‘The Main Topic of the April Conference is Human Capital’
One of the university’s most important annual gatherings for discussion and debate, HSE’s Academic advisor, Evgeniy Yasin told us about the main themes and participants coming up at the XIV April International Academic Conference on Economic and Social Modernization.
— Professor Yasin, what are the main topics for discussion going to be at the April Conference?
— In the last few years, a tradition has emerged at our conference to conduct two plenary sessions to talk exclusively about the key issues. We invite leading foreign experts to join top Russian academics and representatives of the presidential administration. This year is no exception. The topics for the plenary session resonate with the main issues from last year’s conference: at the first session we’ll discuss the situation developing in the Russian economy in the context of the global crisis, and at the second, human capital as one of the essential components of economic development. These topics are directly interconnected - in today’s conditions the Russian economy needs new stimuli and this is where the human factor comes to the fore. Creating an atmosphere of cooperation and mutual trust between government, business and society is increasingly important. Unfortunately, at the moment the level of this trust is low.
— What in your view can raise it?
— I think there are a number of mechanisms we can use. First of all, we need to replace the personal relationships which are so characteristic of our society with legal ones. Secondly, we need to develop competition. The third, and no less significant factor, is freedom.
— Why does the HSE set problems in the social sphere apart as the most pressing and demanding of urgent attention?
— All institutions in the social sphere in Russia require transformation. It’s very important to start talking about it now. The country is on the threshold of making important decisions. One of them is a partial or total rejection of the saving system in pension provision. At the moment, workers have to make contributions, not only for their own future but for current pensioners too. With today’s average workers incomes this doesn’t make sense as an investment. In the past pensions, housing, education and health care were entirely provided by the state but in making the transition from a planned to a market economy, new stimuli must arise to reform the whole system. These are not working enough at the moment: we managed to get goods back into the shops but we still have a long way to go to have a decent level of health care, education and housing. HSE specialists have devised a concept for changing social and financial institutions but the concept needs to be developed. That’s why we are inviting colleagues to join this discussion and we are prepared to consider the issues from all different points of view.
— Which of the papers due to be read at the conference have aroused your interest most?
— This year we have a really packed programme, and it’s hard to single something out for particular attention. The whole section on Macroeconomics promises to be interesting. It’ll be conducted by the head of the economics expert group Yevsei Gurvich. Well-known foreign and Russian specialists in the field are invited to give lectures at the conference. I expect there will be a heated discussion at the round table on pension reform. All kinds of different views will be represented and it should be a fruitful debate.
In the afternoon on the second day there will be a section devoted to problems of education. Yaroslav Kuzminov will represent the HSE’s position and we have invited many people who have quite different approaches.
— Which famous international experts are coming to the conference?
— This year we have about 150 foreign specialists coming. Sadly we won’t have any Nobel Laureates this year. But among the leading experts is the vice-president and chief economist of the World Bank, Kaushik Basu, and representatives of the OECD and the WTO will be there. All of our guests are top specialists in their field, so the work at the conference promises to be tense and fascinating.
Interview by Viktoria Nosik, second year student at the faculty of media communications, intern at the HSE news service portal
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