other words, almost half the country. The river fleet transports 130 million tons of freight and around 20 million passengers every year. This is mostly local traffic.
I would like to note too that the river fleet is the most economical and environmentally friendly type of transport. Costs are eight times lower per ton of freight transported by river than by railway, and 20 times lower than by truck. In other words, river transport is the most energy-saving type of transport. We will also discuss the construction of new river-sea vessels. This is one of the objectives of the newly created United Shipbuilding Corporation.
The river fleet is made up of aging vessels and in this area too we need new ships.
I also want to add that the navigation season begins this week in the south of the country. The Volga-Don Canal will begin working next week. A new lock, the Kochetovsky Lock, has been built, which will enable an approximately two-fold increase in freight traffic on the canal. The start of operations at the new lock also marks the completion of the first stage of our programme to integrate into the unified European system of internal waterways.