‘Interregional cooperation within the framework of BRICS is important’: Minnikhanov looking for new sales markets for Tatarstan
Tatarstan is doing everything possible to bring victory in its own region closer and continues to build a new economy with friendly countries
“Our republic, as an exporter of almost half of its products, needs new markets. Expanding partnerships with the BRICS countries will eliminate dependence on Western states," Rustam Minnikhanov told Realnoe Vremya, answering a question about the expected effect of holding the BRICS summit in Kazan. The head of the republic held an annual New Year's Eve press conference with journalists talking in the format of a direct line on 25 December. By the beginning of the meeting, over 60 questions had been received from media representatives regarding topical issues — support for the special military operation, the opening of new highways in the republic, and ways to promote folk crafts in the republic.
U-turn to the East
“Did it really happen?" wondered Rustam Minnikhanov, after watching a five-minute video with journalists about the main events in the life of Tatarstan in 2023. With these words, in fact, the New Year's eve press conference of the rais of Tatarstan, dedicated to summing up the results of the outgoing year, began. But this time, before the conversation began, a television chronicle of Minnikhanov's business trips was broadcast: in a year, he has flied around almost half the world. In a few minutes, footage of meetings with the leaders of the UAE, Turkey ,and the CIS countries — Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan — flashed on a huge television screen, and for sure, not all the trips that the head of the republic managed to make were included in the cut.
However, one of the fragments grabbed by a funny joke from the head of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko. He says that “he sees Minnikhanov on the screen more often than in real life” — the flights turned out to be so intense. What was the point of this video sequence? Obviously, the television cameras recorded Minnikhanov's turn to the East, whose states did not refuse to cooperate with Russia in the face of international sanctions.
This time, the format of the press conference was more like a Direct Line with journalists. Media representatives were invited to one of the historical buildings of the Kazan Kremlin Offices. They were seated in a spacious hall, after which Rustam Minnikhanov rose to the podium. According to tradition, the press conference was moderated by the press secretary of the rais of the Republic of Tatarstan, Lilia Galimova, on whose costume one could see the medal of the Order of Merit for the Fatherland of the II degree (it was awarded by Putin's decree in September of this year — editor's note).
The inner life of Tatarstan was filled with visits of federal leaders to Kazan, it followed from the video. Here, the main event of the year was the arrival of Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin at the Kazan Aircraft Production Association in May. He has visited this enterprise in Tatarstan most often. Let us remind that at that time a fateful decision was made to allocate 48.6 billion rubles from the National Welfare Fund for the resumption of construction of the Tu-214.
Another high-ranking guest of the Kazan Aircraft Factory was Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu. His face was also “caught” by the cameras of Russian and Tatarstan TV channels. In general, the list of events turned out to be diverse, but they seemed to be united by the idea that in the conditions of its independence, the republic continues to follow the tasks of the country's leadership and is set to fulfill strategic tasks. Assessing the events of 2023, Rustam Minnikhanov promised that the next year, 2024, will be even more eventful and interesting than the outgoing one.
About the support of special military operation
Opening the dialogue, Lilia Galimova said that over 60 questions had been received from media representatives. But the most topical question was asked first — how is the work going to support the special military operation and its Tatarstan participants? How much support is sufficient?
The head of the republic said that Tatarstan is doing everything possible to ensure that the participants of the special military operation achieve success on the front line, and the families of the participants of the operation receive material and moral assistance.
“First of all, I would like to say that there is not a single day that we do not discuss this topic. The discussion is taking place at the level of the whole republic — every municipality, every locality, every enterprise is involved to some extent in the support programme," he said. He also recalled that Tatarstan has sponsored cities in the new territories of Russia — Lisichansk and Rubezhnoye, where humanitarian supplies are regularly sent. According to him, both private companies and individual individuals are involved in this case.
