Taliya Minullina: ''We didn’t begin to work worse – other regions began to work better''

Head of the Tatarstan Investment Development Agency on prospects of occupancy of Kazan Expo, the construction of Quantorium technology park for children and invitations to work to other regions

Taliya Minullina: ''We didn’t begin to work worse – other regions began to work better'' Photo: Rinat Nazmetdinov

After the recent session of the Tatarstan Investment Development Agency, head of the agency Taliya Minullina became a guest of Realnoe Vremya's online conference. In an informal talk with the newspaper's correspondent, she shared the causes of Tatarstan's fall in the ranking of investment attractiveness of regions and explained why it was necessary to equip Kazan Expo with Tatarfilm studios and open a pharmaceutical factory. The head of the TIDA also told what was the stumbling block to halal financing in Russia and how many times she received glittering job offers from other regions.

''We'd like to build Quantorium for children in Kazan''

The upcoming educational forum EDU Russia, which Kazan will host with the aid of the TIDA from 28 February to 1 March, was one of the first topics for discussion at the online conference.

The forum will gather over 3,000 participants and 150 speakers from Russian regions, the USA, Finland and Denmark. EDU Russia is, first of all, an attempt to create a world-class to discuss the influence of technological processes on the educational standard, moreover, at all levels of education – from pre-school to post-university education, explained the head of the Tatarstan Investment Development Agency.

It's impossible to maintain such a big infrastructure facility without events, a constant annual schedule will need to be created there, a plan of work for the next five years. For instance, the story of Kazan Arena is similar. It's also a huge infrastructural facility, you see how many activities are there. There is still a question whether it's a 'debit or credit'

''If we compare the difference between teachers and pupils, it wasn't as big 50, 100 years ago as it's now, between modern-day schoolchildren and teachers. The technological progress entered our life at a very high speed, and its dynamics are much higher than world educational standards today. It isn't a problem for Tatarstan or Russia, it's an international problem, and it can be solved only in the international context,'' noted Taliya Minullina. ''And what we did was to create such a site.''

On 27 February, before the forum begins, the guests will visit the latest Tatarstan educational sites – Kazan Federal University's laboratories, the IT Lyceum's facilities, the speaker told. The head of the TIDA drew attention to the fact that Tatarstan already had what to show, but the list of modern educational campuses might be complemented soon.

''We have certain plans too: we'd like to build Quantorium for children – a powerful scientific and educational centre where children could learn basic laws physics and chemistry with the help of games and technological solutions, virtual and augmented realities, for instance. We plan such a project, it's quite complicated, now we are creating its concept,'' she explained.

''Kazan Expo needs to create a constant annual schedule for the next five years''

Kazan Expo Exhibition Centre will become the main venue of EDU Russia. For the exhibition centre itself, the forum's location has a necessary capacity, thinks Taliya Minullina. Commissioning Kazan Expo automatically augmented all exhibition capacities of Volga Federal Okrug twice, and now one of the key tasks of related structures is to give the ''giant'' a job, so that the centre will be able to pay back in the next years, not survive by subsidies.

''It's impossible to maintain such a big infrastructural facility without events, a constant annual schedule will need to be created there, a plan of work for the next five years. For instance, the story of Kazan Arena is similar. It's also a huge infrastructure facility, you see how many activities are there. There is still a question whether it's a 'debit or credit'. While this project [Kazan Expo] is more complicated.''

In the short run, the TIDA will present several projects of solutions that could help the exhibition centre with occupancy to officials of the republic. According to Minullina, there have been created about 20, however, there are two more promising options.

''I am constantly asked why we fell, if we began to work worse. Guys, no, we didn't start working worse – other regions started to work better. They come here, look at the best, copy, adapt and apply in their regions''

''One of the solutions is linked with Kazan Expo's pavilions that we offer to consider to give to Tatarfilm for shooting,'' the speaker shared. ''Cinema is a big, growing entertainment sector. Plus, it's a good investment niche in Russia. Nowadays we have studios only in Moscow and Petersburg, some are in a couple of regions, and it's a very competitive market. In Tatarstan, we don't have studios federal groups can come to at the moment.''

The second solution considered to load the new exhibition centre is to locate a factory, particularly pharmaceutical. Pharmapolis concept has already been polished in the TIDA within a programme aimed to develop health care – to launch factories manufacturing medical equipment and pharmaceuticals. In experts' opinion, Kazan Expo could occupy this niche.

