The bridge Chinese state-owned companies are supposed to build over the Lena river near Yakutsk “will” indeed be built, Russia’s premier Dmitry Medvedev said two weeks ago. “I hope we’ll solve this problem, because the bridge is necessary. And since it’s necessary, that means it will exist.”
The ‘problem’ encumbering that syllogism is, in the premier’s own words, “financial”. The Lena bridge project has been about to be started for quite some time now, but funds earmarked for it have so far failed to materialise. One possible reason for that is a reassessment of infrastructure development priorities after the incorporation of Crimea to the Federation. Although a tender for the project took place in 2014, once it became clear Russian state funding wasn’t coming, the Yakutian local government turned to Chinese investors. Chinese companies have shown interest in building the bridge, but no convincing proposal seems to have emerged when it comes to financing its construction.
The most recent Lena-bridge meeting I can mention took place two days ago between the presidential representative in Yakutia and people from CCECC, a CRCC (中铁) subsidiary expected to participate in the construction. Crucially, the meeting discussed the possible involvement in the project of a Sberbank subsidiary, as a “financial consultant and investor”. That sounds good (as in ‘money’s coming’) for the project, while still showing no Chinese investor has shown a willingness to finance much of it on their own.
Another mildly auspicious sign for the bridge project is that the top Heilongjiang province officials now mention it among projects deserving support. Chinese media reports that Lu Hao 陆昊 and Wang Xiankui 王宪魁, respectively the provincial governor and Party secretary, made such mention of the Lena project during a visit by Egor Borisov, head of the Yakutian government.