With many government departments trying to agitate the public’s imagination with greatness of their plans, the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade (MDET) is also trying to keep abreast. It published a few days ago its proposal of the scenario for social and economic development of Russia for the period up to 2020. As ministry’s strategists suppose, by that time Russia will be placed among five leading states in terms of its economic power. They see the share of 10% for our country in the high tech market and the gross domestic product of 20-30 thousand dollars per head.
Of course, such a perspective is fine with those who will be living in those good times. The question is what way is supposed to be followed for achieving those magnificent goals. It’s not only that a foundation based on high oil prices is very unstable because they are fluctuating. And the high oil prices are considered to be the base for accumulation of resources necessary for turning Russia into a modern innovative economy. It would be naïve to think that officials will be guided exclusively with the tasks formulated by MDET, having control of huge means within the system where state and half-state monopolies dominate being inaccessible for public control and where there is no real political opposition and where power is not separated from business.
Let us assume that prices will remain stably high and the officials will be concerned only with innovations instead of sharing out the financial flows. Some politicians and experts argument that it’s easy to take the money from gas and oil extraction profits and to put it for development of breaking high tech industries following the experience of China and eastern tigers. Why, Chinese and Koreans have managed to reach leading positions in some fields of high tech production! And political regimes there are far from being democratic. And the state there, using strict measures, was just redistributing resources for developing priority directions.
So why don’t we have a try? All conditions for crucial breakthrough are present. On the top level there is understanding of the goals. The chain of command is restored. Strategic resources are under state control and big business won’t be able to refuse to help the state in its large-scale undertakings. The population supports the power like in eastern countries.
However, Russia won’t be able to follow the eastern way. The first reason is that Asian tigers made a jump from agrarian societies to industrial ones through development of mass production based on the exported patterns and technologies. It took a huge number of cheap and undemanding workforce and that was provided constantly by local communities.
The tasks that Russia is facing now are of different type. We already have industrial society. And with our demographic problems there is no source of cheap workforce. Actually it is not needed. We are not going to become the leader in mass production (it’s impossible to compete here with East Asia countries and that was realized by Americans and Europeans). Our goal is to become one of the leaders in the innovation field. In achieving this goal centralized economy, state-controlled business or strict restriction of the opposition can’t be effective instruments.
It’s not incidental that Asian countries who have achieved impressive results in mass production – from textile and sports wear to televisions – are inferior not only to the USA but even to such a small country as Estonia, in terms of innovations. It’s because the economy and society that MDET is talking about is impossible to be built on the base of government regulations and well-coordinated work of state-machine. It takes really free people who have real choice opportunities for political beliefs, place of residence, way of life, and form of social relations. It takes people who feel they are not just cogs in the machine but citizens who realize one’s inalienable rights, the rights guaranteed by the state.
It’s no use hoping that it would be possible to keep scientists in closed communities and to make people working in prisons and camps like it was done at Stalin. Like it or not, the world has become open and mobile during recent decades. It’s not sensible to count that someone will be working at nanotechnologies invention being forced for it. Free choice is becoming unconditioned priority. And there’s a lot to be done for providing free choice.
First of all, it’s access to modern civilization’s achievements. It’s quality education and public health care. It’s real competition opportunities in business, politics and social life allowing individuals moving up on social scale being based on one’s own talent and diligence. It’s reliable institutions, and the legal ones first of all, that would be able to protect human rights and dignity of each person. Only all that mentioned being present, one may start proposing ambitious projects of a let’s-overreach-them type.
The working on task of providing freedom of choice is not whimpering of pushed aside liberal-losers who, as “our” politicians say, are ready to sacrifice their motherland’s prosperity for achieving their egoistic plans. On the contrary, he who really wants to see the country among five top world leaders must not only be engaged with propagandist chattering but work for conditions providing freedom of choice, competitiveness and legal protection of personality.
This task is not to be done by a party, a group or whatever. This is the task to be done by the whole state with participation of all political forces – liberals, socialists and great-power nationalists.
“The economy and society that MDET is talking about in its prognosis is impossible to be built on the base of government regulations and well-coordinated work of state-machine”.
Discussion on the forum by Novaya Gazeta
Is Russian economic wonder possible?
Does the country have any chance of getting industrial leader without changing existing political system?
Novaya Gazeta ¹58 August 02, 2007