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Putin and Shoygu Call for ’Siberian Breakthrough’

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Sergei Shoygu

An important short article by Sergei Shoygu, Russia’s Minister of Emergencies, appeared yesterday in the Russian government daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta under the headline "Siberian Breakthrough." Shoygu wrote about the prospective formation of a new state corporation for the economic development of Eastern Siberia and the Russian Far East, which would create 5 million skilled jobs, contribute to Russia’s economic security,and lead to "a powerful economic breakthrough, a major industrial leap."

Shoygu’s reference to a state corporation echoed the major article published Monday by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in the Vedomosti newspaper, "We Need a New Economy." Returning to his 2007-2008 industrialization plans, which were partially derailed in 2009 by the global financial crisis, Putin in this third of his Presidential campaign publications proposed to build on the experience of vertically integrated companies like Rosatom (the state-owned nuclear power firm), and set up new corporations for key areas.

On January 21 Putin received Shoygu to discuss these matters. Shoygu noted that he had been assigned by Putin to design a project that would circumvent bureaucratic obstacles to East Siberian and Far East development. Shoygu reported to Putin that he had assembled "all the specialists in this area from the Russian Academy of Sciences, and of course those who live in the region. And, on your advice, we brought in people who are— I won’t say veterans, but they created the economy of Siberia and the Far East in the Soviet period. Their experience is priceless." In his Rossiyskaya Gazeta article Shoygu said that he had also been studying Chinese experience regarding investment: when to have the state do something, when to rely on private investors, and when to go 50-50.

border of Krasnoyarsk Territory
Kamchatka Peninsula

Shoygu told Putin that the proposal of his group was to create an East Siberia and Far East Development Corporation, covering the region from the western border of Krasnoyarsk Territory eastward to the Kamchatka Peninsula. Only with this approach, he said, would there be a chance of completing such important projects as the Baikal-Amur Mainline-2 railroad (promoted by Russian Railways head Vladimir Yakunin and Far East Presidential Envoy Victor Ishayev, and attacked by Mikhail Gorbachov’s Novaya Gazeta newspaper).

A Siberian native (ethnic Tuvan), Shoygu has been Minister of Emergencies since 1994 and is frequently ranked as Russia’s most respected government official. He holds the military rank of General of the Army (four-star general). Shoygu also heads the Russian Geographical Society, in which capacity he took part with Putin in last September’s " Arctic - Territory of Dialogue " forum, held in Arkhangelsk.