Minnikhanov’s big press conference: Tatarstan president’s key takeaways
In 2020, Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov’s annual press conference had an unusual format: instead of the House of the Government of the republic, the president chose the new building of the National Library to meet with the mass media, while the whole conference was transmitted online.
Journalists noted Minnikhanov and his team’s courage: while even Russia’s President Vladimir Putin had hosted his big press conference online, Minnikhanov anyway met with journalists face-to-face. And unlike other governors, he assumed the responsibility and did not ban corporate parties and the celebration of New Year till 3 a.m. from on 1 January.
Besides representatives of the republican mass media, journalists who previously worked in Tatarstan but then moved to live and work abroad and other Russian regions also participated in the press conference. So questions were asked from England, Australia and Belgium that have united Tatar diasporas.
About coronavirus and growth of mortality rate during the pandemic
Minnikhanov commented on the topic of a higher mortality rate during the coronavirus pandemic. Though 177 people have died in the republic according to official data, the death toll in the republic in nine months has been 6,400 people, as Realnoe Vremya wrote. The president of Tatarstan lamented citing hardships with providing elective health care during the pandemic.
“The mortality rate has increased because the health care system is working with the COVID-19 programme, while those people who were due to receive elective care... Now we resumed this work, but the result is a result,” Minnikhanov replied.
He added that the biggest mortality rate growth was seen among the elderly.
“Talking about the death toll, we analysed the number of people older than 80 years hadn’t died from COVID-19 but other diseases has increased. We very carefully see the category, the causes. Especially when quarantine was imposed, this had a negative impact — people couldn’t seek elective medical advice, they were locked at home,” the president noted.
At the same time, the health care system as well as the administration of the republic in general adapted to the situation. “When all norms and rules are followed, there is disinfection, the whole system works.” Though coronavirus hit the economy, some sectors of the industry managed to show growth. Due to a complex of factors, the republic’s budget fell short of over 48 billion rubles. However, federal support compensated about half of this sum. As a result, Minnikhanov said, it became possible to hold the expenditure of the budget at the previous level.
“We are meeting the requirements, which allows being one of the best in the number of cases, though schools and kindergartens work, the hospitality system works. A lot of regions had to impose stricter restrictions. We even permitted New Year celebrations until 3 a.m. but within the standards,” Minnikhanov added.
We should remind you that Tatarstan is planning to receive 190,000 doses of the vaccine against coronavirus until February 2021. At the same time, as Minnikhanov himself noted, some people are sceptical about the vaccine. Journalist Timur Siraziyev working in London directly offered Minnikhanov to receive the vaccine during a live transmission, thus showing an example to other residents of the republic.
“I planned it several times, but I received another vaccine (again the flu), it wasn’t possible for this reason. We will receive the vaccine, I wanted to do a blood test [for anti-bodies] today but didn’t have time, I will do it tomorrow. There is no doubt that we need the vaccine, many federal colleagues have already been vaccinated, their feedback is very positive. I will tell you as soon as I receive the vaccine.”
Then Minnikhanov offered Sirazyev himself to receive the Russian vaccine.
“Take care of yourself, shouldn’t you maybe receive the English vaccine? It has some chip,” the president joked.
“I think we have a lot of bugs, they heard the information,” Siraziyev joked in reply.
About housing development of Kazan
There are not almost any federal developers in Kazan — not because they aren’t let in but because federal players didn’t consider Kazan as an attractive site to run a business until recently, Minnikhanov answered Realnoe Vremya’s question about the situation in the construction sector and availability of housing.
“We have our own players to the brim! We have construction subdivisions, there are possibilities for construction. There was a big player (Editor’s Note: Minnikhanov didn’t name the company), a federal one, we invited it, there are several big sites. But profitability in Moscow is higher […]. We already have Kirov companies, folks from Udmurtia work. Muscovites haven’t yet been here, but they are already considering it,” Minnikhanov claimed.
He also added that Tatarstan is going to participate in a renovation programme following Moscow’s example as soon as a corresponding law is adopted.
“We have a lot of unused sites, of course, we will engage and participate in the transformation of the city. Why keep some wasteland?”
Also, answering Realnoe Vremya’s question, Minnikhanov explained why he personally made decisions on architectural design, construction projects in Kazan’s historical centre. He admitted he was at times ashamed when high-rises appear in this place.
“I don’t invite the prosecutor and specialists for fun. Greed for money is such a thing that you forget your mother. We don’t have a centre anymore. We have already made a lot of mistakes. And my mistake is also big. It isn’t my whim. As a leader of the republic and guarantee of the Constitution, I make sure there is no desire to build eight storeys instead of three... I am not a tsar, I am not God, we should leave a decent urban environment after ourselves so that we won’t be pointed a finger,” he noted.