Defence industry enterprises make a significant contribution to achieving success in their activities. “The entire military-industrial complex fully fulfills the tasks set by the Supreme Commander-in-Chief," Minnikhanov said. Tatarstan men are actively joining the ranks of contractors and volunteers. “All the tasks set by the republic in terms of conscripts and contractors are under control. We are fulfilling our tasks with dignity," Minnikhanov added. According to him, every month there are more and more Tatarstan citizens who have been awarded for exploits and heroism while performing combat missions in the area of the special military operation. “How many (heroes) are there now?" he asked the head of the staff, Asgat Safarov, who was present. "11 people have been awarded," he replied. According to Minnikhanov, Tatarstan citizens defend the interests of the Russian state without sparing themselves: “Our people defend the interests of the Russian state, our sovereignty. We know that there are a certain number of countries that have turned against us and do not want Russia to be strong. Nevertheless, we see that the entire Russian people, including Tatarstan, are waiting for victory and are doing everything to make this victory happen," Minnikhanov concluded.
About BRICS and friendship with China
The upcoming BRICS summit in Kazan will be one of the important political events of 2024. Now the Russian authorities are establishing trade and economic relations with the BRICS member states. In particular, Russia is preparing to open trade representative offices in Iran and Egypt. “In what directions do you see the expansion of Tatarstan's partnership relations with the BRICS countries? How are the projects with China developing?" the correspondent of Realnoe Vremya asked Minnikhanov. “I think that, first of all, we should pay attention to interregional cooperation within the framework of BRICS.
Our republic, as one of the most economically developed regions, exporting about half of its products, needs new markets. Expanding partnerships with the BRICS countries will eliminate dependence on Western states," he commented.
According to the rais, the BRICS countries create about 25% of global GDP and are a large-scale global market — about 3.21 billion people (42% of the world's population). Besides, BRICS has already accepted applications for membership from more than 20 countries: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Argentina, Egypt and others. This reflects the importance of the BRICS in terms of market and opportunities.
Minnikhanov named oil refining and petrochemistry, mechanical engineering, agriculture, digital technologies, and the development of industrial sites as the main areas of cooperation that are promising for Tatarstan.
Cooperation with China is progressing most rapidly. In the first half of 2023, the volume of mutual trade between Tatarstan and China approached $1.5 billion. This is 2.3 times higher than the same period in 2022. The Consulate General of the People's Republic of China operates in Kazan, and the representative office of Tatarstan — in Beijing. As you know, Kazan has been chosen as the venue for the Russian-Chinese business forum ROSTCHI. Along with this, cooperation with Iran and Egypt has been intensified. In the first 9 months of this year, trade with Iran exceeded $161.6 million, and with Egypt — $114.9 million. Work is underway on the implementation of joint projects with partners from these countries.
About the sources of Tatarstan's growth
“This year, the restructuring of enterprises continued, associated with a change in logistics and sales markets. What successes and failures could you have noted along the way by the end of 2023? What do you see as the sources of growth for 2024-2025?" Realnoe Vremya asked.
“Due to the current foreign economic situation, enterprises in almost all sectors had to rebuild: change suppliers, logistics, and explore new sales markets. I cannot mention any significant failures in connection with the search for sales markets," Minnikhanov said. In his opinion, our enterprises are coping with the crisis quite successfully and finding new opportunities, and the state is helping to establish contacts with partners from friendly countries.
By the end of the year, Tatarstan remains the leader in foreign trade in the Volga Federal District, accounting for 30% of the Volga region's foreign trade turnover. In absolute terms, it is $19 billion. The growth amounted to 8%.
About investment deduction
“To update production assets, some regions are introducing a mechanism for investment tax deduction for income tax. It assumes reimbursement of up to 90% of the costs incurred by individual enterprises (in particular for manufacturers of medicines, manufacturers of ships). What is the effectiveness of such instruments in the republic and, in particular, the possibility of reinvesting part of the state debt of the Republic of Tatarstan in infrastructure projects? Do we need additional incentives for Tatarstan enterprises?" Realnoe Vremya asked the final question.
“Currently, issues of changing the mechanism for implementing the investment tax deduction are being worked out at the federal level. It is planned to switch to a “project-based” approach in order to create new production facilities. After the adoption of the relevant amendments, we will once again consider the feasibility of applying an investment tax deduction in the Republic of Tatarstan," Minnikhanov said.
If we talk about the mechanism for restructuring debt to the Russian Federation on budget loans, then in 2021-2023, about 10 billion rubles were allocated for these purposes in the republic, 94,4 billion rubles of private investment have were attracted.
