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The Head of the Government of the Republic of Karelia: Position

The stronger the regions the stronger Russia is

- Sergey Leonidovich, Karelia is rich in natural resources. The republican economy is oriented to extractive, woodworking, stone-processing and fish industry. How much harm did the August crisis bring? What are the ways to overcome the consequences?

    - The financial and banking crisis influenced the economy of the republic a lot. Its negative consequences are clearly visible in industry, in agriculture and in a social sphere.

    Enterprises are in lack of circulating funds, the volumes of made and sold productions has been decreased, the barter part has increased. The real income of the population went down, the effective demand lowered. The budget workers -first of all teachers and medical workers- are not paid in time.

    The crisis is a real trial for the new government. On June 1 I filled the post of the head of the government and soon the crisis broke out. We understand that we have to struggle. The social-economic processes may and should be governed even under critical circumstances.

    It`s amazing but there are also positive features of the crisis. It gave good perspectives for Russian producers. In Karelia the forest industry, agricultural sector, light and food industry using Russian raw materials took reasonable advantage which allowed our enterprises to receive bigger profits. They take an advantage to modernize the production process. With dollar rate growing the industries exporting their products gained a lot.

- What is your understanding of the Karelian developing model? Can it be close to the Finnish one?

    -Finland is an independent, sovereign, multinational state. Karelia is one of 89 subjects of Russian Federation. Therefore it's useless to draw straight parallels but on the municipal level we can learn a lot from each other.

    The developing model is worked out in the social-economic development republic conception adopted by the Legislative Assembly. This document contains the nearest and future goals. Briefly it comes down to the strong executive power, interaction with the center, federalism principal realization, the combination of Karelian and Russian interests, the clear distinction between republican and local power bodies. In the economics - the stable development of industrial and agricultural enterprises, own natural resources processing including forest. In the social sphere- the improvement of the population well-being, provision of the rights and freedom of a person.

    I believe Finnish and Karelian power body goals coincide. But we have to consider historical and national distinctions in the tenor of peoples` life.

- Karelia has the only access to Europe via the non-member of NATO country. What are your relations with Finland like?

    -Quite good-neighbor ones. The length of Karelian borderline with Finland is 700 km. More than 20 thousand republic residents have been to Finland for 4 years in the frameworks of exchange and learning programs.

    For the recent two years more than 75 tons of humanitarian aid for the total sum of 2,7 mln Fmk have been sent from Finland.

    Under the Finland initiative the European Union Program " Northern Measurment", was adopted where special attention is paid to the cooperation with the northern-western regions of Russia including Karelia.

    On July1 Finland will become the EU Chairman and it will give good opportunities for project realization in the North of Europe. Karelia will participate 29 joint Finnish projects for the total sum of 6,5 mln Fmk. Among these projects are the land cadastre RK, the northern Ladoga district development.

    We consider the economic cooperation development very important as it goes along the main goals of the republican government. It's very important to create new jobs, to invest into industry modernization. The residents will have more opportunities to earn their living.

    Recently we've put forward the idea of creating Karelian-Finnish Euroregion which is to meet the needs of Russia, Eurounion and Finland. We are ready to make available our borderline as an exit out to European market for other Russian regions located far away from a border.

    Last year I saw the President of Finland Republic Martti Achtisaari. He seems eager to open a new stage in our cooperation. The joint projects are being discussed now in the field of mining and forest industries and ecology.

- You have mentioned the social-economic development program of Karelia. What are the perspectives of its realization?

    As a rule the perspective plan part most open to criticism is coordinating mechanism. How is it possible to put together science and practice, power bodies and industrial subjects? How can we overcome the gap between the real economy and the government process? Can we reach consensus between the republican structures and local power bodies? Besides there are also state and private enterprises, small and medium size business.

    In the developed conception there are specific ways to overcome interdepartmental egoism which is often a stumbling block to the effective reform accomplishment.

    All the ministries are to work out the detailed working plans based on the conception in order to orient the enterprises to stable development.

    For example. In forest industry we have to modernize and technically rebuild the working enterprises, to develop new industries on the base of home and international cooperation. What are the ways to reach these goals? Forest rent and forest auction system improvement, rational use of forest raw materials, attractive investment terms for home and foreign partners, new technology implantation and competitive production based on it.

- What is the number of the unemployed in Karelia?

    In the government employment agency 25 000 unemployed are registered. It makes 5,9 % (in Russia -2,7 %) of working able population. But in many districts the number of unemployed is much higher than average. In Veps volost it makes 18,5%, in Pudozhsky district -10,7%. Nearly 40% of the unemployed are out of job, and 11% haven't had a job for about three years. The number of never having permanent job people is increasing.

    The government has adopted the program for making more jobs in the republic for this year. The effective forms of unemployment decrease are to be used. We see the ways of solution this problem in increasing professional motivation and people mobility, helping jobless people to open their own business. I believe that industry and small business development, creation of new jobs will decrease the number of the unemployed.

-What is the ordinary people living standard to date?