According to the agency's head, her main concern about the exhibition centre is the absence of competent enough staff in the republic who are able to make the site reach a world level.

''Skills concern me a lot because nowadays neither I nor my colleagues in Tatarstan have skills to make Kazan Expo an international site. Now it's very important to establish cooperation links with Messe Frankfurt, Hannover, Shanghai – those sites that are considered the most effective around the world from a perspective of a load of big infrastructure facilities, congress halls,'' Minullina concluded.

''We didn't begin to work worse – other regions began to work better''

In 2018, Tatarstan fell to the third line of the National Investment Climate Rating in the regions of the Russian Federation by the Agency of Strategic Initiatives, for the first time in four years it gave leadership to Tyumen Oblast and Moscow (according to the ASI, the republic chaired the rating from 2015 to 2017). A better investment climate in several regions of the country is one of the causes of these changes. According to the TIDA's head, this also is a result of the ''educational job'' that Tatarstan has done in the last years.

''Unless certain legislative and legal acts in Russia change, there will be no halal financing here. There will be certain elements, it's what we do. Federal legislation in general needs to change here. We can do nothing without it''

''I am constantly asked why we fell, if we began to work worse. Guys, no, we didn't begin to work worse – other regions began to work better. They come here, look at the best things, copy, adapt and apply in their regions. Considering Tatarstan's friendly and hospitable politics… It's our president's instruction: Mr Minnikhanov always says we are one country, we have common goals, we should solve federal problems together. For us, it means we should make new steps and look for new solutions,'' Minullina stated.

Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Lipetsk and Kaluga were the key rivals of Tatarstan in investment attractiveness during the previous years. Now the list has been considerably longer. The head of the Tatarstan Investment Development Agency sees recent rotation among governors as one of the causes of the changes: updated and ''rejuvenated'' teams of regions began to work more actively.

''New documents related to the work with investors, protection of their rights, interests began to appear. There have appeared new interesting initiatives linked with the creation of foundations that co-finance projects for investors, invest in these projects by sharing risks. This is public and private partnership. Of course, it's very attractive for investors, they always want to share risks because they treat our country with some fear and caution,'' Realnoe Vremya's interlocutor stressed.

''Unless legislation in Russia changes, there will be no halal financing here''

Halal financing, promotion of halal production is one of the topical themes for the republic. The TIDA is also working in this area, Minullina said. On 17 February, during a visit to Dubai, the agency together with Director of the Tatarstan Foundation for Support of Entrepreneurship Aydar Salikhov held a session dedicated to the mechanics of how halal products from Tatarstan were accredited in the market of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation countries.

''We have very good relations with Dubai, they offer to do it with their help. Dubai is a member of certain international associations, and if we are certified by one of the members of this association, we will potentially enter their market that consists of 30 countries,'' the head of the TIDA told. ''We invited a Dubai certification centre, we were told there was such a checklist, how much time and money would take us to certify to export these products.''

''Over the years on this post, I have been offered to be a vice-governor in four Russian regions. I have been repeatedly offered to chair investment structures in other Russian regions, too. But I haven't so far received an offer I couldn't refuse''

The solution to the problem of halal financing is a much longer and harder process, the speaker stated. In this regard, no Russian region can boast about successes unless considerable changes to federal legislation are made.

''Unless certain legislative and legal acts in Russia change, there will be no halal financing here,'' she noted. ''There will be certain elements, it's what we do. For instance, now we're opening a branch of Bank Melli Iran: we've chosen a site, we will officially announce the opening of the branch at KazanSummit, which is scheduled for 24-26 April. This, of course, is also one of the elements. But federal legislation in general needs to change here. We can do nothing without it.''

''I have been offered to be a vice-governor in four Russian regions''

One of the questions for Taliya Minullina that reached Realnoe Vremya's editorial was about a recent rumour that there has been an attempt to poach the head of the TIDA to neighbouring Bashkortostan.

''No, this isn't true. At least, nobody has come to me with a contract, a specific offer. Over the years on this post (Taliya Minullina has been chairing the TIDA since October 2014), I have been offered to be a vice-governor in four Russian regions. I have been repeatedly offered to chair investment structures in other Russian regions, too. But I haven't so far received an offer I couldn't refuse,'' the speaker shared.

Interviewed by Ksenia Zharkova. Photo: Rinat Nazmetdinov