Acting Governor of the Voronezh Region Alexander Gusev held his first major press conference on Thursday, June 14. During the two hours, Alexander Gusev managed to tell about the results of his work as head of the region, about the prospects for construction of junctions on 9 Yanvarya and Ostuzheva streets, about the fate of the Opera and Ballet Theater and about the upcoming personnel changes in the Regional Government.
– You've been Acting Governor for about six months now. What are the major results of your work?
- There are hardly any bright achievements for now. I find positive and important the fact that we ventured upon changing the governance system and the Voronezh Region Government structure. This subject is not simple, and I understand that this affects the interests of a large number of people who are close to you. Perhaps this will cause resistance. Nevertheless, we managed to prove our ability to make these changes. Only three Russian regions will participate in this project, and we are one of them. One of the important points is that we have not reduced the pace of interaction with business. The regional enterprises’ profitability has increased by 20% for the five months of the current year. That is, we have collected by almost 25% more profit tax compared to the same period last year. I think this is also an important point. Many people said that only Alexey Gordeyev’s personal attention kept the enterprises at a good level. In my opinion, sustainability is ensured by internal processes related to the enterprise management activities and, of course, external conditions.
- Your predecessor complained about the procedure of municipal elections. What do you think about the election process and do you need 88%?
- No, 88% are not necessary. I believe that we shall not set any minimum bars that must be reached. This will not add legitimacy to the person who will be elected to the post. The law says that the winner is the one who gets the majority of votes. Therefore, there is no task of increasing the percentage of votes by any means. I am against pouring mud on each other during the hot pre-election time. But it would be right to declare your positions and programs. If there is a healthy competition in this electoral cycle, I think it will be useful for the one who wins. Unfortunately (let’s make it clear), the competition will most likely be low. This is my personal feeling. I hope that I am mistaken. But some candidates selection principles may need adjustment.
- You have repeatedly announced changes in the Regional Government, talking about the teambuilding process. Will there be any new dismissals and appointments?
- Undoubtedly, the teambuilding process is necessary, but it is not fast. I’m not a supporter of the revolutionary replacement of the employees working in the management team. But it makes no sense to hide that in the near future some people will change their jobs. I am talking about Maxim (Uvaidov – RIA “Voronezh” note). We have not had a conversation with him yet, but I think we will have it soon, and we will decide on the terms. Gennady Makin will leave. He will resign voluntarily. There will be changes in the personnel block. I will try to ask Alexander Popov from the Central District Council to carry out this task. We have already talked about it, the final decision may be taken in July. One of the vacant posts of my deputies will probably not be occupied until the end of the year. This is a key post, and there is no point in hurrying with the appointment. If there is a change in Maxim Uvaidov’s fate, most likely, the post will be slashed. Perhaps, it will remain a reserve for the purposes of the new state administration system. And we are now looking for a person who could compete with Ivan Shkumatov, Industry Department head. Now he must either run fast, or give way to a new person. We already have two candidates: former head of Gribanovsky Machine-building Plant, Nikolai Krasnozhon, and the ex-personal assistant of former regional head, Alexander Desyatirikov. In short, all the changes will be reduced to the fact that we will form an open personnel reserve. So, the colleagues working in the sectoral departments should accelerate in their actions. We have certain concerns regarding some of them. I think they will manage to improve their methods of work before the end of August. There is definitely no binding to the election date. This is an ongoing work, which should allow us to increase the Voronezh Region Government’s effectiveness and efficiency.
– When you were Mayor of Voronezh, work on the project of an junction on 9 Yanvarya street began. People joke: they have managed to build the Crimean Bridge during this time, and the junction on 9 Yanvarya street is still being built. Many people are worried that this story may repeat with the construction of the junction on Ostuzheva Street.