    - Different people live different living standards. We got used to speaking about the extremes - the beggars, the poor and the rich, the new Russians challenging the society.

    Yes, life is hard today for the most people. But it's not the entire truth. Look at the verity of the foreign made cars on the streets of our city. Pay attention to the buying-selling apartment advertisements. Drop in the everyday techniques shops - the goods are fast to be sold.

    We used to look upon all these things as upon unreal dreams which never would come true. Now we can buy all these goods if we have the money. I think it's a very important stimulus.

    I`d like to mark the living standard estimation relativity. Before the August crisis it has been said and written a lot about surviving. Now we see those times from another perspective and the major part of the population seems to like the pre-crisis times..

    I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. I agree with western experts who consider that Russia leads a poor life. But the majority of the population is aware that their well-being depends on themselves. The state and government goal is to help the citizens to provide for their normal life with their own hands.

    I guess, the parable about a fish and a rod will be still actual in our country in the nearest future.

    Remember a popular motto of the recent past: "A man is a smith of his happyness"? Why did we forget this right postulate?

- What are your relations with the center? Isn't it too much to have 48 objects of federal significance for a small Karelia? Could we speak about a close cooperation work with the center if 50% of region legislation is opposed to the federal one?

    To strengthen the state the local power bodies should take part of the work on themselves. The center - I mean Moscow and Petrozavodsk can't govern and fund everything.

    We don't have any contradictions with Moscow. Karelia is a full right member of the peoples` family. We should issue from this principle.

    Today many people have a grudge against the president, his administration, Federal Assembly, the RF government. There are a lot of claims against the constitutional imperfection and the laws being adopted. Right, the governmental arrangement leaves much to be desired, but again, I`d like to highlight the fact that much depends on us, on our initiative, on local power work.

    To my mind we have to strengthen executive power activity control. The regions are to be given more rights - it is there where the specific decisions have to be made. After the August crisis we had to reap the fruits and think how to hold the prices. The RF subject interaction should be that of a of partnership - we shouldn't be divided into favorites and non-favorites.

    Nevertheless the power balance allowing to function all power bodies relatively normally is being kept in the country.

    We mustn't turn the problems into the object of group or party interests. It is necessary to receive some amendments in the constitution, to prepare the necessary laws and only after that it is possible to correct the state arrangement.

    Sure, it's not right when there are dozens objects of federal significance on the republican territory. The regional laws often contradict the federal ones. It makes the situation confusing. We may correct it by the constitutional way, accepting the necessary amendments.

-How is the change of political situation in Moscow reflected in the republic?

    Negatively. All the power institutions part of the time are busy with probably very important matters but they are far from a real Russian life. The State Duma is stuck in the political struggle, The Federation Council have been concerned with the General Procurator case, the government is being constantly reminded of dismissing, the president is concerned with the impeachment threat.

    -They have no time left to solve everyday problems, do they?

- Each region leader tries to peruse his own policy in economics and social sphere. Doesn't the absence of the uniform economic politics in the country interfere with your work?

    - The situation in the republic is complicated. Federal power bodies including Gosduma deputies are not aware to the full extent what's going on in the regions.

    My colleagues - the region leaders- consider stability the most important goal. This goal dictates the means to reach it. When with absence of the uniform economic policy in our country we have to count on our own resources. It's not a separatism but a real necessity.

    While the central power are busy with figuring out their relations the prices are getting higher. The home production has to survive on its own without a radical support from the state.

    We have to make the governmental decisions in a social-economic sphere daily. I am the first person to be responsible before the population of the republic. People become more and more aware of such values as the law and stability.

- How could you explain the impetuous arrangement of regional blocks? Not only by the coming parliament elections, I suppose?

    - Local leaders are not willing to be dependant on the unpredictable decisions and action s of the federal power. The regional movements and blocks are sort of response to the under carpet struggle in the supreme power. I agree with Alexander Solzhenittsin who is sure that the rescue of Russia will come from the province. In my opinion we are in the situation now when the regions are ready to defend the interests of the country, its integrity, independence and safety.

    Social-political blocs "Fatherland", "The Entire Russia", "The voice of Russia" consider it necessary to renew the lower chamber of parliament. We see that the present Duma is often more concerned with fractional and party struggle than with adopting laws necessary to restore the regional economy. That's why we do care for the new Duma staff. I don't see why the region leaders should be reproached of.

- What point out of ten you would put to the present regional policy of the Center?

    - Satisfactory.

- After the 17th of August the strengthening of the regions is increasing on the account of the Center and their exit to the higher international level. What could the disintegration process and power redistribution between the center and the regions lead to?

    - You shouldn't suspect us of separatism. The strengthening of social economic situation in the regions might hardly be regarded as disintegration. Power redistribution could have lead to the weakening of the country. But I think that now the executive bodies are acting within the frames of their authority.

    As a member of the Federation Council I know the situation in the country very well. Among my colleagues there is no isolation movement. But if the regions are richer, stronger and wealthier Russia will gain from it.

The Head of the Government of the Republic of Karelia: Position

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Created: 28 May 1999. Last updated: 28 May 1999.
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