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The economy is not very interested in what kind of investment report will come from the governor to the presidential administration
Pavel MinakirDirector of the Institute of Economic Research of the Far East Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences
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- Pavel Aleksandrovich, in the past year, for well-known reasons, Russia has been showing an increased interest in its eastern neighbors. Next year, we will chair the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Do you see any real benefits from Russia's participation in the SCO? What did the SCO give Russia and what did Russia give the SCO?
- The SCO is a political organization, some addition or even a certain alternative to an organization such as ASEAN, oriented toward the United States. For Russia and China, the SCO is a form of demonstrating its own approach to regional security. The economic component of the SCO is available, but it is of secondary importance. The benefit of Russia is the leading role in the real bloc organization, which is a very weak alternative to NATO, but still demonstrates the preservation of Russia's block potential. The remaining members of the SCO have their own benefits. It is not possible to assess them economically, and hardly at all.
- Vladimir Putin in mid-December noted that the transition of the SCO countries to payments in national currencies could shake the dominance of the dollar and strengthen the financial systems of member countries. But will not this be a joint game in favor of the renminbi?
- Among themselves, the SCO member states can switch to settlements even in sables, the dollar will simply not notice it. Will this strengthen national financial systems? It is very doubtful, or rather - in the case of China, they will not react in any way due to the insignificant share of general calculations; in the case of Russia, very little will react - for the same reason; for the rest, the situation will depend on the real state of bilateral balances of payments. The yuan will not get much benefit from this precisely because of the small share of these settlements in the total volume of China's payment transactions.
- And how will these calculations look in practice in the national currency? After all, you can not oblige all companies-residents instead of dollars to use in the calculations of yuan, rubles or tenge?
- It is possible to oblige, but they will not do it. Allow national banks to make such payments with the establishment of appropriate rates or the use of market rates, which are again tied to the dollar. Those agents for whom mutual trade is the main part of operations will be happy to take advantage of this permission, since they can save a little on conversion transactions.
- Not so long ago, Dmitry Medvedev said that during the existence of the SCO has not implemented a single major project, but Russia has something to offer. So what can we offer the SCO? And why the financing of projects was stalled earlier?
"I do not know what Medvedev means, it's better to ask him." The fantasies of our prime minister are immense. To finance joint projects, mutual economic interest is needed in them. There are interests of Russia and China, there are interests of China and Kazakhstan, there are interests of Russia and Kazakhstan, and are there any interests of all? I dont know. If there is, then the realization of such interests is possible. Let them call.
- In recent years, a huge amount of Chinese money flows into Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. Do the authorities of these countries fear Chinese domination? And does it exist?
- It is better to ask the governments of these countries. With the same success it was possible to ask any country, including the USA, why they invite foreign capital into their economy, and not prohibit its import. The international movement of capital is one of the most important factors of economic development and growth. There are always restrictions on the investment of foreign capital in industries and objects that are considered strategic. It is up to each country to identify these strategic zones that are inaccessible to foreign capital. China also has such zones, although the entire modern Chinese economy is created by foreign capital. And Russia has such zones inaccessible to foreigners.
- Will the Chinese money go with the same readiness to Russia, the Far East and the Baikal region?
- It is better to ask whether foreign money is going to Russia at all, and where exactly? Capital goes where it is profitable and safe. Chinese money goes to Russia there and as much, where and how many they are allowed, and where they are interested. They also go to the east - to gas, oil, construction, forest; For some time have gone into the automotive industry in the food industry. The bulk of foreign investment for a long time generally only went to the Russian financial market. This is one of the reasons for the modern disgrace in the financial and foreign exchange market, as in 1998.
- One of the proposals sounded in the SCO format is the formation of a single energy market. Will this give a chance to realize the long-planned, but still on paper, export network projects in the Far East?
- The single energy market is a technologically meaningful and feasible project, but very expensive and hardly crucial to solve all the energy problems of the same China, which is a very large global economy. Any projects, including the export of electricity from the Far East, are implemented in the case of their economic feasibility for partners, and not only if there is a great desire of one of the parties. For the sake of engaging the political potential of the SCO, giving this organization economic meaning, no projects will be funded, in any case, by Russia's partners. Our country itself is used to blur the line between economic sense and political expediency, but this is the problem of Russia itself.
