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Preparations for the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, to be held on September 2 through 9 in Vladivostok, is practically over. A total of 660 billion rubles has been spent on the summit – twice the amount estimated back in 2007. The authorities promise the event will yield tangible benefits. They hope that the investments drawn in this way will exceed spending many times over. In the meantime, in connection with the forum local residents are bracing for major restrictions and inconveniences, and businesses, for great financial losses.
The strategic purpose of the summit and other such meetings is to achieve a situation in which half of Russia’s export will be marketed in the Asia-Pacific Region, First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov told the media on Tuesday. At present half of Russia’s export is bound for the European Union. Also, it will be possible to judge the practical benefits of this costly event only by the investments that may start pouring in after the summit, Shuvalov believes.
A total of 660 billion rubles has been spent on the preparations for APEC-2012. Direct federal financing totaled less than one-third of the sum – 202 billion rubles.
The budget has grown tangibly, and so has the number of facilities that the city will inherit. As for the usefulness of some projects, it looks doubtful. As the daily Moskovsky Komsomolets said, the Primorye Territory is now considering what is to be done to the two semi-finished five-star hotels that the territorial authorities have failed to finalize on time. They have cost the territorial budget a total of 7.5 billion rubles.
Quite a few question marks are over the facilities' construction costs. As it has turned out, one kilometer of the much-advertised bridge to the Russky Island, where the summit will be held, cost 328 million dollars to build. Incidentally, the heads of state will not use the super bridge, because a helicopter pad is already in place.
Heavy spending is being made on security. The chief of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces, General Nikolai Makarov, is quoted by Rossiiskaya Gazeta as saying the military will be involved in maintaining security at the summit. Russian police and secret services will be mostly responsible for preventing all sorts of incidents, but the army will play its role, too.
Makarov said a whole range of tasks has been identified for the Armed Forces, which are to be addressed by the ground, air and naval group of the Defense Ministry in the Far East. Air defenses will be on guard. By and large the military have been ordered to keep an eye on 170 facilities and sites inside Vladivostok and around the city.
In the meantime, the preparations for the summit have already caused inconveniences to the local people. Businesses, Nezavisimaya Gazeta says, are getting ready to count losses from the international forum.
The warning some restrictions may be introduced for the people of Vladivostok, where APEC summit events will begin on September 1, had been issued in advance. Contrary to the promises by the authorities of all levels the forum will not affect the residents of the city’s mainland part to any significant extent. The security measures have noticeably restricted the local people’s freedom of movement. Since August 25 Russky Island residents have been unable to get home without special passes. And three harbors around the island - Ayaks, Novik and Paris - have been closed. The Russian Transport Ministry introduced a ban on mooring and shipping in Vladivostok’s seaport and in the Amur and Ussury bays. Ships are redirected to neighboring Nakhodka and the port of Vostochny. Some of them will have to drop anchor offshore.
The air space over the city will be closed for four days of the summit. According to the just-published schedule, 75% of flights have been canceled. Only Aeroflot liners will be allowed to land and take off. It is not ruled out that the border checkpoints will change their routine. According to travel agencies, automobile checkpoints will stay closed on September 5-10.
Some restrictions on public transport in the city have been imposed and routes changed, but there have been no explanations why. Some are telling rumors of likely food shortages in supermarkets, because local wholesalers may have to suspend operations for a while, and that gasoline sales to private car owners will be restricted in order to keep as many vehicles as possible off the streets.
The losses of Vladivostok’s port are estimated at 400 million rubles. The port-related railways, truck companies, cargo recipients and senders will be affected. The suspension of shipping and air traffic for the several days of the summit will cause more than 10 million dollars of losses to market participants.
No other country that hosted APEC summits before introduced such draconian measures, says the daily. Only ships carrying risky cargoes were asked to stay out of the ports of Yokohama, which transits more than 100 million tonnes of cargoes and Pusan (about 300 million tonnes), let alone Singapore, which is on the list of the world’s largest ports. In the meantime, the port of Vladivostok transits 11.5 million tonnes a year, but security is far tighter.
MOSCOW, August 29