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Interview with Ugra Governor Natalia Komarova at Komsomolskaya Pravda radio station


Interview with Ugra Governor Natalia Komarova at Komsomolskaya Pravda radio station

Interviewer: It’s good to have you with us, Natalia Vladimirovna. Today our questions will refer to Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug and to you personally. How shall I begin? I’ll start with male chauvinism. A woman being a governor, is it appropriate? According to stereotypes, this job is for men. Or are the gender equality limits wearing away? Has feminism won?

– The important thing is that neither side won, friendship triumphed. There are a lot of different people, different opinions, including the ones on this issue. In my view, the current trend is to comply with the normal human principle. Some people can do certain work and some cannot. They are able or not able to do it. They have or haven’t been trusted in each particular case. If the person is a man, he probably enjoys some additional opportunities, it’s important to put them to good effect.

Interviewer: Now about your team. Has it been formed or is it an ongoing process?

– I believe it is a process that should develop permanently. This is normal for a team which is engaged in the management of a municipality or region. You know, circumstances and challenges are always new. Our country is on a move, working, implementing a great number of projects. Each new task requires properly trained people, people who are willing to work in any framework determined by circumstances and tasks which require an adequate set of experts and tools to fulfill and solve the problem facing them.

Interviewer: And the life poses new challenges. The current economic situation is far from being simple. At the same time, your region is considered to be rich in oil; it’s a wealthy region, a donor. I’d like to ask how Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug is faring nowadays? After all, there is another stereotype: if the area is rich in oil, all its people are rich. People wear Arctic fox and sable furs, everything is fine. Is it true?

– The region has always been and will remain a donor. Of course, one should take into account its accumulated economic potential. Let’s look at some statistics and estimates made by the appropriate agencies. The Government of the Russian Federation has made the following assessment: following the results of 2013, the region ranks the third according to its social and economic development. Our credit rating is also on a par with the highest measures among the regions of the Federation. Evaluating contribution of different regions in the common federal money box, the share of Ugra is quite sizeable, perceivable, and this has undoubtedly had its impact on the well-being of each Ugra inhabitant.

Interviewer: People used to go the North in search of high “northern” wages. Has this trend remained? Do people come to earn some extra cash?

– Twenty thousand people come to the region every year. About seventy thousand work on the so-called rotational basis and nearly 35 thousand are foreign migrants. By the way, we are trying to dampen their interest in our region. This is the number of people who arrive here just to earn money. It is important to stress that the region has a lot of job opportunities, the jobs are different and well paid, accompanied by a certain scope of social services, the so-called “umbrella” which, in big enterprises, is legalized in the form of labor contracts. The region, in general, has a well-developed system of social support for different categories of people.

Interviewer: Khanty-Mansiysk Okrug is making good money. How much remains in the region?

– We retain a tenth of all earnings generated by the economic entities in the region.  About 15% of the federal budget is filled by the withholdings from the Ugra territory. We are well aware that these funds contribute to the national defense, development of science, adjustment of the budgets of other RF regions. On the other hand, it seems fair to return at least part of the earnings to the region. Therefore, we are building our relations in this sphere as follows: we support or suggest certain initiatives which would be aimed at transferring more authority to the regions and municipalities and supporting them with respective funding.

Interviewer: Now I am going to ask you a serious question: speaking about the refineries and oil companies residing in your region, how strong are their relations with the representatives of the local authorities and business? Are there certain bridges, links in place between these two sectors, how close are these ties? Are there any problems in this respect?

– You know, it would be impossible to administer the region without cooperation with the companies providing the economic basis of the subject of the Russian Federation. Subsurface resources management as such, hydrocarbon processing and transporting are the macro industries performing nationwide tasks. Everything occurring in the world today is revolving around these events. Energy market, shares of various nations in this market and the degree of their impact, including political one. And vice versa – politics and its influence upon these resources. The region producing 50% of the Russian and nearly 7% of the world oil supply is due to experience the impact of all these issues as vitally important. We are in close collaboration with our colleagues and managers of oil and gas producing and servicing companies. Our MPs, representatives of our region in the Federal Assembly are also concerned with the subject.  These days we are on the verge of completing the big work aimed at the alignment of the Russian tax legislation on subsurface resources in order to make it most efficient both from the point of view of the use of subsurface resources and from the point of view of the benefits to be gained by the state from these national resources, the profits of which should be fair, dignified and as high as possible.

