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Towards progress

Vladislav Inozemtsev: "Bridges for hundreds of billions will not help to move to new shores"

Towards progress
Special project TORA and Free Port

Doctor of Economics, Professor, Director of the Center for the Study of Post-Industrial Society, member of the Scientific Council of the Russian Council on International Affairs Vladislav Inozemtsev - about why Russia should not aim at geopolitical and economic megaprojects in the Far East and Siberia.

- As long as Russia exists, so much it has been trying to “turn its face” somewhere. It cuts the window to Europe, then - as now - it intends to make a "breakthrough to the East", "turn to Asia", "move to the Pacific Ocean." Vladislav Leonidovich, do you think these ideas are feasible? And are there any mega-projects possible after the Ukrainian events with the participation of Western or Eastern partners - the same Northern Alliance of Russia, America and the EU countries in the Pacific Ocean?

- On the part of different alliances - certainly, the changes have been cardinal, and in the foreseeable future no one and nothing like us will create. I appreciate the skepticism of scenarios of all sorts of "breakthroughs" somewhere, especially in the eastern direction. Yes, now much has been said about this. The eastern vector is a government idea, and the fact that one should "look towards Asian markets" is the official point of view. But if the words are spoken from a high rostrum, this does not mean that we should take them as an axiom or the truth in the last instance. There are a lot of questions. For example, what are Asian markets? This is for us not only China, but, to a much greater extent, our allies in the Eurasian Economic Community and the Customs Union in Central Asia. Why are we so enthusiastic about cooperation with China, to be honest, I do not understand at all. From the economic point of view, the Celestial Empire is our absolute enemy, we have cardinally opposite interests, but let's talk about this a little later. I will only note that even if the globe is to conduct from Moscow a "vector to the east," it will pass through Japan, Canada, the northern territories of the United States and point to Vancouver rather than Beijing.

A serious problem I see is that as long as we use the natural resources of remote regions of our country, just as the British "scooped up" the resources of their colonies - India and Rhodesia, as Spain treated the riches of Latin America, and France - of West Africa and Indochina. With Siberia and the Far East, we act in the usual way: in the past centuries, we destroyed a valuable beast, mined gold and metals, now - we pump oil and gas, taking little care of the consequences. A huge region "works" not for themselves, but for the benefit of the country, the richest territories are just "donors", whose health, development and well-being are almost not considered. But the preservation of such "quasi-colonial" approaches is the right way to deepen the contradictions between different parts of Russia and lead eventually to the disintegration of the country.

Our country has today a "raw" economy, the export of resources from the regions of Siberia and the Far East is the foundation of its welfare. In all truly successful countries, the lion's share of national wealth is created in large industrial, financial and technological centers, rather than in raw material-rich but sparsely populated states or districts. However, we have a special way of building a public administration system that is clearly outdated and needs replacing - a system in which resource regions feed the whole country, and sometimes they stand with their outstretched hand when it comes to their own vital interests. Therefore, the first thing that should be abandoned is that from the vicious practice of carrying out in the vastnesses of the eastern lands, basically large state projects, without worrying about the technological progress going "in depth". In this sense, any alliances with those foreign partners are dangerous, which are only ready to take our resources from us, without caring (and why would they?) About increasing efficiency, about "technologicalization" of the Russian economy.

At a minimum, the global plans of the state policy towards Siberia (under which I understand the whole part of Russia that is located between the eastern slope of the Ural Mountains and the Pacific Ocean) also cause perplexity. For today, they too are a pure quasi-colonial approach. It means only "mastering" of resource-rich but sparsely populated territories, and not at all a redistribution of powers or the abandonment of unprofitable, pompous, initially unviable strategies and mega-programs in favor of developing the initiatives of the regions themselves. This is contrary to the practice of other countries (the same Canada, America, etc.), where the rate is placed on compact and effective regional projects independently implemented by the business community with the support and control of the state.

In my opinion, the main enemy of any development is the so-called "project thinking". It is impossible to ensure the progress of the region if one constantly poses unattainable goals or designate landmarks purely by bureaucratic logic. This, by the way, is described in detail in the book "The Siberian Blessing", which we, together with the Doctor of Economics, State Duma deputy Valery Zubov, have recently written and published in the run-up to the Eleventh Krasnoyarsk Krasnoyarsk Economic Forum.