- We must admit that a mistake in the organization of works on the construction of the junction on 9 Yanvarya Street was made. The tender documentation did not have a document, which was to be called “Work Management Plan.” In terms of preparation and timing, this was exactly our fault. We admit it and apologize to the residents of the city for the inconvenience. Of course, such a project should be built within a maximum of three to four months. Maybe with lane closures and in a shorter term. We have already decided on the construction of the junction on Ostuzheva Street. The preparatory work will begin already this year. The tender documentation will include a document that should be called “Work Management Plan.” It will determine the key project implementation terms. It is important that this document is developed by specialists capable of correctly calculating the time and labor contribution required for each day. But difficulties will still arise. It will be necessary to somehow reorganize the traffic routes for this time. It is difficult to do this on Leninsky Prospekt. In fact, this street has no alternates. But we will begin the construction of the junction anyway. The active stage, most likely, will be the second half of 2019.
- What do you think about the fate of the Opera and Ballet Theater? Will the reconstruction be carried out and what will happen to the theater troupe?
- We have conducted a preliminary inspection of the theater, and it states that the building has partially lost its engineering properties. The question is either about reconstruction, or about building a new theater. Of course, the decision on the reconstruction would, in my opinion, be more correct. But it has some difficulties: the space of the existing building will not enable us to make a modern theater with all the stage tasks and the auditorium. Additional rooms are also needed. Going beyond this building may be wrong. Of course, it’s up to the specialists. We also consider the possibility of building a new theater. And this building can be used, perhaps, as a museum. There is a wonderful site for a new theater – the embankment between Chernavsky and VOGRESovsky bridges. We are finishing deposition there, and soon the site will be ready. I think we will make a decision about what needs to be done already this year. But if a decision on reconstruction is made, the theater troupe will not be dissolved for the period when the work will be carried out. It will work. The theater specialists say that the Concert Hall building is technically suitable for opera and ballet tasks.
– Guests of the city judge the work of the authorities by the cleanness and appearance of the city. Are the regional authorities planning to change the structure of interaction with housing and public utility companies in order to increase the effectiveness of the city cleaning system?
– In 20114-2015 we spent a lot of time to set the work of housing and public utilities in the right format. In my opinion, the system that has formed there is currently quite stable. The problem is in equipment provision. No matter how hard we tried to motivate the people who worked with housing and public utility companies, in 2014 we had 180-186 equipment units. There was simply nothing to clean with, there was a shortage of staff due to small salaries. Right now the situation is more or less satisfactory. As for the cleaning of sidewalks, I think we will change the situation starting with the next winter period. We are planning to allocate at least 100 million rubles on purchasing equipment. If we realize that it is not enough, we will probably buy more. I hope this will help solving the problem of cleaning sidewalks. As for courtyards, it is a more complicated issue because it is the zone of responsibility of building management companies. Officially we have no right to even spend money on cleaning courtyards because it is the property of building residents and, accordingly, it is not our responsibility. Of course, the staff of building management companies involved in servicing the courtyard territories needs to be systematically “reinforced”. Our goal is to try to turn the tide during the summer and autumn period and make the building management companies spend more funds on cleaning. But it is connected with payments in the first line. We need building residents to analyze through their leaders where the money is going. If they realize that the money is being spent ineffectively, they should try to reallocate them. If it turns out that there aren’t enough funds – perhaps, they should try to make a decision to increase the building territory servicing payments at general meetings. For the organizational part, we will try to make the building management companies make steps in this direction, but the availability of funds will become the critical line further on.
– The Directorate of Rate Regulation has recently examined the documents on solid domestic waste management. According to the project, the new rates will be four times more that the existing ones. What is the cause of this increase and what is it subject to?
– The federal legislation has changed, and now the environmental impact fee (which includes waste disposal) will be imposed on the citizens as well. The calculations which included the fourth hazard class wastes lead to the tariff rate growth. It is around 380 rubles per ton. Plus, the restructuring of the waste disposal form itself together with picking the regional operator affect the tariff rate too. Waste disposal used to be the work of small private companies which didn’t pay value-added taxes. Now a big company must pay the tax. These are the basic elements of the tariff rate growth. When it was calculated on the federal level, it became obvious that the decision was too sudden. It is apparent that people will not support it. Now the federal ministries are working on changing the environmental impact fee standards. It should be reduced approximately by sevenfold and amount to around 60 rubles instead of 380. So it is a considerable decrease.
