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Political provincialism can kill us

Political provincialism can kill us


Member of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy of the Russian Federation, political scientist, dean of the Faculty of World Economy and World Politics of the Higher School of Economics

Dean of the Faculty of World Economy and World Politics of the Higher School of Economics HSE Sergey Karaganov told in an interview to EastRussia why Russia in the Far East has no right to stereotyped thinking.

- Sergey Alexandrovich, in your last interview you told EastRussia that it was declared a priority in Russian politics "Turn to the East". But one thing is to proclaim and quite another to really do it. How do you think there is enough strength in today's Russia, in the new political situation for us, strength, determination, and political will not to get stuck half way?

- Yes, the question of "political will" in this case is really decisive. For many years, the Russian elite did not show any desire to turn to the Asian direction of foreign economic activity. The tremendous efforts (and my humble ones as well) were worth at least bringing this topic up for discussion and drawing attention to it.

A few phrases of the president that sounded two or three years ago — and now the Russian elite, as if by magic, understood everything, realized it and, finally, began to “turn” towards obvious things. Over time, they are becoming more and more necessary, if only because earlier the turn to Asian markets was considered simply as a profitable investment of energy and capital, and now we are spurred by a complication of relations with the West. But the trouble is that the mechanisms providing such a “economic turn to the East” are not very clear to the elite. The case is inhibited not only because of the lack of money, concepts, but above all because of the initial misunderstanding of the essence of the "Eastern strategy".

For example, it announced the creation of TORs - the territories of advanced development in the Far East. For some reason, it does not occur to anyone that this region alone can not "outstrip" much. Turn and speed it along with Siberia. It is in Siberia, mainly the Central and Eastern regions, that we have the most powerful deposits in Russia not only of minerals, but also the qualitatively developed "human capital" (it is enough to recall the Omsk, Tomsk and Novosibirsk scientific centers, which in many respects will give a head start to both capitals and , besides not so badly suffered in recent years from endless reforms or brain drain). The largest industrial assets are also Siberia. But we are still stubbornly trying, figuratively speaking, to "turn our heads apart from the neck" and talk only about the Far East. And Siberia remains due to various kinds of bureaucratic reasons in limbo. And yet, I must say, the matter is, despite the viscous resistance of the bureaucracy and a host of other problems.

-What methods you should develop the Siberian-Far-Eastern macroregion, you wrote in detail in the analytical reports "Towards the Great Ocean, or the New Globalization of Russia", prepared by experts in the framework of the Valdai Club. Did you have to amend this strategy with an eye to the current political situation?

- The strategy remains the same, for that it is the strategy. In tactical moments, of course, realities should always be taken into account. I deal with these issues by historical standards for a short time - only 15 years, from them densely and scrupulously - the last five. But at least on the basis of my experience I can say: in general, Siberia and the Far East should be developed in the way it happened in the best years of Russian history - that is, giving maximum freedom to local entrepreneurship. Yes, there is a certain risk in this, we will have to fight against corruption, and with theft, and with local bureaucratic ambitions. But the Siberians themselves are generally much more cheerful, energetic and free people than the "Russians of the central regions," not offended by other regions will be told. Nothing personal, just historical factors - Siberia developed by the efforts of just such pioneer people, their perseverance, hard work, optimism and asceticism, and they are still there.

Now Siberia and the Far East are trying to develop through state-owned companies. This, of course, is needed. But while there is no second key element - the very freedom of business for all, creating the conditions for any investment. Each investor in the region should be guaranteed protection by the state, and for each governor, the main indicators in the reports to the Center should be the growth of the birth rate, the per capita GRP and the number of investments (Russian and foreign) attracted to the territory he manages.

We talked about this as far back as 1999, when a large group of scientists prepared the report “New development of Siberia” (the working team from the state was headed by Alexander Khloponin and Vladimir Ryzhkov). The consequences of the crisis, and (to an even greater degree) the fact that the elite was very "provincial" in their style of thinking, prevented the implementation of their plans. They staked exclusively on Europe, not noticing how the Old World gradually slows down development, and Asia, on the contrary, develops with acceleration and rises to the wing.

I would like to remind you of a very good concept that was put forward several years ago with the participation of Sergei Shoigu. It was about the "Siberian corporation" - that is, in fact, about the governorship. Then it was pushed aside, the Ministry of Regional Development began to deal with the issues of indigenous Siberian regions - the ministry is extremely weak and not so long ago liquidated. Now a huge region in terms of plans for its future is "suspended in the air." We need a new breakthrough strategy, which is essential. In this regard, I hope that the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East will not repeat the mistakes of its predecessor. So far, I am happy to note that our developments are used by the presidential administration, the government and the ministry. This inspires hope that someday we will see the practical implementation of our ideas. For example, our concept of the "Asian capital" is not at all as utopian as it was sometimes said ...