- This forum, by the way, also discussed the report of the Valdai Club, prepared by a group of experts headed by Sergei Karaganov, "Towards the Great Ocean". Do their arguments also appeal to you?

- There are many opinions, and usually the truth is born in disputes, in the clash of different positions. As for the "eastern vector" and the exit to the Ocean, the wording seems to me somewhat inaccurate. As well as the term "Asia-Pacific". Here we are somehow at odds with geography. Firstly, if we talk about the Pacific Ocean, then this is half of all water areas of the Earth, and countries with developed economies are located on its shores - starting from Alaska, Canada, the United States and further Mexico, Chile, Bolivia, etc., and also Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, China, Russia ... The two shores of the same ocean are currently equal in their capacities. 46% of the total GDP of countries with access to the Great Ocean is the share of America, Canada and Australia, 48% is the share of China, Japan, South Korea and other countries. 3,5-4% - our share in the Pacific region. Paradoxically, this is a rather advantageous position. Russia is the same “balancer” that can make the scales tilt to the left or to the right, since one of the sides does not have a sharp advantage. And if we were smarter and more far-sighted, we could at least bargain on whose side we are on - America or China, and not adhere to one of the sides immediately and forever. Moreover, I in no way share the general euphoria over friendship and partnership with China.

- Is the Chinese threat really real?

- No, I'm not talking about China's expansion to the Far East. This is very unlikely. Moreover, they do not have such a policy at the state level either. The Chinese are so busy with themselves and their economic development that they have no sense of "stepping on" anywhere. Yes, and the standard of living in this country is still growing, and quite a decent pace. Speaking about the demographic aspect, the inhabitants of the Far East are much more often forced to leave "to the mainland" not Chinese expansion, but household discomfort, lack of work and life prospects. They are being replaced not by "alien" migrants, but by economic despair. To attract people to the Far East may be the emergence of a chance to solve the housing problem, the low cost of apartments and land, business benefits-in short, all that drove energetic and enterprising people to Vladivostok and to the same Chinese Shanghai at the beginning of the last century. There's nothing new you can think of: romance without an economic basis is unthinkable, but the economic factor can become decisive.

Speaking about the fact that the Chinese are "economic enemies", I mean something else. When we are talking about the fate of Siberia and the Far East and about joint projects with foreign investors in this vast territory, a natural question arises: what can the Chinese give us in terms, for example, of experience in developing deposits. China is not a raw country. And if you take any experience, it's more likely that Mongolia, a sovereign country that has a comparable population and resource potential, is comparable to some of our "Siberian" regions. It gives us an example of investment flexibility and ability to defend the interests of the country with the prospect of a future rather than a momentary benefit. We have not yet developed a copper deposit in Udokan, and the Mongols are already exploiting their own, almost identical. With the help of the British, Canadians and Australians - because reasonably judged that these are countries where you can learn advanced technologies. Americans do not allow the Mongols to join them - they can not be dealt with. And the Chinese are afraid, although they sell a lot, but in development and credit with them "are not friends." And this approach seems to me more robust than ours. The Chinese do not develop deposits that are similar to ours, therefore, except for loans on bail, we do not get resources from them.

- Something we have already received in the form of "best practices" and even try to apply - I mean the system of free economic zones and territories of priority development. Do you think this will have an effect somewhere near Magadan or Khabarovsk, just as it did in Shenzhen or Guangzhou?

- I do not think that direct parallels will work here. Too different "introductory" when creating these zones for us and in China 1970-80-x. The Central Committee of the CCP did not give direct instructions to invest a billion dollars in the Guangzhou free economic zone. There was another agreement between the state and business: we do not touch you, but you do not. The state allocated the territory and freed the business from taxes on profits for 10 years. On this, his "influence" was exhausted. Inside the zone, the business built the work as it saw fit. Hired Chinese workers, paid them a salary, made insurance contributions - and that's it. The state was no longer involved in its affairs and did not restrict freedom, although it provided the minimum necessary support for insurance and other social issues. That's why the real "zones of advanced development" appeared quickly enough. We have a different situation, and the main problem remains who controls these TORs and FEZs. Nobody, as far as I know, has yet calculated that in these zones there will be produced (and whether it will be possible at all) what the cost of production will be, whether it will be possible to sell it on the domestic and, even more, external market, where competition is acute enough. It is unclear who will want to come to these "territories" and why. But already now the regional authorities should report "on implementation" - although, in fact, our TOP projects, voiced from high bleachers, are in pure form fairy tales. A sort of "I do not know what, I do not know where and I do not know how much is unknown when." The problem is not to fence and ennoble the territory under some extended "business park". First of all, we need a clear plan for what will be a measure of mutual responsibility, what laws will be in effect, what, conditionally speaking, we plan to get at the entrance through this "checkpoint" and what is on the way out. While I can not find any clear answers to this with all the desire, I can not.

