Alexei Kudrin — RBC: “the government finally had an incentive to engage in growth”

“My goal is a quality training program”

— You have a new post at the Center for strategic research, and in parallel you are the Deputy head of the Economic Council under the President. What powers gives your status, if we are talking about the economic Council?

— It allows to shape the agenda of the Council. At the same time I head a working group established by the special order of the President, called “Priorities for structural reforms and sustainable economic growth.” This group included leading experts in the country, the heads of well-known universities, academic institutes, business associations. We will jointly discuss the new reform that the country needs.

— Do you plan on promoting in the government?

— Not now. Now my goal is high-quality training programs, expert work. Then, of course, it will be discussed with the customer of this program, the President of the country, and he will determine that from what we suggested will take for their program — probably when it would run for another term, if it happens.

One of the most topical issues — the reform of the pension system. Discusses three reform models: the model of the Ministry of labor with the possibility of rejection of the cumulative part of the pension, the Ministry of economic development — with the mandatory funded pension and the abolition of benefits, the Ministry of Finance with the possibility of increasing the period of retirement benefits and cancellation of benefits. Which model is closer to you? Whether those proposals are formulated in the government to solve the problem of deficit of the Pension Fund?

— In the government and outside the government even more “forks” on pension reform. The desire and need for changes are associated with a difficult demographic situation in the country: the rapid growth in the number of pensioners and reducing the number of working — those who pay taxes, from which to generate retirement. These “scissors” have led to the fact that the pension is not indexed fully in line with inflation, even this year. Unfortunately, this problem will only increase. Today we can already see its first serious symptoms, and primarily affects seniors. Any changes should be done for pensioners. Those who are able to work, maybe even a year or two to work on is those people who probably are able in a greater degree to provide. State its main assistance should concentrate on the older generation, to provide them a dignified old age. Now we have agreed with [the Deputy Prime Minister] Olga Golodets on the establishment of a joint working group. Together we discuss all economic, financial, political and social risks of each of the reform options, we will count them on the same methodological basis, to have comparable findings.

“Today, politicians have more incentives finally seriously deal with the growth”

— If to speak about political risk, it is likely that sanctions will be extended from Europe. Officials say that Russia has adapted to them. Do you share the view that the economy is already able to work in this mode?

— It can work, and it works in this mode. In this sense, the restructuring has occurred. Where we can’t bring something or take credit, we are looking the other way. This does not mean that we are comfortable to work that we have overcome all the consequences, but we have learned to work in difficult conditions. Sanctions could reduce our GDP a little less than 1%, that is, if we wanted to grow by 4% and we had all the conditions, we could achieve only a 3% increase. This means that most of the factors that allow you to increase the growth concentrated in other areas. We can, therefore in these circumstances, even to achieve economic growth. I think the problem is this: until the sanctions are lifted and they once, I hope, will be removed — we need to increase growth at the expense of other factors.

— Conducted a heated discussion with the Stolypin club on the program “Economics of growth”. You are one of the main ideologists of other directions for structural reform…

— High rates of economic growth we need to achieve. If today reason for low growth is, for example, poor infrastructure and expensive transportation, to improve the infrastructure and reduce the cost of transportation can not for one year, and accumulating investments in this area. To reach the international level of quality highways, waterways, and new types of transport, for a period of 5 to 10 years. Start today to invest — and this potential will accumulate. Or, let’s say we’re talking about the problem of the pension system or reducing the number of working-age population. To increase productivity, substituting the number of employees, is again investing in new technologies, in new production, and operation of these technologies is again 3-5 years. That’s why short-sighted are those who believe that it is possible to solve the problem on the principle of “printed money gave.” Performance is the same, the level of products that we will produce, the same — and it is no longer needed in the world markets.

Photo: Oleg Yakovlev/RBC


Photo: Oleg Yakovlev/RBC

— About the economic reforms, most of those institutional reforms they say in Russia for 10 years. Do You have a feeling that this would end the conversation? Which gives reason still to believe that this time reforms will take place?

— During the crises of 1998 and 2008-2009, the decline was very large, and the living standard fell a little, but after a year we moved to growth and improved living standards. We are now in this state, for the third year. The first time we were in a more stagnant situation. Neither politicians nor the elite would not want us to stagnate in growth, so we have not increased the standard of living: this is the socio-political risks. So today I see politicians more incentive to finally seriously deal with the growth.

“While there is a Reserve Fund, he holds back new steps

— You said earlier that in 2016 is unlikely to avoid raising taxes. But the big change in this world. 2017 election. Will power for such radical steps in the coming years?

— I already said that in the next two years, before the elections, no radical steps will be. To maintain commitments will be spent reserves — without raising taxes without significant spending cuts. But I have to answer this question. There are two ways. I am in favour of reducing costs, improving efficiency — without raising taxes. I do not exclude that in some cases, the government considers that the costs are difficult to cut, and will have to find new sources of income additional payments for the population, companies or taxes. I do not exclude such a scenario, but most likely it will come after 2018.

This year, when the government was faced with the prospect of declining revenues, planned large-scale privatization, dividend increase for state companies. But the scale of privatization has declined, state-owned companies very effectively away from the possibility of paying large dividends. What in this situation can make the government without raising taxes?

— To spend the Reserve Fund. While there is a Reserve Fund, he seems to be holding back new steps. This situation will last long. In vain the government refused to raise dividends and bolder steps on privatization. Privatization can indeed be postponed for a year or two, but after that, she still needs to take place. I think it still happens.

“Not everyone is ready for modern mobile work”

— Now talking about the growing danger of brain drain from Russia, that we lose qualified personnel. What you need to do to retain qualified personnel in Russia?

We have to create more comfortable conditions for the creative class that creates new growth, new technologies and making the country competitive. But today he is himself not a very comfortable feeling in our country. You can create “oases” that is done. But important the overall atmosphere, quality of institutions, determining the quality of life, from education for children and medicine to personal safety, travel, moral comfort, in terms of communication, openness, ability to talk on many subjects. If Russia will be able to go back to the creation of such conditions and to achieve this progress, many will be back. It was in the beginning “zero”. Then a large flow of our compatriots returned to Russia to start a business, work in technology companies. Often, they came as representatives of Western companies, but then stuck here. It is possible to create a reverse flow, but this requires some effort.

Today often describes the major risks of progress. Talk about invasion of privacy due to new technologies, the dangers of migration, the problems of economic systems due to the aging of the population. In your opinion, what is to fear in the future? And how these fears justified?

— Penetration of privacy is a hard thing, but will probably be invented and ways to protect her from interventions: in response to some of the technology will occur. I think the biggest risk, which has already been predicted 20 years ago, and especially now, on the eve of a new industrial revolution, is a psychological perception of these changes and the ability under the new calls to work: not everyone is ready for such a modern work. We need a new generation be prepared more actively. At one time Toffler was the book “future Shock”, very popular at some point. He said adapting to new inventions, changes in the world of technology — it’s the most challenging thing is man.