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Billionaire's Plan to Save Single-Industry Towns

Published: January 31, 2014 (Issue # 1795)



  • Payment arrears at the Basic Element cement plant in Pikalyovo in 2009 resulted in protesting and a Putin visit.
    Photo: Ekaterina Kuzmina / Vedomosti

Billionaire Oleg Deripaska's Basic Element on Wednesday outlined ways to breathe new life into hundreds of single-industry towns teetering on the edge of economic collapse.

Crude state subsidies should be jettisoned, the company said. Viable towns should be supported, while no-hopers must be wound down.

A holdover from the Soviet Union, 16 million Russians live in 340 single-industry towns across the country, according to the Economic Development Ministry. Their degeneration has long been a headache both for Basic Element and the government, as they try to hold the line between their frequent insolvency and the social consequences of allowing them to fail.

Related: Deripaska Brings in Magna’s Co-CEO for Basic Element

In 2009, workers in Pikalyovo in the Leningrad region near St. Petersburg blocked the main highway because local cement factory, owned by Basic Element, was on the verge of closing.

The situation was diffused only when then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin flew in to offer a packet of state bank loans to fund overdue salary payments and make sure Deripaska — who owns many factories in far-flung regions — fully understood his social responsibilities.

Not all single-industry towns have the same grave outlook as Pikalyovo. Provided government help is applied in the right places, more than half are economically robust, said Sergei Lomanov of the Center for Strategic Research, a nongovernmental think tank commissioned by Basic Element to conduct the research.

Related: State to Resettle Some Single-Industry Towns

"There is no need to drag investors into many of these towns. Usually they already have small and medium-sized businesses running that need only baseline support from local authorities and, possibly, limited additional benefits," Lomanov said.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Monday, Oct. 20


Amateur pictures from World War I are on display for only one more day at Rosphoto’s exhibition “On Both Sides,” chronicling the conflict through the eyes of observers on both sides of the trenches. The price of entrance to the exhibition is 100 rubles ($2.50).



Tuesday, Oct. 21


The Environment, Health and Safety Committee of AmCham convenes this morning at 9 a.m. in the organization’s office.


Take the chance to pick the brains of Dmitry V. Krivenok, the deputy director of the Economic Development Agency of the Leningrad region, and Mikhail D. Sergeev, the head of the Investment Projects Department, during the meeting with them this morning hosted by SPIBA. RSVP for the event by emailing office@spiba.ru before Oct. 17 if you wish to attend.


Improve your English at Interactive English, the British Book Center’s series of lessons on vocabulary and grammar in an informal atmosphere. Starting at 6 p.m., each month draws attention to different topics in English, with the topic for this month’s lessons being “visual arts.”



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