For today, it seems to me, these TORs, where the land is once again planning to bury the nemerous amount of state money, in many ways - an illusion or utopia. We do not have a more logical way now than to "drag" foreigners to us, so that they build refineries here. And we do not need to build pipes for them, they will begin to drive raw materials, but let them do it themselves (not in bags but behind the backs to carry coal and not in cans - oil). We need to maximally ease the tax regime for investors, create conditions - but the main thing is not to send raw materials abroad, but to ensure its processing in Russia. And for this to create port facilities, production, all necessary infrastructure, which will generate revenue. Relatively speaking, do not pump crude oil in raw form, and build somewhere near Magadan or Vladivostok a couple of chemical industries, do there polyethylene, cermets, anything. The profit is incommensurable with the present. Yes, and the price of the goods is completely different, if you do it on the spot from your own raw materials, and do not send resources to Japan, and then there also buy the finished products. You can also put another goal - to drag Korean and Japanese shipbuilding and other companies from China to us. At one time they brought production to where labor was extremely cheap. But China is developing, salaries are growing, the attractiveness of the "almost free" labor goes to nothing. This moment can and should be used - although not from the point of view of "slave labor", but by offering privileges, preferences, convenient rules for doing business.

“But Chinese loans are a necessary thing for us too.” How else to build, for example, railways, to establish the entire infrastructure? We always have “sluggish joints, and the spaces are huge” ...

- You know, the construction of railways in BAM's likeness is also an echo of "project thinking", which is now essentially nonsense. There is, for example, a program for the development of the Far East, providing for the laying of a railway to Chukotka and then joining it to the BAM. But pulling such highways is only meaningful to the ocean, because it is by sea that most of the transportation of raw materials takes place, the rest are too expensive and therefore unprofitable. It is much easier to build one branch on Magadan, create a couple of new ports on the Pacific coast with high-tech processing zones - and ship it further. Pulling the way to Chukotka is a project with a high degree of idiocy. By the way, in the USA in Alaska there is only one railway branch - from the center of the state to Anchorage. On it to other places in America you will not reach. There is no point in such construction: the main products from Alaska are exported by sea. By the way, although there are quite serious oil and gas production there, the basis of Alaska's GDP is fish and seafood. There are far fewer oil workers here than fishermen and fish processing plant workers. As for China, more than 90% of those goods that it delivers to Boston, Washington, to European countries, go to the consumer by sea.

“However, the idea of ​​a“ logistics corridor ”from the Far East to Europe through Russia is not so fantastic. In addition, commodity companies complain that, in fact, railways are clogged and transport is not so easy ...

- I do not argue - are clogged. The question is what. This is mainly coal and ore. And in each, for example, 40 million tons of coal and ore - only 2 million tons of finished rolled products at the output. It turns out that we carry "heavy emptiness" in huge trains. If the same Koreans are given the opportunity to build a turnkey processing plant in Russia, investments in it will be a dozen times less than the money spent for the same time on the transportation of raw materials by rail. In this case, a new enterprise, jobs, etc. will appear in Russia.

By the way, try to guess how much the length of the railway tracks in the world has increased since 1850, when the rails and sleepers were stacked with a kyle, up to 1914-go? At least the order of the numbers.

"I do not know, I can only guess." On 10, on 20 thousand kilometers?

- Take the above. For these 34 years in the XIX-XX centuries the length of railways in the world It was engendered on 770 thousands of kilometers! And the second question - what changes have occurred from 1913 to 2013 year?

"Another one?"

- Nothing like this! The length of all railways in the world has decreased by 6 thousand kilometers. Only Americans dismantled two-thirds of their roads as useless. In California, led five branches, now left alone. The same thing happened in Europe.

