Mr. Zhilkin Meets Mr. Medvedev

The Head of the Russian Government Mr. Medvedev met the Governor of the Astrakhan Oblast in Moscow. Mr. Medvedev preferred to talk about the state of economy and social challenges of the region first.

Here is a part of their conversation:

Mr. Medvedev: Hello, Aleksandr Aleksandrovich, and what are you progress? First of all, I would like to hear about economical development and response to the urgent social challenges existing in your Oblast. Naturally, speaking about economical development, I mean the investments. As far as I am informed, you follow the issues closely, we discussed them more than once; we have also considered possible tools for investment support, and some specific investment projects. If we speak about the social challenges, then please, of course, in addition to our prime goals (schools, kindergartens, and some other educational and cultural venues), we need to pay specific attention to the road network construction and maintenance. There are specific challenges about the roads in any region. What are your responses to them?

Mr. Zhilkin: We have positive overall dynamics in 2016, the same as in 2015. Our industrial production has sprung up by 112%, while the gross regional production increased by 103%. Of course, our major task is to attract investments. Last year, total investments were 116 billion rubles. We expect to have 125 - 130 billion rubles more this year. Half of the investments were brought into the fuel and energy industry, with the other half attributed to other, non resource-based, businesses. Just for your information, small businesses bring over 40% to the gross regional production of the Astrakhan Oblast.

Mr. Medvedev: It's almost more than twice the average value for the country.

Mr. Zhilkin:Yes. Last year capital investments into small businesses almost reached 8 billion rubles. It's quite satisfactory.

As of the first quarter of this year, we can definitely see positive progress. We'll see what it turns out by the end of the year. I hope, it will keep the dynamics up.

Once again, I would like to thank you for the Special Economic Zone which is a powerful engine for the economy of our Oblast. We have started construction of four manufacturing facilities. One of them will produce transformers and other power equipment which is already being marketed in Russia. The investor is a major manufacturing facility of Azerbaijan. The second one facility is a plant for manufacturing of the third-generation syringes, you have discussed it at a recent meeting of the Government.

I believe, by the fist quarter of the next year we'll have a sprinkling line installed, a piece of equipment required for better land improvement and development. We have a good understanding with the federal Ministry of Agriculture.

We have six residents signed up and currently expect necessary documents from them. I think, we'll start the projects by August or September. So, generally speaking, we are doing well, despite all the challenges connected to specific crisis exposures, including some difficulties with bank credits. However, we strive to overcome them.

Mr. Medvedev: What about the social aspects?

Mr. Zhilkin: We have successfully completed the program for kindergartens. Still, we continue to build more of such institutions, because we see a 14% annual increase in birth rate since 2008.

Mr. Medvedev: To prevent people from waiting.

Mr. Zhilkin: Yes, to prevent people from waiting. So, we could service kids as young as one and a half years. We continue the kindergarten program.

About educational institutions. We are about to begin construction of two new schools this year. One in Astrakhan, for 1.2 thousand students, and another in a suburb, for about 500 students. I hope to attract state funds for this under existing program of state support. Still, we have been constructing and commissioning one school every year by means of regional budgetary funds during the last few years. However, some schools in Astrakhan work two shifts and we are resolute to make this situation a past.

About the roads; this year we restore the road construction and maintenance fund, which was in the neglect during 2015 and 2016. We have joined the Safe Roads program. The Program alone is about to bring 1.5 billion rubles of investments. 50% of our agglomeration's roads are attributed to maintained from the budget of the Astrakhan city. The rest part of the road network is classified as interstate. We have held public hearings and commenced certain jobs. We cooperate with public and non-governmental institutions in this regard. The project is being well appreciated by people as well. I think, that we'll complete our goal of bringing 80% of the road network to standards by 2025.

Mr. Medvedev: Yes, it's a complex challenge, requiring a variety of resources. Sorry to say, the regional roads are worse than the average federal ones, just because your Oblast had not enjoyed state support in this respect as much. So, first of all you need to accumulate the resources, and use them wisely, by means of the road construction fund, for example.