RSPP Vice President Gets Down to Business

VedomostiYurgens says the union is led by a young but professional group that will get results.
The Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, or RSPP, is scheduled to meet Wednesday for its second meeting after the summer vacation.
In July, Igor Yurgens, head of the All-Russia Union of Insurers, was elected vice president of the RSPP and head of the administrative apparatus. He was chosen by the union's executive bureau, a 27-member body that includes almost all the so-called oligarchs: Kakha Bendukidze, Oleg Deripaska, Alexander Mamut, Vladimir Potanin, Mikhail Fridman, Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Anatoly Chubais. Yurgens beat another influential candidate to the post -- the head of Metalloinvest, Oleg Kiselyov.
In an interview, Yurgens discussed his election to the post and how he plans to organize work for the biggest lobbying group in the country.

Q: Why did you decide to hold two meetings on Sept. 12 and 19 instead of one?
A: Some big issues had built up over the summer -- banking-sector reform, draft investment laws as part of pension reform, the creation of a working group for scientific and industrial policy in the defense sector, the [federal 2002] budget, reforming Unified Energy Systems, the Railways Ministry, and proposals from [former Economic Development and Trade Minister] Yevgeny Yasin regarding developments with the Expert Institute.

Incidentally, he [Yasin] has some interesting ideas. One in particular is to scientifically assess the budget. This should be done twice a year: once when it is being carried out, and then again to assess how it was carried out. He also proposed that, twice a year, assessments of world markets should be written. This would give a picture of what the state of play on the world markets means for Russian business.

Yasin wants to tell the bureau all this and request financing. So there are a total of six issues. But leaders in the union can only handle three issues. Take, for example, the issue of reforming UES. Last year we heard Chubais, Deripaska, [presidential adviser on economics Andrei] Illarionov and [Troika Dialog's chief Ruben] Vardanyan speak. Just one of these issues took up four hours of very stressful negotiating. And when we began to dictate our recommendations to the government and the president, it came to a full five hours. Now the questions have been fleshed out further, thus we needed to split the meeting into two sessions.

Q: How did you come to be vice president of the union?
A: When the bureau was formed [in spring 2000], I fell into the group of so-called neutrals. There were people from new businesses and traditional businesses -- and there was a list of neutrals. To be honest, I don't know what criteria were used to draw up this list, but basically I was put on it without any discussion as to whether this was something I wanted or not.

I didn't dispute it -- I was just presented with the fact. After speaking to the insurance companies, I agreed to it. That was when I understood that the union meant growth. Of course, I was very interested, as before, in insurance; but the logical path for me was a national confederation of industries, be it the chamber of trade and industry or the RSPP.

Finally, if you look at it in terms of pure statistics, I came to understand that I was being invited by an organization that now controls more than 60 percent of the total gross domestic product. Furthermore, I believe that to get involved in such a collective is a call, a call to one's intellectual capabilities. After several meetings, I understood that however one might assess the various personalities that go into the union, these are important people. Pick any of them. They will all leave an impression on the history of this country -- be it [union president] Arkady Volzhsky, Fridman, Deripaska and Potanin and all the other members of the bureau.

After I took up this position, I worked primarily on pension reform -- this was the closest to me professionally. At the time, due to the reorganization of the union, Volzhsky only had two working vice presidents from the original nine, and they were physically unable to cope with all the work. Someone had to help the president and two of his colleagues manage all this work. A person had to be found from the 27 members of the bureau who suited the role of mediator, who understood the style of the past and the present and who had experience working in social organizations. Again, without any initiative on my part -- my colleagues can vouch for that -- a list was proposed that included my name, among others.

Q: The list was eventually reduced to two candidates -- you and Kiselyov.
A: Yes, at the final stage I was on the list along with Oleg Kiselyov, who is a very capable and good person. Why, after a closed ballot, I was chosen I do not know. Perhaps the fact that I have no business of my own played a role. All my life I have worked in social organizations -- be they trade unions or the All-Russia Insurers Union. I have always been involved in the search for a compromise, the creation of a normal working apparatus, and in communication with different generations. And working in the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs is much like a real life "Fathers and Sons."

I should say that I very much enjoyed working with Oleg Kiselyov. I have no doubt that he was an exceptional executive secretary and vice president of the union. As before, I have an excellent relationship with him, as I hope he does with me. He is an intelligent, good and energetic person who simply has views that differ somewhat from my own.

Q: How do you now picture your role as head of the union's administrative apparatus?
A: First, I must familiarize myself with everyone and everything and set some clear, coherent goals. At present, highly professional people have been selected as department heads. Though they are all generally young, they have experience working in power structures, businesses and so on. Each of them is capable of generating ideas. My job is to crystallize something from their suggestions. Only when they take part in the decision-making process will they carry something out with a true desire. It is important that the apparatus understands that it is not simply a pawn, but also has the responsibility for generating ideas. At the same time it must understand that it has a secondary role. Professionals' suggestions must be integrated in the ideas of the bureau, in the political tasks that they are set, and on this basis a plan of action for the entire apparatus must be developed -- long term, medium term and short term. Then the development of all this must be monitored. Because we have assembled some very talented people, I think that this will work. This is the way I have worked in all the management posts that I have held.