About “Tatar party” at federal level
In reply to Realnoe Vremya’s question about strengthening the “Tatar party” in the federal government, Rustam Minnikhanov noted that the republic was indeed a good school of managers, but appointments of people coming from Tatarstan on posts, first of all, work for the country’s good.
“Every representative of Tatarstan, whatever nationality he has, who moved to Moscow, abroad or somewhere else is a valuable staff that we also need... Unfortunately, the best of the best go for some reason. I wouldn’t let anybody go voluntarily,” Minnikhanov replied seriously.
But according to his, there is an upside: “Mr Khusnullin (Editor’s Note: the vice premier of Russia’s government) occupied a key position in the government of Russia... It is the evaluation of the staff that’s trained in Tatarstan. The chairman of the government called me and said he needed our minister (Irek Fayzullin, Russia’s minister of construction). Of course, it is a big loss for us, but since our state needs such qualified staff, this means Tatarstan is a staff school.”
“We are all a party of the Russian Federation, we are citizens of this country. Tatarstan can’t be successful and good if the country has some problems. We advocate a strong state. We are Russians. We want our country to be strong, our federal government must be strong,” Minnikhanov noted.
About M-12 highway
It is great luck that M-12 highway crosses Tatarstan and allows getting to Moscow quickly, Minnikhanov claimed. So he answered a question about protests of people who live in settlements next to which this highway will be laid.
“I understand them too: they lived there or people who have a flat in the city live there. They wanted to live in the wild, while there is a highway there, their reaction is clear.”
“There are 10 advantages for the people, we are very lucky. The M-12 is a more popular highway than the high-speed railway. You see, the M-7 is already full, there is no development. Isn’t it bad to get to Moscow from Kazan in 6,5 hours?”
About fall in investments
Foreign investments in Tatarstan has been around 24% in 9 months in 2020, Rustam Minnikhanov said. To offset this, Tatarstan is looking for investors not outside the country: so investments from other region have increased by 13% during the same period.
Reinvestments of republican enterprises are the main source of investments now. Minnikhanov named TAIF Group, Tatneft and other enterprises among them.
“We will probably see a fall in investments in working capital, but there will be some 600 billion rubles,” the Tatarstan president made a forecast
Minnikhanov called Turkey, China and countries of the Arab world among those countries the republic cooperates with in investment projects.
Tatarstan doesn’t agree with the decision made to change tax terms for the oil industry, particularly, the cancellation of a concession on export duty and mineral extraction tax for highly viscous oil fields, Rustam Minnikhanov claimed. While the mechanism of the new tax on additional income for Tatarstan isn’t very topical.
“Additional profit tax is a new form. Everything that was adopted was adopted very quickly. But I can say that the oil industry is very different. And the fresh, new oil fields with big reserves and the oil fields that have been used for 50,40 and 30 years are different. And there can’t be one taxation system. As for additional profit tax, it is adapted mostly for new oil fields. While ours are old, they are explored thanks to technology, some new things,” the president replied. This is why Tatneft will use a suitable form of additional profit tax and other options.
“The process is underway. Of course, we lose incomes. Most importantly, the oil industry loses investment opportunities. But as people say, it isn’t the end: we will work, find common interests,” the president added.
Discussing the upcoming celebration of the 1,100th anniversary of the adoption of Islam by Volga Bulgaria in 2022, Minnikhanov compared Islam in Russia and in Europe.
“Look, there is no tense spot in our country so that the Muslim community will be in collision with other religions. This is why this is a big, huge achievement of the Russian state. It is our president’s attitude to the role of Islam,” Minnikhanov claimed.
About CAS’s rule banning Russian from hosting world championships
According to a recently published rule of the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Russian athletes won’t be able to compete in big international competitions with Russia’s flag until 16 December 2022. Russia will lose the right to host world championships, Olympics and Paralympics during the same term. Minnikhanov directly criticised this decision.
“This is very bad for international sport. Perhaps, there are problems, but to cut your own finger to harm somebody... While WADA made such a decision. Everything that’s done isn’t for the good of sport but for the good of some people’s political ambitions. We criticise this decision.”
But this isn’t the end. We will host all the events because the decisions had been made before that. We have amazing relations with all federations. […] Most importantly, we will host the Special Winter Olympics in February 2022. They imposed sanctions, while we will deal with children who have some problems. They look for mud, while we do good deeds […]. Might they feel ashamed for those decisions they made regarding our country. It is unsportsmanlike conduct,” the Tatarstan president commented on the situation.