According to Minnikhanov, the republican authorities are actively using all available tools aimed at supporting investors and attracting investments: “This year alone, more than one and a half thousand (1,672) federal support measures worth 54 billion rubles have been provided, and at the republican level — about 2 thousand (1,883) financial measures worth 7.6 billion rubles rubles," he said.
About the opening of the M12 Vostok
After that, Rustam Minnikhanov returned to the civil agenda. He was asked what would the opening of the federal highway M12 give to the economy of Tatarstan? What are his impressions of the trip? (Minnikhanov was one of the first to test the road from Kazan towards Moscow — editor's note). “Did anyone go to Naberezhnye Chelny when bridges (along this highway) wasn't there?" he asked the journalists. Hearing no response, he made it clear that 30-40 years ago, driving along the former M7 highway was a real torment for motorists. Now it makes it possible to travel long distances with high speed and comfort. But the main value lies in the development of remote territories and the growth of freight turnover by roads: “Any road is progress and an opportunity for the development of adjacent territories," Rustam Minnikhanov believes. “This is the development of our country, because we transport the main goods at a distance of 4-5 thousand km.”
The head of the republic recalled that the decision to build the M12 was made three years ago by Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, considering the highway as part of the country's road infrastructure, not just Tatarstan. According to him, the road will go further inland to the East. Next year, the construction of sites on the territory of Bashkortostan begins.
Like federal leaders, he admired the rapid pace of construction. “What we have introduced in 3 years is a record," he noted. Besides, the longest bridge has been built across the Volga River, it is 3 km 362 metres," he was proud of the giant structure.
As an avid professional racer, Minnikhanov is pleased with the high-speed driving mode: “It feels like you can get to Moscow in one breath," he shared his feelings from the recent trip. “There is not a single traffic light — you go, and that's it. It's safe.”
Like the M12, the Alekseevskoye-Almetyevsk toll highway is being completed, which will shorten the distance between Kazan and the oil capital. For several years, it has been built on the terms of a PPP agreement, where one third is private investment by Foat Komarov, and two thirds are federal and republican investments. “They should launch it next year, too," Minnikhanov said. The road will save motorists from accidents. “The track is very difficult, there have been many accidents here," Minnikhanov described it.
About the purchase of the Kazan Central Department Store: conditions for craftsmen
During the press conference, Rustam Minnikhanov was asked in Tatar what would be housed in the building of the former Central Department Store, bought out this year by the republic. He again confirmed that the shopping complex would become an abode for the preservation and development of folk crafts. “For some reason, this [folk crafts] has disappeared," the head of the republic worried. To preserve the disappearing art, workshops for the training of craftsmen, as well as marketing services for the promotion and sale of handicrafts, are planned to be created in the building of the Central Department Store. The convenient location in the city centre will make them accessible to tourists. “TsUM is located in the very centre of Kazan, in a beautiful place. Craftsmen do not need to travel from Arsk to sell sewn products. We are ready to create conditions for craftsmen," he assured. “Now tourists, and everyone, and me, want to see things that are made by hand," said Minnikhanov.
Besides, places will be allocated in the production workshops to educational institutions for the training of young craftsmen. “We travel a lot: we have been to Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan. We see that the mastery of folk crafts has been passed down for five to six generations. We want our masters to pass on their skills to the young. Young people should acquire them. We will pay attention to this through educational institutions and through places, we will find other formats, we will try to fulfill the tasks set," he said.
At the end of the press conference, we returned to international relations. Last week, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow presented a certificate on the inclusion of the Engelhardt Observatory in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Before that, there had been only verbal promises, but now it has become a fact. The head of the TNV Moscow office, Dina Gazalieva, asked how it became possible to continue cooperation with UNESCO? “Not everyone has turned away from us yet, some have simply remained silent," Minnikhanov noted. In his opinion, the decisive role in maintaining UNESCO's attention to the republic was played by “the great authority of our first president”: “Mintimer Sharipovich is a UNESCO ambassador, and it is impossible not to take this into account," he is sure. “When we discussed this, my position was to go all the way. There were various suggestions: “Do we need to in such a situation?..” And there may not be another situation. Therefore, we got into the last car, and this car arrived.”