– The birth rate in the region has decreased by 10%, we’re back to the 2008 rate. What do you think this situation is related to and what must be changed in social and economic policies to improve the tendency?
– A birth rate decline is an objective process caused by demographic waves. According to forecasts, in the next 8 to 10 years this situation is expected to worsen – my colleagues have estimated the demand for vacant positions in kindergartens because the federal programme is announced and the goal is set. The problem does exist and it is obvious. How can the situation be changed? All the steps in increasing the birth rate will be made, they are announced on the federal level. We are also adding money to the maternity fund and we will keep pursuing this tendency. To us it is important to make the region attractive for inter-Russian migration, not external migration. We must make people want to come here from other regions. This process is in progress right now – the population of the city is growing due to people coming from the North, the Far East. But this isn’t what we really want – these non-residents are either senior citizens or already wellfixed people who will not play an active role in the economic life of the region. We need to create conditions for economically active population to come. We must focus on making all university students from other regions to stay on our region’s territory. If we could make all the graduates – 12-15 thousand people every year – stay in the region, we would consider our economic problems solved.
– The staff of the Regional Children’s Hospital and Hospital №3 complained that their buildings are in poor state. When will modernization and repairs be made?
– The forecasts on children’s hospitals and clinics are positive since these tasks have already been set in presidential decrees in May. A children’s health service modernization programme is currently being developed; it will be a large-scale programme, and we are included in it. It will include a separate budget line. These funds will to a certain point allow reduplicating 2011-2013 national health care project.
– How will the development of rural territories be held? What can keep people in villages?
– Development will take place in urban agglomerations – we see these tendencies. But our goal is to sty to keep people in villages. We must try to understand how secondary technical school will function – every district has them. An obsolete material base, teachers don’t see new means of production, new technologies. It is easier to shut them all down, but I consider such an opinion a misthought and will surely interfere if this process starts. We need to keep them and try to engage them in educational cooperation using major agricultural producers with modern approaches, technologies and equipment. If we manage to keep at least part of the children in such schools, it will already be an achievement, they will return to villages. Secondly, we need shopping and recreation facilities to be accessible by transport as well as internet access.
– I you could start your own small business right now, in which sphere would you operate? What are the most promising activity areas for first-time entrepreneurs in your opinion?
– There are three sectors to pay attention to nowadays. The first one is manufacturing because we’ve stated our intent to support it. It includes direct funding as well as support through credit institutions and a set of measures which we haven’t yet legitimated. The next is organic farming and environmentally sound products. The subject is complicated but outstandingly promising. I appeal to all my colleagues involved in agriculture to pay attention to it. The important thing is that we have all the opportunities for it. Of course, it requires state support measures. Without it, obviously, nothing is going to work, but we will think about it. The third sector is tourism and those engaged in the development of tourism infrastructure (I’m not talking about companies that sell trip tickets, I’m talking about those who host tourists). The region is essentially attractive for inbound tourism and especially for weekend tourism. Once the infrastructure is built, the sphere will develop intensively. I think that those who will become engaged in it will hit the nail on the head. We, for our part, will try to support this sector.
– You make an impression of a many-sided man. What films, book and songs do you like?
– Songs are the easiest to talk about: I like modern Russian rock, not necessarily our classic bands – from Mashina Vremeni to Splean, I also like listening to 25/17. I always drive my own car because it is the only place where I can listen to music, and with high quality acoustics at that. As for books, I try to read a lot and dedicate from an hour to an hour and a half a day to it. I’m not attached to certain authors or genres. My library hardly includes some serious literature – the books are either informative, related to science and history, or currently central stuff – Pelevin, social sci-fi, something related to expectations of human development. I read detective stories, especially when travelling by train, but they are not the main things I read. But I rarely go to film theatres - there are enough channels on digital television. I don’t have any preferences – from action films to psychological thrillers with something to think about.