- What does it mean?

- Once, working on our reports, we came to a common opinion: to convince the Russian elite that the center of gravity of the state is necessary and expedient to shift to the East, to the largest promising markets for domestic goods, we need the "Asian capital" of Russia in Addition to two European. For talented youth and active entrepreneurs to see development prospects here and not leave these places.

In a half-joking form, but, in fact, seriously, we calculated all the possibilities for creating such a capital, Vladivostok was one of the four options. We argued that if Peter I lived in our time, he would not have founded St. Petersburg in the swamps of the Gulf of Finland, but on the shore of the Pacific Ocean. Russia is waiting for its Peter, we asserted. This caused some controversy, heated discussion - but no more. Unless at first the prime minister proposed moving several ministries and head offices of state corporations to the Far East, then the president also spoke on this topic, but this did not go further than this.

- Moscow's snobbery in relation to the regions is a well-known matter ... And to go "in the wilderness," and much further from Saratov, none of the powers that be wants.

- I do not want - and do not. Do without them. Let those who have enough energy and enterprise go, let the local cadres come forward. Almost without exception, the history of the transfer of capitals, and there were many (the most recent examples - Berlin, Astana) led to the revival of the economic and political life of the state, the arrival of new people in its leadership, renewal and rejuvenation of the elite.

In my opinion, one of the most harmful ideas of recent times is New Moscow. The country is already overly centralized. It was necessary on the contrary - to pull out of Moscow and transfer to the regions the maximum number of metropolitan functions and the associated power structures. True, the idea eventually turned into a purely town-planning, but initially it was planned to further develop and expand Moscow. And it already attracts too much energy and strength to itself, labor and people in the capital are not used very effectively. Moreover, it is not normal when the “manager” (a middle-aged clerk) in Moscow receives exorbitant three-digit sums, and at the same time, the scientist does not live here comfortably on 30-60 thousand rubles a month.

- But, if salaries are so “overheated” in Moscow, all the more so hardly anyone decides to go from the capital to the Far East. Most likely, an ambitious young man will go to the West to get an education there, and then gain a foothold and stay to work ...

- Firstly, in the West no one is expected now, and they haven’t been waiting for much before. And secondly, it is a question of a consistent and well-thought-out state policy. Special measures are needed for those who will live and work in the Far East. For example, special tax breaks (perhaps, not 13% income tax, but 2%), a free apartment if you work in this region for more than 5 years, and so on. In any case, the Far East and Siberia will have to be made a testing ground for creating a new model of economic development, since the old has suffered a final fiasco. Here it is pure or-or: either we invent and implement something new, or we will completely collapse. I am not talking about any individual projects such as TORs or an increase in the number of students in FEFU, but about a globally updated model of the country itself. And it assumes at least two starting points: maximum freedom and preferences for investors, and, therefore, additional investments, without which one cannot do. And the investments are not buried in the sand, but “smart” - in infrastructure, in roads, in transport, in the creation of stronger and more reliable logistic ties of the Far East with other Russian regions, and with China, and with Asian countries. The internal regions of the east of the country should be allowed access to foreign markets, only then can we even talk about at least some kind of "development" and even more so - "ahead." And naturally, it is necessary to make the products of these regions competitive by building processing enterprises in various industries. Relatively speaking, it’s not to buy pasta in Italy, but to study normally, to collect and store your grain in the Altai Territory without loss, to build elevators and factories, railways and ports ... Of course, instead of the word “grain” you can substitute several others - from coal to fish, from wood to molybdenum.

- The model is clear - and what, in your opinion, are the main obstacles on this path?

- We, as it seems to me, are ruined, first of all, by ignorance, provincialism and love for simple models and patterns. That is, lack of professionalism is present everywhere: in expert circles and in power structures. We have entered into economic reforms in an amateur way, now we are also clumsily "turning back to the East." We did not really understand Europe (and now specialists in the Old World are generally less and less), but so far we have a gradually thinning pool of good connoisseurs of Asia. Their knowledge and experience, their ability to think systemically, must be made popular at the level of government and business, and not only in scientific institutes and expert centers. They must educate the elite, form it, so that it, in turn, wants and can really change something in Russia. Otherwise, everything will remain in slogans and theses. What really would not want.

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