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  • ‘One of the Key Topics of the Conference is the Level of Trust in Society’

‘One of the Key Topics of the Conference is the Level of Trust in Society’

Next week the 13th HSE April International Academic Conference on Economic and Social Development, organized with the participation of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, will take place at the HSE. Evgeniy Yasin, Chairman of the Conference Programme Committee and Academic Supervisor of the HSE, told us about the forthcoming forum.

Dr. Yasin, this conference will take place at the HSE for the thirteenth time. What is the idea behind this forum?

— The Higher School of Economics is a young university, and we need to attract public attention in order to, on one hand, improve our standing, and on the other hand,  to promote the development of economic science, which is one of our areas of study.

We started by organizing discussions on some topical problems of the Russian economy. Gradually, the number of people interested in participating in roundtable discussions and other formats increased. The process of communication between academics, experts, specialists gained its own momentum. And then we decided to turn this communication into an international conference, ensuring that even more international colleagues started showing an interest in our events.

Such large conferences as our April Conference are regularly held in other leading universities – Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Cambridge, London School of Economics and others. They frequently organize both large conferences and smaller symposiums and seminars. This is necessary to create a certain intellectual environment at the university, when there is the opportunity to present research works and to exchange opinions. This kind of intellectual environment is one of the key advantages of any university.

— In your view, how will this conference differ from previous ones?

— The differences are evident in the two plenary sessions. As you know, experts from the Higher School of Economics together with their colleagues from the Academy of National Economy and Public Service have worked on the Strategy 2020. The first plenary session of the conference will unveil some reports dedicated to the main results of this work. One of the speakers there will be Justin Yifu Lin, Chief Economist and Senior Vice President of the World Bank. We are also expecting some members of the Russian Government to attend.

The second part of the conference, in my view, is even more interesting in terms of its contents. We will be speaking about the correlation between economics, law and trust. When we speak about factors promoting the development of economy and society, we have to admit that the old factors are exhausted and we need to find some new resources. And most importantly, we need to increase the level of trust. We have very low trust rates compared with European countries, the states of North and South America and with many Asian countries. I would not, however, compare our level of trust with that in China, since it has a different culture and a different understanding of the concept of trust. But generally, in terms of trust, we are falling behind, and this is very worrying. Business is based on trust, and if there is no trust, the transaction costs are very high. That’s why one of the main conference themes this year is the level of trust in society.

— Traditionally, some leading international experts receive special invitations to the April Conference. Who will come to the HSE this year?

— This year one of our honorary guests will be Kenneth Joseph Arrow – professor at Stanford University, and the 1972 Nobel laureate in economics ‘for his pioneering contribution to general economic equilibrium theory and welfare theory’. As far back as the mid-20th century he proved that it is impossible to coordinate all opinions on what is good and what is bad, and that is why democracy is impossible from a certain point of view. But in reality this is not so, since the public choice does not imply full agreement and democracy itself concedes certain points to minorities and respects them.

In addition to this, as I’ve already mentioned, Justin Yifu Lin, Senior Vice President of the World Bank, will also speak at the conference. He will deliver a lecture dedicated to the development of the Chinese economy. Other representatives of the World Bank will be among the participants, as well as, for example, Deepak Lal, a prominent researcher and very insightful thinker. By the way, almost all of his books have been translated into Russian.

— What conference events would you like to draw attention to, what would you definitely recommend attending?

— One of the conference sections will focus on a project related to the correlation between violence and social order. Douglass North’s book on this topic has been recently published in Russian by the Gaidar Institute (Douglass North, John Wallis and Barry Weingast. Violence and Social Orders: A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History). The development of both the economy and society is largely connected with overcoming violence in the relationships between different elite groups and in society in general. If you negotiate rules which allow you to avoid violence, you move to a higher level of culture, to what North calls the ‘open-access order’.

I believe that the roundtable discussion about the relationship between business and justice bodies will be very interesting. Some prominent international and Russian experts will speak there. The macroeconomic section, as always, will be very good. And, of course, I’m inviting everyone to the honorary reports by Claude d’Aspremont, President of the Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE), Jacques-François Thisse, a Belgian researcher who heads an international laboratory at the HSE Saint Petersburg.

On the whole, there will be many interesting events, presentations and roundtable discussions. I believe everyone will find something interesting. I personally will definitely participate in the work of the section on macroeconomics, and listen to the honorary report by Arrow and also try to find time to participate in the section on statistics. I recommend attending the presentation by Marek Dabrowsky and the roundtable discussion dedicated to social problems which will be chaired by Yaroslav Kuzminov, HSE Rector, and Lev Yakobson, First Vice Rector of the HSE. They will discuss social problems and key aspects of the new system of social policy. These things are very important not only for Russia, but for the whole world. Today sweeping changes are taking place across the world, it is experiencing a transformation from the industrial to the innovative, where the set of economic development factors is quite different. We are facing a situation where innovations are the main factor, resulting in new requirements for social organization, since if you base society on social capital, you need to treat individual dignity with special respect. Hence the necessity of a new social policy.

— Dr. Yasin, some new faculties and departments have appeared in the Higher School of Economics over the last few years. How will this influence the conference themes?

— Participation in the conference depends on the initiatives of the people joining the university. I believe that our biggest achievement is the new Faculty of Mathematics, thanks to which we have started to understand what real science is. And while for many researchers publishing their paper in an international peer-reviewed journal is a problem, for our mathematicians this is a routine situation. We have very many initiative people at the Faculties of Philosophy and History, as well as at the Faculty of Law. Speaking of the latter, they are experiencing considerable growth, and have formed a particularly strong team. Institutional changes are often connected with legal problems, and today the problem of law enforcement is of vital importance for the further development of Russian society. We shall discuss all these issues at the conference.

Andrey Shcherbakov, HSE News Service

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