The Legislative Duma of Tomsk Oblast

May 29, 2014. Address by Oksana Kozlovskaya
at the 31st Session of the Legislative Duma of Tomsk Oblast

May events strike both by their scale and immense significance for the development of many states and nations.

The Ukraine held their early presidential elections. A billionaire Petro Poroshenko won the elections by winning over 54 per cent of votes, as reported by the Ukrainian Central Electoral Commission. And we are apt to believe that finally the newly elected president will stop the pointless bloodshed and death of people.

The Ukrainian events and the US and EU stance on Russia became a catalyst for huge changes in the consciousness of the Russian nation. Attempts to directly or indirectly put our country under pressure have united the Russian nation like never before. Sociologists state that the majority of Russians (63 per cent) consider Russia as a great power (two years ago this vision was shared by 47 per cent only). The same per cent assign it an important role in resolving international issues.

86 per cent of our citizens approve Vladimir Putin’s actions. This is the best result for the last six years.

Based on the expert opinion, the Ukrainian events have affected the results of the European Parliament elections which have already been named as “political earthquake”! A quarter of all voters out of 28 countries backed the parties calling for secession from the EU. And almost all leading political parties in Europe have given up a significant number of seats in the European Parliament to the right parties and nationalists.

In this context signing of the largest gas contract with China became an economic breakthrough and a political victory of Russia. As Putin said, the orient route project will become the biggest construction in the world since Soviet times and will promote both gas production and, which is more important, related sectors and infrastructures. The investment share is estimated at 70bn US dollars.

Considering the continuous growth of gas consumption in the world we foresee good chances for the western route development. Western Siberia regions, including Tomsk Oblast, will play their part here.

The economic forum in St. Petersburg was also focused on looking for new solutions for the development of the national economy. The President made specific emphasis on the priorities of the ‘technological revolution’ in his speech.

First. Promote substitution of imports and return “our own market to the national producers” first of all for products such as software, radioelectronics, power equipment, textiles and food. The ultimate goal is to secure growth of non-energy exports. Tools are large scale implementation of advanced technologies and development of talent. A fund for the development of the national industry will be created to support that goal.

Second. Cheap long money for business (mainly, in industry) and tax benefits for greenfield projects.

Third. Streamline the development of a 160 bill package for the improvement of the Russian business environment. The package should be submitted to the State Duma before the end of this year.

Fourth. To satisfy the needs of business and regions the Government has to double the volumes of construction and reconstruction of federal and regional motor roads (industrial development is not possible without a well-developed road network) and, what is most important, include funding for the ‘technological revolution’ in the budget for 2015-2017.

How will it affect Tomsk Oblast development?

Broadly. It is a positive trend for our region.

The Ministry of Economic Development believes that the uniform regional policy in the country is based on planning and distribution of productive forces. And the state must give special attention and support to the ‘brain-driven’ regions (such as Tomsk and Novosibirsk).

For that reason the Ministry of Economy and the Governor have now initiated the work on the key project for us – INOTomsk 2020 in the Russian Government. Total project value (from all funding sources) exceeds 200bn rubles. Moscow is obviously interested in the unique human potential of Tomsk. This is what the ‘technological revolution’ is based on, as well as conditions for income growth and quality of life.

Major changes await Russian labor market.

Some numbers: The Russian labor market admits almost 68 million people. Its official share is no more than 40 million people, as per the Federal Service of the State Statistics. The rest are in the shade or semi-shade. And 12-13 million of employable population is almost invisible for the statistics. For reference, this number equals the whole labor market in Italy.

Expert forecast state that a number of working citizens will equal a number of pensioners (46 million each) in Russia by 2030. Will an average laborer take care of himself and one pensioner? It must be confessed that no such economy models exist in the world!

So far a share of working pensioners is 35 per cent. And in Tomsk Oblast this share is 41 per cent which is higher than in the Siberian Federal District (33 per cent). This is an objective process.

We got used to consider that people with age and health restrains are the most vulnerable at the labor market. Is it so? Experts estimate that the major social burden is carried by working people aged 40-60. Owing to “our customs” they need to financially support 4-5 generations simultaneously (themselves - parents - children - grandchildren - sometimes even great grandchildren). Experience of other countries shows the necessity to share this burden among business, laborer and state.

However, experts state that the Russian citizens come to the labor market five years later than in other countries. And they leave the market earlier.

It might be a high time we changed the labor market policy. Here I mean: transition to active ageing, income growth stimulation for low-income population groups (not just benefits and allowances), creation of flexible jobs geared towards a new demographic structure where a share of senior generation will only grow.

Tomsk still has some time. Based on the leading Russian expert standpoint, only Tomsk and Novosibirsk Oblasts will keep quality demographic growth for the next 5-7 years. Within this period we have to implement a system of measures which will provide for competitive ability of the regional economy facing changes of the labor market structure.

New Employment, a federal program to increase labor mobility, can be of a good help here. Its cost is estimated at 45bn rubles. It is aimed to support employers ready to employ citizens of depressed regions, single-industry cities, youth and challenged people. And employees can reckon upon support for moving, accommodation at a new place and re-training.

Another backup is ‘quality’ of labor migrants. Their declared qualification often fails to prove itself in practice. This leads to imbalances at the labor market, market cost escalation, ‘shadow’ employment and budget burden increase.

The Russian Government is developing new measures to control qualification of foreign labor. But above all, by 2020 a share of highly skilled workers in the national economy shall be no less than one third of the working population. This means that training and re-training of personnel will be based on new occupational standards. There will be approximate 800 standards, with half of them endorsed already this year, as per the President.

With the existing trends and new socioeconomic challenges in mind I suggest reverting to middle-term priorities of the Strategy of Socioeconomic Development of Tomsk Oblast by 2020 (see Section 5 Quality Labor Resources and Efficient Labor Market) and then to develop a State program of new employment in the region considering possibilities for co-financing under the federal program.

There are 28 items on the agenda.

The Duma Council suggested holding the 31st session in two steps: part 1 on May 29 and part 2 on June 2. At the June 2 session the Governor will present to the deputies the annual report on the performance of the regional executive bodies in 2013. The deputies supported the proposal.

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