The President of the Republic of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov speaks to Worldfolio about the backbone of the economy of this Russian region, as well as investments in the high technology sector. In order for the government to reach its ambitious goal – gross regional product to hit RUB 2 trillion by 2016 – Tatarstan is going to need foreign investment, and the president assures that his government has created the ideal conditions for foreign businesses.
Tatarstan’s economy has been growing steadily year-on-year. All key sectors are showing impressive signs of growth. The republic has been identified as the best place in Russia to do business by Forbes magazine and by accountants Ernst and Young, amongst others. Please discuss your views on Tatarstan’s economic performance in recent years.
Under the former Soviet Union, the Republic of Tatarstan always had a strong position in the car building and in the aircraft and helicopter building industries. We also had the oil and petrochemical industry. Our oil resources are the locomotive of our economy. It makes up a big share of our economy, but nowadays that share is less.
In recent years we have been developing refining and petrochemical further. Today we are one of the largest producers of polyethylene and rubber in Russia. We make plastics, polyethylene, polyester, polycarbonate, and a whole range of other petroleum products, such as car tyres.
Our share of the manufacturing, mechanical engineering and petrochemical sectors has grown considerably; we pay great attention to engineering. For example we have Kamaz and Ford-Sollers. The Ford-Sollers partnership has been a very promising development. Besides the production of cars, there is the segment of the production of automotive components.
Our economy needs high-tech and high-performance production. This kind of production is being implemented at the special economic zone in Alabuga, which now has 34 residents. Today, its volume of investment is USD 3bn. The republic will soon have a second special economic zone. The technical innovation part of it will be located in Innopolis and the other will be at SMART City Kazan, which will be near the airport.
[The capital] Kazan is currently preparing to host major events such as the Universiade 2013, the 2015 World Aquatics Championships, the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and possibly other activities. We have improved our airport, which will be in a very good condition this summer. Kazan will become a smart city and a comfortable place to live and work for businessmen. In Tatarstan, we are ready to create the appropriate conditions for businesses, and this is a good stimulus for the economy.
You have an ambitious goal to reach gross regional product of RUB 2 trillion by 2016. How do you plan to achieve this?
This is quite an ambitious task. With only internal resources and without the creation of new industries and investments it will be difficult to achieve it. Therefore, we will develop the SEZ Alabuga, SMART City Kazan and Innopolis.
What is your assessment of your investment drive in London last November?
Russia is well known, but not many people know Tatarstan. We want to grow and we want foreign investors to come to our region. Therefore, this was an opportunity to talk about ourselves, to talk about our plans and to find the right contacts. It was also necessary to bring new young people who know the language perfectly. Of course we want to integrate ourselves, be more recognizable. The Universiade 2013 is an excellent occasion for us to show ourselves the world. We also hold business forums in Turkey, in Dubai, in Malaysia, in Austria, in the Czech Republic, and in Singapore. We are now planning a trip to Hong Kong for a business meeting. Every opportunity has to be used.
What are your views on bilateral relations between Russia and Britain?
Russia wants to be friends with the British and Russian business loves Britain. But Britain does not understand the role of Russia well and does not create the conditions for British business to enter the Russian economy. The politics are harmful to both sides. When politics interferes in the relationship, the economy suffers.
If our economic relations are to be stronger, the attention to such political issues should not be so acute. When there is an economic basis for a relationship, people express more accurately their words. I do not blame anyone, not our country, not the United Kingdom. The potential that exists in the UK is demanded in Russia. There is also the learning potential. This is an investment opportunity, but if the government does not help business, it will not be able to move seriously.
We are interested and willing to invite British businesses, and the government of our country supports this idea. The Russian Embassy actively supports all our undertakings. On the Russian side, I do not see any obstacles. We must respect each other.
Russian market is a growing market for UK.
What final message do you want to send to potential investors?
We know that the country where you do business should be comfortable and attractive. We need to create an environment for doing business. We have a great desire to create this certain environment, and we are working in this direction. We are not only open; we are ready to take on any business delegation, to consider any proposals and to assist them. Russia and the Republic of Tatarstan are very interesting places to invest in and develop with.