18 january, 2010 21:22  

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin meets with Voronezh Governor Alexei Gordeyev


They summarised last year’s social and economic development of the Voronezh Region, and discussed plans for its further development. In particular, Mr Gordeyev told the Prime Minister about its ambitious goal – to get into Russia’s Top Thirty within the next five years.

Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: Mr Gordeyev, how did last year go?

Alexei Gordeyev: Mr Putin, the economic crisis certainly undermined the regional economy. February and March were the worst months. Things got better then. Economic depression for the whole year was mere half of the national average.

Vladimir Putin: Your region has a sophisticated defence industry.

Alexei Gordeyev: Yes, it helped much to stabilise the economy. Its 28 companies, which totally employ more than 40,000, increased their output by total 20%.

Agriculture made headway. Meat production increased by 50%, milk by 10%, and food industry by 48%-impressive figures.

I think the social aspect of the crisis mattered most, considering the impact it had on the employed population. We have been reducing unemployment since the start of April. Our unemployment rate for the entire year was 2.5%, again below the national average.

Vladimir Putin: Was the region indebted as the entire country?

Alexei Gordeyev: Yes, but we have paid our debts. Back wages made 180 million roubles, as of April 1, against present-day 16 million-tenfold reduction. We think it essential for economic stabilisation.

We owe our success not only to effective organisation but also to the Coordination Council we have established on federal government order. I chair the council. It met every week. The prosecutor's officers contributed much. We contacted industrial proprietors, and established municipal anti-crisis boards.

We are grateful to the federal government for its aid. State guarantees amounted to 1,200 million roubles, and interest subsidies to 500 million roubles. There was also a good programme to stabilise the labour market. It was launched at the federal level, and we advanced it at the regional one with 1,100 million rouble federal allocations. All this has brought sizeable improvements.

Regional budget revenues were the same as in 2008, and we expect 8.5% growth this year. Economic improvements are starting, and we have every reason to expect larger profits.

We are setting strategic targets for this year. To be honest, the Voronezh Region is doing worse than it should, ranking Russia's 50th for per capita gross domestic product, and below the 60th for incomes. I have posed it an ambitious target-to join the top thirty within the next five years.

Vladimir Putin: What is the average monthly wage in your region?

Alexei Gordeyev: Slightly over 11,000 roubles.

Vladimir Putin: It approaches 14,000, as far as I know.

Alexei Gordeyev: That might be so in December and January, after the rise. As for summer and the peak crisis months, the average wages were in the 11,500-12,000 bracket. The average is decent largely thanks to the defence industry. For instance, the Sozvezdiye Group, which we have visited today, pays its employees an average 24,000 roubles a month.

Vladimir Putin: Right, it's 24,000.

Alexei Gordeyev: Our targets might appear too ambitious-but don't forget the formidable scientific, industrial and educational potential the Voronezh Region had in the Soviet years, to say nothing of its prosperous agriculture. It had never left the top ten. To regain something of its old prestige is among our goals for the decade. I want to illustrate the point with several slides (demonstrating slides).

Faster-growth economic belts, established on a recently launched programme, are between the old and new parts of Voronezh. The Federal Investment Fund has earmarked 430 million roubles, while the region is making an infrastructural contribution with a railway, a highway, power grids, water and drainage. Siemens and Armax have applied to partner the industrial companies we are establishing. The belts are large enough to hold 25 pioneer plants, so we are looking forward to an investment inflow.

Vladimir Putin: What will these companies specialise in?

Alexei Gordeyev: Siemens, for one, is starting an arm which will be Russia's first manufacturer of electric transformers for industry. Armax, a major St Petersburg-based company, is starting sandwich panel production.

We are paying great attention to Voronezh. A city with a million population, it has problems galore. You have heard many of them discussed today.

Vladimir Putin: The city centre is very beautiful.

Alexei Gordeyev: It is. The city fully deserves to be the capital of the Black Earth Zone. That is its historical status, and we want to preserve it. Voronezh shares its problems with other megalopolises. Traffic congestion is the worst. We talked the matter over with Transport Minister Igor Levitin, when he was visiting the city, with an emphasis on the construction of Massalitinov Embankment.

Mr Putin, we have gone past the reconstructed bridge together today. The roads in the centre will be much relieved if an embankment is built near the bridge. Then, there are two federal highways close go each other-one to Kursk, and the other, M4, the basic artery from Moscow to Sochi via Rostov. They can be linked together by the Antonov-Ovseyenko Orbital Road. It is in blueprints now, and its designing will soon finish.

Vladimir Putin: How long will this road be?

Alexei Gordeyev: 12-15 kilometres, though it is mere three as the crow flies.

Vladimir Putin: So it's an expensive project-the road has to bypass historical neighbourhoods.

Alexei Gordeyev: We have already reserved the right-of-way, and are ready with design. To build toe road is the only thing to do now. I will forward you relevant applications. Then, the Voronezh centre will be no longer congested.

Water is another problem. Supply stops every day-and this in the 21st century! When I was just beginning Governor's career, supply was cut off for six hours a day. Now, it is four after certain improvements were made. We have an idea how to achieve round-the-clock supply even within the year.

Vladimir Putin: You have bought a flat in Voronezh, if I am not mistaken?

Alexei Gordeyev: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: How about water there?

Alexei Gordeyev: Same as everywhere-the same cutoffs.

Vladimir Putin: When will you have housewarming?

Alexei Gordeyev: Let me see... Anyway, I will surely send you an invitation.

Vladimir Putin: Good.

Alexei Gordeyev: There is a good programme for one-company towns. It has been launched recently, and the Voronezh Region has joined it this year with five such settlements-four towns and a housing development.

Take Semiluki, with its fireclay brick factory, which employs 25% of the able-bodied population. Now, the town will get target allocations to develop municipal facilities, promote small business, and improve social welfare.

We had to purchase the factory. It has passed into regional ownership after its proprietors confessed they could not cope. The regional administration and Sberbank have credited the company, and an economic improvement programme has been drawn. So things have settled there, too.

Vladimir Putin: Don't forget about other towns.

Alexei Gordeyev: We are drawing troubleshooting programmes for them, too, to submit them to the Regional Development Ministry.

Last but not least, I want to say a few words about the United Russia party.

Vladimir Putin: You mean a gym built under its supervision?

Alexei Gordeyev: Yes. The party is tackling social welfare projects, and it really matters ...

Vladimir Putin: Health centres, in particular.

Alexei Gordeyev: Right! They will cater for rural patients. The United Russia is a major parliamentary party, strong enough to promote vital projects and supervise construction and expenditures. We finished several such projects last year.

Vladimir Putin (approaching the slides): The perinatal centre is really a vital project, just as the heart surgery centre. And what will this be-a multi-field hospital?

Alexei Gordeyev: Yes, a very large one, with the latest equipment. It will cater for several districts. We think we will finish it in a year or a year and a half.

So you see, all these are really essential social projects.

Vladimir Putin: Is the school ready?

Alexei Gordeyev: You mean the school in Podgorensky? It has opened. I visited it on January 12. It has opened ahead of schedule for the second term. Just think, no one believed we would meet the deadline.

I visited the site in April, immediately after my gubernatorial inauguration, and took a careful look-and now here's the school, ready ahead of schedule!

Vladimir Putin: So the construction took nine months?

Alexei Gordeyev: Just a bit longer. It was ten months sharp on January 12.