- Can we count on investments in the Trans-Siberian and BAM - if Russia does offer these infrastructure projects to partners?
"I do not know what we can count on." If there is a specific commercial project, there is not enough money for its implementation, then external financing is attracted under certain conditions. What this has to do with political organizations, I do not understand. The CMEA Times (Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, the international organization of the socialist bloc, which operated from 1949 to 1991 years - author's note) have passed.
- For the post-Soviet history of the Far East, many attempts have been made to speed up its development. What kind of terms were not invented, from the points of growth and free economic zones to the current neologism - TOR. Why did the previous attempts fail? And what should we expect from TOR?
- And why is it considered that the "development of the Far East" needs to be accelerated? Accelerate compared to what or by whom? And what is the "development of the Far East"? I have not seen the answers to these questions. It is always about GDP, growth rates. So they are quite acceptable! The average rate for the national economy, if compared with it, is composed of very different rates by region. This is statistics. Why should the highest growth rate be in the Far East? No answer, either.
Threats do exist, but this is not the rate of GDP growth (GRP). And not the absence of any specific processing industries, by the way.
The structure of the economy in a particular place and at a particular time does not obey political will or political errors. Does not even obey economic errors. The economy can be raped for some time, you can even enjoy it for a while, but no more. The economy itself will not get pleasure from this pleasure. There is a good illustration of this from Soviet times.
As for the TOR and other terminological delights, all these are bureaucratic wonders, which should be treated condescendingly as the price that the economy has to pay periodically for state patronage. It is naturally accompanied by the emergence of the personal interests of specific departments and the need to produce all sorts of significant state-scale decisions. Otherwise, the meaning of the existence of entire departments and their bosses becomes doubtful.
No patience. And the constant itch of “fateful decisions” strongly resembles the desire of absolutist rulers to perpetuate their power in temples and palaces.
- Does the world have a similar experience in TOPs, similar mechanisms and institutions of development?
- The world is full of all kinds of zones, parks ... There are good examples, there are unfortunate examples. However, I can not remember that somewhere some zones were created for the sake of "accelerated development" of vast territories. For the sake of attracting capital - yes, for the sake of increasing exports - yes, for the sake of attracting technology - yes, to promote the development of new structural elements of the economy - yes. But that's all.
- We often talk about the need to attract investments to the region. But do we understand - where will investors go exactly, and where do not they entice them for any gingerbread?
"It's considered indecent to ask such questions." What do you mean they will not? The country needs, privileges gave - it means that they quickly built up and went. And if they do not go - then this is someone's evil machinations. There is much talk about market incentives, market economy, but there is no understanding of the complexity and objectivity of real economic processes.
- How much investment can we “digest”? Are there too many of them?
- It happens. If we are talking about direct investments, then their value in a certain period of time is determined by the cost of implementing certain projects of new construction, reconstruction, expansion of capacities. The desire to simply “increase investment” is useful for the rating of governors, but the economy is not very interested in what report on investment will come from this territory to the presidential administration.
- The law on the TORs prescribes mechanisms for attracting foreign labor - bypassing quotas. The Far Eastern regions were indignant - we must give jobs to the local population. In your opinion, will the local labor market cope with the demands of the TORs?
- Cancellation of quotas is a measure of incentives for investors. Encourage investors or solve the problem of employment in the territory - you need to decide on priorities. It's funny that this contradiction reveals one of the main flaws of the “TOP model” - attracting investments with complete uncertainty of economic advantages for them. In this case, it turns out that there are no advantages, as it was in the Chinese free economic zones, in terms of the quantity and price of labor, but, on the contrary, there is a shortage of skilled and cheap labor. This problem is tried to be solved by abolishing quotas. And for the regions, there is the problem of reducing unemployment, that is, by and large they simply do not need investments, although this is useful for a report - but there is also a report on unemployment. It would be possible to focus on the “local labor market”, if it was itself an economic advantage. However, the Far Eastern labor market, like the Russian one as a whole, is not such an advantage.
Interviewed by Vadim Pasmurtsev