RUSSIAN MIGHT WILL INCREASE THROUGH REGIONS


05.10.06
MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Alexander Yurov)

“Through Siberia will Russian might increase,” wrote Russian scientist Mikhail Lomonosov in the 18th century. He has been proven right. It is Siberia that supplies oil, gas and non-ferrous metals to global markets.
Now Russia has a different goal: it wants to increase its might through other regions as well. President Vladimir Putin set such a task for the government officials and businessmen who attended the 5th Kuban international economic forum in late September.
Kuban has been actively promoting its investment projects for a long time. It had the biggest display at this year's St. Petersburg exhibition timed to coincide with the International Economic Forum. Naturally, results followed soon after. Speaking at the opening of the Kuban forum, Putin pointed to the great number of prominent businessmen present. He deemed it a sign of the region's great economic potential and of the Russian economy's ability to develop not only thanks to central and resource-rich regions. The country's economic success can be achieved through the strong economic performance of other regions as well. Each Russian region has its own economic opportunities and growth base. The government will allocate 110 billion rubles from the investment fund to finance development of infrastructure and innovation, the president said. This is a record-high sum for modern Russia, and it will increase many times over under private-public partnerships.
This year's Kuban economic forum was remarkable not only for the presence of high-ranking representatives. Truly momentous statements were made there. Notably, Economic Development Minister German Gref described the program for Russia's economic development, in which he actually proposed to turn Russia into a high-tech superpower.
The program is impressive. Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov said that its initiatives would move the country in an absolutely new direction. If the government implements its key principles, Russia's investment climate will improve significantly and it would likely see a veritable investment boom within the next ten years.
Indeed, the proposals came as something of a surprise, especially given the government's strategy to position Russia as an energy superpower and its programs of investing in people, which are now being carried out through national projects.
The program's main goal is to attract investment by encouraging companies' innovative development and offering completely new conditions for business. In fact, Gref offered the ideologists of private-public partnership a new meaning of the notion: the government will provide wind, but regions will have to set the sails correctly. The investment fund will not be used to develop industrial enterprises, Gref said. When there is no demand for a product, it should not be imposed on consumers, vexing federal and regional authorities at the same time, he said. Companies should look for reserves inside themselves. This was a reasonable and fair statement, through which the minister made it clear to regions in which direction and at what expense the Russian economy would grow.
Gref’s economic program is the first one in Russia's modern history to have no intention of exploiting the country's huge commodities resources. Instead, it provides for developing the economic potential of other sectors. There is not even a passing mention of oil and gas. Russia will have to set up a venture-capital company, a number of special economic zones and technology parks, and to adjust federal target programs to fit innovation goals.
The Economic Development Ministry proposes to spread the practice of industrial assembly of foreign cars to other sectors. Gref also spoke of the intention to set up a state development corporation, of support to industrial-design and business education, of using concession mechanisms and carrying out regional industrial policies that would seek to develop specific sectors. The program also envisages the establishment of an investment fund.
In fact, the authorities said that they did not intend to finance everyone. Those who use outdated technology and imperfect methods should not expect to get support. The government does not want to live in the past, nor even does it try to live in the present; it looks only to the future. If there is no innovation, there will be no money.
So the rules have been set. Now it is up to the regions to make the next move. –0–