Grigory Pasko: Rebuilding Vladivostok

pasko062.jpgIn early 2007 the Vladivostok newspaper Konkurent published an article under the headline “Putin and the price of the question,” which dealt with the preparations to host the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) 2012 forum. The newspaper quoted various statements by Putin and his stated plans for the “socio-economic development” of Russia’s Far East. However, further on in the text it becomes clear that the discussion is not really about actual development, but rather how much money should be thrown into new construction to host the summit. Without citing a source, the article claimed that 100 billion rubles would suffice. What needs to be built for them, so it says, is two bridges – across the Golden Horn bay and to Russky island; a complex of buildings for the conducting of the forum and the accommodation of its participants; a road from the airport; the airport itself… Primor’ye governor Sergey Darkin for some reason added that it is also planned to build petrochemical, aluminum, and airplane-building plants, an atomic power station and the Pacific Ocean Federal University. What these things have to do with the APEC summit, he did not clarify, from which one can make the conclusion that all this is needed specifically for «development of the Far East».

Somehow unnoticed the sum of the necessary financing for this «development» grew to 2 trillion rubles.What particularly interested me was the plan for the construction of the university. First, it was said that it is going to be built on Russky island. Second, it will be calculated for 100 thousand students.In my time, I was on the island of Russky quite often: it was covered with military units. To this very day in the Cove of Labor [bukhta Truda] lie the remnants of the sunken hulks of ships and diesel boats. In recent times, they’ve gotten almost all of them and cut them up for scrap metal, but one will not be able to sail, and all the more so to bathe in this cove for another hundred years still. Personally, the entire island needs to be brought into shape after the many-years’ sojourn there of the military people. This – is the background, while the essence of the question is in that there are places for the construction of a university near Vladivostok – aplenty. Why talk nonsense about super-expensive construction specifically on the island?About the number of «100 thousand students» there is nothing even to say, besides one thing: in huge capitoline Moscow, with its hundreds of educational establishments of various rank, including ones like MGU, there are just a bit over 800 thousand students studying….I recently had a chance to spend some time on Russky island. Construction is going on – this is obviously visible – at fast tempos. Here and there, there flicker the names of firms like Crocus-International and Spasskcement. The workers – nothing but Gastarbeiters from the countries of Central Asia. At that place where the university is supposedly being built, I did not see a single building that looked like a classroom building or a laboratory: nothing but hotels. Moreover of high class. And this is all for a hundred thousand students?pasko061.jpgStriking the eye is not only the abundance of Gastarbeiters, but also that of foreign equipment. In so doing, I remember well the assurances of the leaders of the country about how the development of the Far East is senseless without the creation of a domestic construction industry and a domestic labor market. As a result we see that the domestic construction worker has been displaced by Gastarbeiters, domestic equipment – by Japanese and Korean. As it turned out, even the cement for the constructions of the island of Russky are being supplied from Podnebesnaya: we’d be lucky if Spasskcement provides 15% of all the needs.The construction on Russky under the name «University» presents itself to me as a huge deception. I think that there isn’t going to be any university there. And what will be there is a Far Eastern Monaco or Las Vegas. It is precisely the hotels being built that will become a place of refuge for the players of a multitude of casinos. And the hotels of Russky will be connected to the airport by a road being built at shock-worker tempos – straight as an arrow, almost completely bypassing the city that is suffocating from roadlessness and the absence of interchanges.In a recently-appeared new report by the opposition politicians Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Milov we read: «According to the data of the Ministry of Finance, the cost of the preparation for the conducting of the summit comprises an astronomical sum of 284 bln rubles, of which the federal budget has to pay 202 bln, the rest of the money — Primorsky Kray and private investors.The budget of the summit is more than the funds Russia spends on road construction throughout the entire country. The budget of the summit is equal to 4 annual budgets of Primorsky Kray.A question — why is the summit costing nearly $10 bln, five times more expensive than the Olympiad in Vancouver? The answer is in that Putin has decided to conduct the summit on the island of Russky, where an infrastructure is absent, to which a bridge needs to be built, power-generation facilities, hotels, other things equipped. And this against the background of the dilapidated infrastructure of Vladivostok with its pulverized roads, neglected utilities system, worn out housing stock.Just the construction of the two bridges to Russky island across the Golden Horn bay and across the Bosphorus of the East strait alone is going to come to more than $2 bln. In so doing the aggregate length of the bridges is less than three kilometres. For comparison: for $2 bln the Chines built the Hangzhou Bay sea bridge with a length of 35.6 kilometers, while a bridge analogous in length in France came to €394 mln».Development? Probably not. But the corruption entrepreneurs of the Far East are certainly having their day.