The regional war that is currently in full swing in Siberia has finally reached Moscow. The Russian Finance Ministry had to become the arbitrator in the conflict between the two Federation units: the Krasnoyarsk region and the Taymyr autonomous region.
Aleksey Ulyukayev, the first deputy finance minister, held a meeting with the governors of the Krasnoyarsk and Taymyr regions, Alexander Lebed and Alexander Khloponin, on February 22. The officials discussed the issues of the budget of the Krasnoyarsk region.
This had to do with the Norilsk Nickel enterprise, which has become an apple of discord between the two mentioned regions. It is not the enterprise itself, to be more precise, but the taxes that the factory pays to the budget of the Krasnoyarsk region. This company provides the budget with a bit less than 70% of all revenues. The struggle for such an amount for the region is gaining the first priority for the Krasnoyarsk regional governor, General Alexander Lebed. His political future will not be something to envy if Lebed does not achieve the positive decision that he wants on the subject. This matter is a conflict of the economic kind for the governor of the Taymyr autonomous region, Alexander Khloponin.
“The Norilsk Mining Company is liable for the majority of the expenses of the regional budget, and it is still one of the major donors of the regional economy, despite the crisis on the world markets of metals,” – Khloponin said.
This problem did not spring up yesterday. Alexander Lebed started his struggle for Norilsk Nickel a long time ago, before Khloponin took over as the Taymyr governor. After the general director of Norilsk Nickel, Alexander Khloponin, won the gubernatorial election last January (Lebed supported him in that election), it seemed that all the interested parties that participated in the conflict would be able to find a common language. However, this was not to be the case.
Both governors did their best to settle the conflict in a peaceful way. They met each other several times, but failed to achieve consent on the issue. As a result, Lebed and Khloponin agreed to set up a conciliatory committee, but the conflict was gathering pace, getting new players involved, so it was not possible to stop the conflict.
On June 27, the regional Office of the Public Prosecutor submitted a protest pursuant to the address from the deputies of the Taymyr region. It was said that since the deposits developed by Norilsk Nickel were situated on the territory of the Taymyr region, the payments for their utilization must be transferred to the budget of the region. The regional administration issued its notorious decree after that.
It was said in the decree that Norilsk Nickel was supposed to transfer 50% of those funds to the budget of the capital of Taymyr, Dudinka, 25% to the treasure of the region, and 25% to the budget of the Russian Federation. Norilsk Nickel’s total sum of payments for the use of the bowels makes up 1.6-1.8 billion rubles a year, taking account of the fact that 50% of the payments were earlier transferred to the budget of Norilsk, 25% to the budget of the Taymyr region, and 12.5% to the budget of the Russian Federation and the same amount to the budget of the Krasnoyarsk region. Therefore, the Krasnoyarsk region lost the biggest part of the payments after the move by the Taymyr administration: the payments for the use of the bowels had always been its only revenue. This was only the first warning for Alexander Lebed and his team. The Taymyr authorities proved that they were going to promote the economic interests of their region very seriously.
The further contradiction between the two Federation units resulted in another decree, according to which the Norilsk industrial region was handed over to the jurisdiction of the Krasnoyarsk region. The Taymyr regional parliament accused the regional authorities of the violation of the Russian Constitution and claimed it would pull itself out of the Krasnoyarsk region if the decree was cancelled. Alexander Lebed took a dubious position on the subject. On the one hand, he was said that the decision of the deputies of the Taymyr parliament did not do anything for the improvement of the relations between the Krasnoyarsk region and the Taymyr autonomous region and that it also destabilized the situation in the region as a whole. Lebed said that Taymyr would not achieve anything good if it left the Krasnoyarsk region. The governor said that such questions should be solved by means of negotiations and not overreaction. On the other hand, Lebed supported the decision of the Legislative Assembly of the Krasnoyarsk region.
The constructive dialogue was substituted with the ambitions of both of the parties. It should be mentioned here that the governors signed the inter-budgetary agreement on December 16 between the Krasnoyarsk region and the Taymyr autonomous region. However, Alexander Lebed declared later in February that he was going to cut the regional budget for the year 2002. Lebed added that this would basically touch upon the budget of Norilsk.
As Lebed claimed, all the problems of the Krasnoyarsk region and the need for the reduction of the budget, which are the results, appeared because of the reduction of the revenues from the largest tax-payer, the Norilsk Mining Company. It should be added here that there are over 100 thousand enterprises in the Krasnoyarsk region, and their misery is on Lebed’s conscience, as the region was one of richest in Russia, and now it is a mess.
Alexander Khloponin, the governor of the Taymyr region, said that the crisis in the Krasnoyarsk region was the result of governor and his team’s administrative work.
A senator from the Taymyr region, Leonid Roketsky, claimed that “Lebed was trying to lay all the blame for the difficult socioeconomic position of the Krasnoyarsk region on the 'bad guys' from Norilsk, who allegedly wanted to pay less taxes and all the citizens of the region were going to suffer from it. Mr.Lebed does not want to acknowledge the obvious fact that these 'bad guys' are doing their best to prevent from the economic and social collapse in the region, with their last bit of strength. However, the Krasnoyarsk region is capable of handling the situation alone, without the help from the government. As a matter of fact, the major problem of the Krasnoyarsk region is the absence of a real proprietor and expert managers.”
The budget of the Krasnoyarsk region for the current year has yet not been passed. If there is no budget, then there is no federal treasury, which may lead to the tense social situation. Governor Lebed does not need such a situation, as he is dreaming of staying on the position of the governor for the second term. It was not possible to solve the problem in the regions, and the governors headed for Moscow.
Lebed tried to convince the administration of the finance ministry of the necessity to allocate subventions to the region to solve the budgetary issues, but Lebed failed. The ministry looked into the matter and decided that the budget of the Krasnoyarsk region was not real and that there are a lot of contradictions in it. In particular, the budget did not take account of the inter-budgetary arrangement, and the sums from Norilsk were not fixed precisely. That is why the ministry made the decision to set up a working group for the optimization of the budget of the Krasnoyarsk region. It is planned to elaborate a program over a short period of time, pursuant to which the tax payments between the territories of the region would be distributed equally, not in favor of the Krasnoyarsk region only. The ministry agreed to give a loan in the sum of 450 million rubles, while the region is in need of several billions. No consent, no money, so to speak. The Taymyr regional governor was satisfied with that decision of the ministry. It surely does not settle everything, but covers the majority of the problems. The governor did not say what he is going to do next. “Everything will depend on the decision that the Legislative Assembly of the Krasnoyarsk region makes at its special session on February 26,” – he said. Well, let’s see what happens.
Dmitry Litvinovich PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov
Read the original in Russian: http://pravda.ru/main/2002/02/26/37571.html