Interviewer: Let’s speak plainly – those in the oil sector like getting high profits. This is business. Meanwhile, the government ensures that they enjoy tax exemptions and preferences. However, as soon as their withholdings increase, they start grumbling: ‘Ah, we are being strangled.’ What is the situation in your region? Do the oil industry people appeal to you with this problem?

– Of course, we consider all proposals, suggestions, ideas in order to understand how useful a tax benefit may be for the people living in our region and for the Russian Federation as a whole.  Nothing can be undertaken without particular reason. The impact of the key industry leaders upon each and every citizen of the Russian Federation is obvious. Therefore, having received a proposal, we just sit down and examine it far and wide, to see its impact on the business, on the region, on the state and on each individual. Everything is taken into consideration.

Interviewer: I have read your biography. You were deputy chair of the city executive committee, you worked in the city planning committee, headed the city administration, acted as Mayor of Novy Urengoy. You also held the position of chief economist. I am trying to understand what should be the role of the governor in a donor region. Should this person be a good economist or an expert in social problems or an effective manager?

– I’d rather define the set of qualities required by such a person a bit differently. First of all, high professionalism. Next, a person who loves people. It is also important for this person to be honest, plainly speaking, not to lie. But having any two of these qualities without the third one means downgrading your capabilities, your personal capabilities in exercising the powers imposed upon you, the responsibilities you are charged with. It is to be wished that all three components were present. Then you will be able to solve the problems related to the economy, management and humanitarian aspect of this work. One should understand and know everything. These three conditions constitute a toolkit necessary for anyone who deals with people.

Interviewer: Should anyone wish to come to Ugra, will they receive the whole range of the services?

– Yes, certainly. Ugra is a highly developed region. We have a solid base for all kinds of sports. The whole world knows our skiers, biathlets, snowboarders. We are proud of our Olympic champions, world and continent champions, winners of other international competitions. We have very good opportunities for artistic and cultural development. We have our own writers and poets. There are associations of talented people. Khanty-Mansiysk Okrug is rich in interesting tourist destinations. There are thousands of lakes here, the world famous rivers Ob and Irtish run through our territory and join together in the vicinity of Khanty-Mansiysk. These are very beautiful places. Welcome to Ugra!

Interviewer: Is your travel industry well developed?   

– We pay great attention to this sphere. It is our priority, an alternative to our Fuel and Energy Complex. The Ugra tour operators and travel agencies have set up a self-regulating organization which developed its own criteria for relationship with partners, for establishing the quantity and quality of services provided to the inhabitants and guests of the region. We have a well developed business and cultural tourism. Our film festival Spirit of Fire is widely known.

Interviewer: To this I must reply with the famous ‘I don’t believe!’ and provoke an invitation to a press tour to see everything with my own eyes.

– We have recently developed and even tested the new route leading to the highest peak of the Urals, Mount Narodnaya. I have made part of the trip myself and guarantee really exciting experience.

Interviewer: Now to the Deaflympics. Until recently the event was called Olympic Games for the Deaf. Now the term Deaflympics is used. They will be held in Khanty-Mansiysk in March-April 2015. What is going to be there?

- Indeed, in March 2015 Khanty-Mansiysk is welcoming competitions in 5 events – curling, ice hockey, cross-country skiing and alpine skiing.

Interviewer: All these for hearing-impaired athletes?  

- Yes. For the deaf and hearing-impaired.

Interviewer: Not to be confused with Paralympics and Winter Olympic Games, right?

- Nevertheless, these games are included in the Olympics cycle. I’d like to emphasize that for the first time in the history of the Olympic Games a single country, Russia, is accepting all three winter Olympics practically within one year: the big Sochi Olympics, Paralympics and Deaflympics.

Interviewer: As far as I know, all facilities are ready, it only remains to be seen whether foreign guests will be pleased.

 - Competitions in 4 events out of 5 will be held in our territory. Alpine skiing will take place in Magnitogorsk, Chelyabinsk Oblast. All facilities are ready: both for the events and for accommodating guests. Over 450 sportspeople from 27 countries have applied to participate. We are getting requests from fans as well. For example, a 100 strong group of fans from the US is going to arrive to support their team. Using the opportunity, I’d like to invite Russians to come to Ugra to support our athletes. You are welcome!

