The Eastern Economic Forum (EEF,) with around 4,000 participants from 60 countries, was held on Russky Island in Vladivostok from 2 to 4 September. This year it focused on new opportunities for the Far East in a changing world.
EEF 2020 was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, a total of 8,500 people attended the event. All the necessary health and safety measures were taken at this year's forum. To be able to attend, guests, participants and EEF staff were required to have negative PCR tests for the novel coronavirus infection.
The EEF-2021 participants arriving in Vladivostok from other cities of the country were required to have a negative PCR test result before boarding the plane. As for the foreign participants of the forum, they had to take one PCR test 72 hours before crossing the border, and one in the territory of the Russian Federation. One more PCR test must be taken one day before attending the event to gain access to the plenary session of the forum. Even the EEF badge was activated only after a negative test for COVID-19 was obtained. A strict mask rule was in effect.
According to many participants, the current forum, which took place after a forced hiatus, was expected to be very useful also because professionals needed face-to-face communication to solve major problems while “negotiations over phone, Skype and Zoom were still not effective enough.”
Speaking at the forum, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that “such a broad representation and interest in the development of the Russian Far East showed that economic life was recovering and getting back on track.”
Putin underlined that the Russian authorities, amid the spread of the coronavirus infection, carried on with the plans to develop the Russian Far East, and even stepped up the pace of implementation of such projects, TASS reported.
The Russian president drew particular attention to the fact that residents of the Far East region should have a possibility to travel freely around the country all year round, and this should not depend air fares. Putin called on the Russian government to keep the issue of subsidised airline tickets under constant control and create a system that would allow subsidies for preferential flights from the Far East to be allocated automatically every year.
At a conference on the development of the Far Eastern Federal District held the day before, the Russian leader shared his thoughts on the issue.
“I’ve talked to the minister. Every year these subsidies have to be wheedled out of the government. Look, we are all citizens of the Russian Federation. We all live in one country, and we need to ensure connectivity of territories and free movement of residents of the country through its regions! That is why it is necessary to set up a system of automatic subsidies.”
Putin said that the discounted tickets should be available to the residents of the Far East regions all year round. The situation where customers are unable to use air tickets at subsidised fares in the Far Eastern Federal District is unacceptable, so this issue should be kept under control, said the Russian president.
“To maintain affordable prices, the government will need to subsidize air traffic,” Oleg Panteleev, head of the analytical service of the Aviaport agency, told wek.ru. “At the same time, government measures towards the development of air transportation, fleet renewal and true competition among carriers, will encourage them to reduce the cost of air travel.”
According to Panteleev, in the long term, high-ground non-market solutions can settle this or that critical situation and de-escalate tensions, but this would be a temporary measure.
“The real solutions to problems related to the efficiency of aviation business need a market environment with self-regulation, free competition, etc.,” said Panteleev.