Agreement for 2013
In an article published in the Russian daily “Rossiiskaya Gazeta” 10th Jan 2013, Academic Supervisor of the HSE, Evgeniy Yasin gave his forecast for the Russian economy and political situation for the coming year.
2013 has begun and we all want to know what it will bring us, what we should prepare ourselves for and what tasks lie ahead. I don’t know whether you’ll be relieved to hear that I don’t expect any serious changes in the economy.
The tendency that we saw in 2011 is continuing which means that we won’t see any real changes towards improvement or decline. We are still in the period of stagnation that began with the crisis in 2008-9 which is affecting most of the world and not just Russia.
We are living through a drawn out economic crisis caused by changes in the development of the world economy. It is changing from an industrial to an innovative economy. You need to take this seriously – it’s not just a cliché. Innovation needs to take on the role of activating the economy in the way that mineral resources, including oil and gas, have done up till now. The demand for an increase in food production, particularly in developing countries will be a new stimulus to for the world economy. Russia can take an active part in supporting food exports. We do have the resources. But, we need to develop our own agriculture in the area of seed production and bio-technology, etc. I don’t think 2013 will be the year when we solve these problems, but maybe we’ll begin to prepare society for the possible changes. I expect that Russia can become a major world food exporter, particularly of grain. This could do a great deal towards improving our balance of payments.
In politics however, we have to face some tough issues arising mainly from the processes which started in December 2011.
The Parliamentary elections led the public to expect changes and we need to do more so that Russia gets back on track in the process of democratization. It has to be said that the government has done something to this end, I mean Medvedev’s message to the Federal Assembly when he was president. There was a lot about political reform in it. And that reform has begun and must be continued. However there are various political forces in the country with their own ideas about the future and they are convinced of the need to dominate rather than negotiate. I believe that rather than going for political victory at any cost, we would do better to look for ways to discuss things, find compromises and consensus. I suggest that if we can move along that path in 2013, and if there are at least some events that allow us to hope for progress in this respect, it would provide a very good buffer for the ensuing years. I’m thinking about 2016 when we will have the next parliamentary elections. I hope they will be conducted in such a way that all Russian citizens can be sure that the elections are fair and that the results will be taken into account, regardless of whether they please or not.
If people are going onto the streets now, it means that the possibility of, or the desire for negotiations has been exhausted. At the moment we don’t see any progress here. The government is not rushing to make steps towards its opponents, and the opposition says, “Those who are in power today must go. We will come in ourselves and sort things out.” So, the chances of reaching any agreement are looking slim.
We need to agree on a political and organisational programme which takes into account the desires and demands of the different parts of the population. So that reasonable demands should be satisfied. If the demands are unreasonable, we need to make the people who presented them understand that they have to moderate them. That’s a part of negotiation. We need to learn to act together to find solutions, and not just to join stand-offs against one another. At the moment, that’s all that we have been doing, unfortunately.
And about the economy…Over the next few years, Russia’s work force will shrink at about 1% each year. We need to increase productivity and that means business needs to be a lot more active than it is at the moment. Business is still highly distrustful of bureaucracy and continues to take capital abroad and to take business out of the country. Of course the government is well aware of this situation and we hear a lot about improving the climate for investment, but significant changes are yet to be seen. The government needs to undertake some serious joint efforts with business. Workers need to prepare themselves for much more dynamic business operations. They need to improve their qualifications to be able to take part in new economic trends. A qualitative growth in productivity and transition to an innovative economy is vital for our future.
Yevgeny Yasin, Academic Supervisor of the HSE