Interviewer: Natalia Vladimirovna, there are moments when you are just a human being rather than governor. It’s the moment when you shut the door of your office and say: “I am a woman, I want to have a rest.” And do whatever is after your own heart.  

- You know, even at work I tend to test my human nature.

Interviewer:  But having a rest is an opportunity of switching off your telephone, going away somewhere, for instance, to the forest or the mountains.

- I never switch off my telephone, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to relax. With my telephone on, if it does not ring and there are no alarm calls or emergencies, I know I can be calm. Having switched it off, I’ll go on worrying and thinking of possible incidents or unplanned happenings.  

Interviewer: What is more acceptable for you: active leisure or sitting calmly, for example, in a winter house?

- I’ve answered this question several times. I’m fond of lying on my sofa.

Interviewer: At last! Other interviewees would insist on climbing, surfing, etc.

- One can have it both ways.

Interviewer: I’d like to ask you one more question concerning the social component. People in the Soviet Union used to leave their home for Moscow: to study drama and become an actress or go to a university. Nowadays young people tend to stay where they were born, in their “small motherland”. They say: “We can be of use here as well.” This is great! Tell us about your internal and external migration.  Have there been any changes in this respect?

- Our population is growing both due to the natural increase and through positive migration balance. The birth rate in the region is one of the highest in the Russian Federation. We have mentioned that we experience labour shortage. Starting from 2012 we’ve been offering three or four times more jobs than the number of the people registered as unemployed.   Hence we need an inflow of efficient labour. I should add that as a result of the troubles in Ukraine more than 7 thousand people from this country came to us. They were fleeing bombing and other atrocities that were happening there.

Interviewer: Do they have the status of refugees, temporary migrants of do they try to get the Russian citizenship?

-  People control their lives in different ways. There are some who have initiated the procedure of acquiring the Russian citizenship, there are some who apply for temporary safe refuge. Others are waiting for the chance to return home.  We are trying to deal with each category of those people most carefully, in strict compliance with the Russian legislation. You are absolutely right. As far back as 2008, when the Strategy was being developed, we discussed the following question: shall Ugra be an area with the rotational workforce or shall it be designed for permanent residence? Later, in 2010-2011, when this strategic document was revised, the issue was not even questioned. The people determined that Ugra had become a well-developed region and was fully integrated in the economy, in the social relations of the Russian Federation. Ugra is self-sufficient and therefore people believe in the possibility of putting down their roots here. At the same time, nobody is going to confine people to this place of residence. It is very good to see that young people choose other regions for their studies, and even better to have them come back to the native land. This is very important. We won’t keep anybody of great talent who is needed to Russia and the whole world. On the contrary, we are setting up conditions to grow such talents here in Ugra!

Interviewer: Are you informed of such born talents? Are there dedicated Governor’s grants?

- We are tracing specially gifted and talented youth and doing our best to pay extra attention to them to support their efforts in achieving high results in creative activities, arts or sports. There are many creative contests, forums and festivals which determine the best and the strongest to whom the best grants and prizes are awarded. In Ugra monetary incentives are not mere words.

Interviewer: Khanty-Mansiysk means two indigenous nations: Khanti and Mansi. In fact, there are lots of ethnic groups here. Nowadays we are witnessing creation of ethnic centers, ethnic schools, linguistic centers. As far as I know, you have such institutions too.

- We are striving to preserve the originality of the indigenous nations. We are doing a lot for this purpose. We cooperate with UNESCO in this respect, initiate and support various projects aimed at retaining endangered languages.  The culture of the indigenous nations, their traditions and the very people – Khanty, Mansi, Nenets – are very dear for us, we treat them with great reverence. They can be considered as the peculiarity, the “image” of the region. Its basis in fact, whose preservation and further development will provide unconditional guarantees for the expansion of any economic industry. The issue has a long history and it is necessary to always keep our finger on the pulse, never to settle down on what has been done. We have, for instance, a huge legislative base concerning the special status of the indigenous groups. The Constitution of the Russian Federation stipulates these provisions too. However, we realize that one cannot stop. It is necessary to move on.

Interviewer: Our guest has come to the program with presents. She took from Khanty-Mansiysk a food basket. Pity you can’t see it. Forget about
Iberian ham or Italian parmesan, just imagine fresh mushrooms, berries, fish! You can win all this right now on the air.

Prize drawing.

Interviewer: Natalia Vladimirovna, thank you for coming.

- Thanks for having me here, thanks for your interest in our region.


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