We do not need to build huge railroads, modernize BAM and Transsib, and so on. Much more important are small branches to individual deposits, the development of private light-engine aircraft, the laying of roads, the construction of local airfields (in Alaska such, for reference, 5,5 thousand), the purchase of seaplanes capable of carrying small loads to remote settlements, etc. - all that works "on the region", and not "on a global scale". And to develop first of all coastal zones of the Far Eastern regions, and this should be quite real things that will help the Far East of Russia to find its "niche" in the markets of Asia. And not the construction of a bridge on the Russian island for 32 billion, or the reconstruction of Transsib and Bam for 1,08 trillion, or the laying of a railway to Chukotka for 1,4 trillion, etc. Not even the construction for 2 trillion rubles of the tunnel under the Bering Strait to "connect" the transport routes of Eurasia and America. It is not needed - on the American side the road ends for 800 km from the coast. And Asia does not need us so much. Unlike Europe, where we now supply four-fifths of all our raw materials and where there is a huge shortage of natural resources, Asia is a prosperous continent in this respect. China, Australia and Indonesia collectively produce 13 times more coal than Russia, and oil in Southeast Asia is extracted only by 20% more than in Russia. And if we now have one less oil in 3,6 times less oil than in the US, and one miner - 6,4 less coal than in Australia, there is no point in explaining why it's so important now to attend to the "technologization" of our productions .

And that's what you should keep in mind when planning and creating geopolitical or economic alliances. Areas of terrestrial land remote from the ocean coast for less than a hundred miles, constitute 9% of the total area of ​​all continents of our planet (Antarctica does not count). However, this territory produces 68% of the world's gross product. The economy of the modern world is absolutely "maritime". From this point of view, the Eurasian Union, uniting the countries, of which none has access to the sea, looks like a strange construction. The whole world goes one way, we are at 180 degrees from progress.

- And what is the bad idea of ​​the "Eurasian association" now, when relations with the West in Russia are quite tense? Thus, there is a huge territory, living according to general laws and rules, as experts and analysts repeatedly spoke about, stressing the geostrategic role of such alliances.

- You know, this hysteria around "huge spaces" is more a tribute to traditions and stereotypes. For example, Alexander Dugin speaks of "Heartland" (from the English Heartland - "core", middle land) as the focus of the continental masses of Eurasia in the form of a geographic springboard that allows for geopolitical control over the whole world. It is based on the ideas of the famous British geopolitician Halford Mackinder, put forward in the 1904 year. But let's take a closer look - what did Mackinder say and what was the reality of his time? He argued that the territories of Central Asia, Kazakhstan, South Siberia, etc. can be considered the most important geopolitical construct because they are far from the oceans, protected from aggression, and the technical capabilities and availability of railways give a chance to master them and make them a central element of the industrial base. And again we look at the date: 110 years ago. The economy has since become completely different. Space, unlike the sea, is already not needed by anybody - an example with a reduction in the length of railways proves this convincingly. Again the doctrine is purely theoretical, without "binding" to specific conditions and realities.

In my opinion, the modern Russian "Siberia" in the broadest sense of the word, stretching to the Pacific, is needed for Russia to fulfill a very important goal. Not to collect any "tribute", not to meet bureaucratic ambitions and not even to strengthen our geopolitical positions in the world, as it is often said. It is huge, for many thousands of kilometers into the distance and breadth, "litmus paper", through which you can determine whether Russia is really a modern country. In other words, is our state capable of reforms, self-improvement and, consequently, of future "breakthroughs" to progress. The ability to develop regions, eradicating the imbalances between them, the ability to create working management schemes in which regional initiatives and economic projects play a key role in raising the standard of living and creating a favorable business climate in the country - all this does not occur on an equal footing. We need a radical redistribution of powers, the development of a new economic strategy. This business is long and difficult, fraught with conflicts of interests and powerful resistance of monopolists, high-ranking officials, various kinds of imperious persons ... But this is a benchmark to which it makes sense to consistently move forward. In the same way, as many developed countries have already managed to do, they did not regret it.

Russia should not artificially strive for integration with the countries of Asia and, on the contrary, nurture anti-Western and anti-American sentiments. Do not try to become an "empire," while simultaneously surrendering and actually plundering your resources, receiving little in return. To become great, it is enough for itself. Only in a new capacity and with a new consciousness.

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